This post comes from one of my friends who was working at a Nova English Conversation School. Here is his insight into teaching English via their schools.
Interested in other options? You can check out our complete post on English Teaching options in Japan.
You can also check out what other English Conversation Schools are out there too.
How did you become interested in Japan initially?
I was interested in coming to Japan because I studied Japanese religion and literature at university. During my first year in Japan, I had a working holiday visa and I was free to travel all over the country. I had no schedule and no real plan in mind. I absolutely loved my first year. It was a chance for me to really immerse myself in the local culture, and connect with people on a personal level. I formed some lasting friendships that have continued to this day.
How did you start working for a Nova Conversation School?
It’s been a while since I have worked for a standard eikawa (term meaning English Conversation Schools in Japanese). So, here is an account of what I can remember.
Getting your first English teaching job in Japan doesn’t need to be a hassle, but there are some realities you need to face. I won’t say that it’s impossible to be interviewed and sponsored by a good teaching company while you’re still overseas. However, you might want to dismiss any expectations of a ¥400k/month plus salary and good benefits right off the bat. Having a TEFL or CELTA is great and it might lead to quicker advancement in the future, but they won’t let you skip to the front of the queue. Your first year should be an introduction to the reality of teaching English in Japan.
After my first year gallivanting around Japan, I returned to Canada for a few months. I applied to NOVA while I was living in Vancouver. I passed an online interview via Skype, and my documents were processed quickly. Most eikawa companies will ask you to provide a small teaching demonstration (10-15mins), so prepare some materials that you’re comfortable with. I’m not sure what criteria was considered during my interview, but my year with the company told me that being attentive and generally amicable was important. Don’t overthink it. It’s pretty hard to mess one of these up.
One of the advantages of choosing a standard eikawa over a public school contract through Interac or the JET programme is their ability to fulfil placement requests. I wanted Asakusa, so I was placed in Asakusa. If you are firm about your placement request, an eikawa will try to meet your needs. Make your intentions clear in your interview.
What can you tell us about your experience at Nova?
At NOVA, you are expected to teach using their materials and using their methods. No prior teaching experience is required. Their lessons are not necessarily poorly-designed or boring (kind of), but you might want to find a different company if you want to exercise freedom and choose your own materials or methods. Companies such as NOVA or AEON will allow you to get your feet wet, and that’s about it.
Classes are held in a large teaching room, usually separated by cubicle walls. If you have a particularly loud colleague, better hope you can talk over him/her sometimes. There will be anywhere from one to four students in your class, sitting across from you. Students over age 12 are categorized from level 5 (lowest) to 10 (highest). Depending on your branch, you might also be expected to teach NOVA Junior classes, up to 8 kids. Students are generally expected to choose a class corresponding to their level but can feel free to take lower level classes for review. You will often find that high-level students will join lower level classes in order to chat freely or show off.
What employment options are available through Nova?
Always be on the lookout for something better. Complacency is not your friend when it comes to introductory English teaching companies in Japan. Don’t expect to be rewarded for putting in a little extra effort. At NOVA, you’ll be given the options of company employee or independent contractor. ID contractors will not have any paid holidays and there are severe penalties for missing work. However, you will be paid more than standard employees. If you’re cool with doing your own taxes and you consider yourself to be generally reliable, then this might be the option for you. Company employees will eventually be given a bump in remuneration over time, but it’s pretty minuscule.
What other insights can you share about Nova?
Student and teacher evaluations are similar. Following every lesson, you need to log on to a terminal in the teaching lounge and rate each student. You do this by chosing many different options from a drop-down menu. Students will be able to rate you on a five-point scale. If your score is below a certain value at the end of the month, you might be eligible for a lovely reprimand from your superiors. If you are one of the top-rated teachers in your region, you might be eligible for a small monthly bonus (up to ¥10 000).
Eikawa are not the right choice for everyone. If you really aren’t feeling it at the end of your introductory week, you should refrain from signing any contracts and start looking for something else immediately. If you sign a contract, you will be locked in for a year. You should note though, that your visa sponsorship cannot be revoked by your company. Hence, you are free to find and choose other employment in Japan. However, breaking a signed contract can result in serious repercussions when searching for another job.