Teaching In Socks

倒産 is the Japanese word for Bankruptcy
May 11, 2010, 5:03 pm
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I suppose it’s only natural in this day and age of the credit crisis, CDS’s, CDO’s, prices at the pump, and sub-prime everythings that part of my Japanese educational experience involve participating in a bankruptcy.  I am fortunate in that it’s not my own personal bankruptcy, but unfortunate because, well, it sucks.

Two weeks ago my company declared bankruptcy during a press conference in Tokyo. I think people were surprised, but not shocked. The English conversation school market has declined rapidly (by over half in just the last three years) and most companies in this industry have not adapted quickly enough. My company was not the first fall, nor have we fallen the most spectacularly (if you want to hear about that, just google “NOVA Japan).

Apparently, one can still run a a successful English school in Japan–businesses in Japan still need employees that are fluent in English and schools and colleges still require their students to pass tests; however the company that I worked for was simply too big, and perhaps too poorly managed in a a shrinking market

The details of the in-the-boardroom-story that have emerged have been keeping the media busy. There are accusations (probably true) that board members embezzled money from profitable overseas school in Australia (and perhaps elsewhere) to keep the Japanese schools afloat.  Coincidently, the Australian schools were declared insolvent by the Australian Government in January.  The board was also apparently split on the decision to declare bankruptcy with the founder and President of the company filing a motion to try and halt the bankruptcy in court last week.

Somehow, through all of this, I have, for the moment, seem to have come out (sort of) alright. I lost a month’s worth of salary; however it appears that I may be covered by a Japanese government insurance policy that will repay and portion of my wages at a later date (go go gadget welfare state!). I lost all the vacation days I banked. I lost my contract. I lost my end-of-contract bonus. I lost one months worth of travel expenses. These are all things that are nice to have, but not necessary to survive. Also, I didn’t lose my job (yet).

A good chunk of the remaining schools were taken over by another language company, and they have kept the schools running and signed all the teachers at those schools to short term contracts–what happens after those expire no one knows yet. The employment with the new company, albeit in the same role maybe be a short-lived and oddly colored parachute, but it’s a parachute nonetheless.

The crisis at hand has been stressful, but at the moment I’m trying to view it as less of a stress and more as an interesting experience (although it takes a lot sometimes).

In the weeks following the bankruptcy it’s been interesting to see students who never showed up attend class seemingly out of the ether and worry about the status of their lessons that they used only sparingly before. It’s been interesting (and perhaps a bit sad) to see how my students react to bad news; while the new school has guaranteed to honor their contracts there is the general feeling that they are, and will be, getting screwed over somehow.  The mom types, complain to the managers, and then step into the classroom and immediately start checking that you’re getting enough to eat, the engineer types, excited to finally have something to talk about want to break it down matter-of-factly, innocently neglecting to consider that maybe it bums you out a bit

It’s been interesting. I get to learn some new Japanese words, memorize a few new strange kanji, and I even almost made my first appearance in the Japanese news when the reporters flocked to our school. My best friend, for reasons unrelated to this, was on Japanese Television four weeks ago, I guess God knew that I was subconsciously jealous and this is his interesting way of giving me what I wanted. Thanks.