A-to-Z language School of Nagano (No, thank you)

by Rudy
(Montreal, Quebec)

Many JETS come to Japan to work for school boards across the country. I do not know the exact numbers but I think more teachers are hired locally to do the same job.




At any rate, it is an unfortunate reality that school boards hire most teachers soon after applicants graduate from university. School boards are, therefore, pretty unsophisticated at judging a candidate's job experience-- it is naturally worse for foreign language teachers.

Here is an illustrative example!: Japanese applicants PAY MONEY to "schools" that "teach" them to push their chair back under the table after they finish a school-board job interview. They are "taught" how to turn and exit an interview room while closing the door behind them in one graceful motion. This has, apparently, some relevance to one's readiness to teach! Foreign teachers are completely unprepared to meet these judges and the judges are loathe to meet ANY foreigners.

As an aside, the next time you JETS are at a 'Hey! Let's International" event, mingle with the Japanese teachers of English and ask them how long they have worked at the school they are now posted to. They will respond "one year" or "two years" regardless of their age or total experience. What does that mean, if anything? It means that they drew the short straw. No joke! Ask & see for yourself. The average length of service in a JET meeting is shorter than the average length of service in your school's department. You can drop off the dep't head's stat and this will still hold true.

Nobody is eager to come meet you.

Talking with the foreign staff is stressful and potentially embarrassing for senior English teachers (i.e., those with pull). It is a chore for those Japanese teachers save for the most junior staff members. You know one! "Oh, I made homestay in Indianapolis for three months!" I knew one science teacher who spoke beautifully nuanced English who asked me NEVER to speak English to him in the school. He hid his ability so as not to show up those tenured teachers. Good lord!

To continue this tangent, the VERY WORST teachers are those who share their EIKEN or TOEIC scores with pride. A teacher who leaves the union in his/her thirties wants to curry favour with the higher-ups. Guess what? This means idea-blocking you in order to maintain the status quo. Remember this profile! Thirties. No longer unionised.

Of course, this is only my opinion based on my limited, ten-years of experience! I have seen Japanese staff make their name by bullying foreign teachers. Never forget that.

All right. Back to the point, school boards often abdicate the hiring of supplementary JETS to private companies. One for-profit company is the A to Z Language School in Nagano. Here it is: http://www.atoz-ed.com/ (ee tu zetto). Below is my sweet, little A to Z story.

I lived in Osaka in 1995 and applied to A to Z for placement in a local school. {I am not sure whether the company gets a one-off payment or gets a slice of teachers' salaries every month. Let the Okaya taxpayers ask where their money goes.} Since I applied from far away, I took extra care asking questions over the phone when they called me. I wanted to avoid wasting my time and money in Nagano. I mentioned my concerns on the phone. The A to Z employee assured me my candidacy was being seriously considered so they had called me. So informed, I went to Nagano for the interview they requested. It went well. I returned to Osaka and waited.

And waited.

They had my telephone number (no answering machine) and my pager number (Yes, I am old... this was in 1995, recall). I left that pager on my desk in case they called me when I was in the subway. I am a patient guy, relatively polite, so I waited a full ten work days before calling back.

"Where WERE you? We tried to contact you." the A to Z employee told me.

"We called four times! You got the job. You HAD the job but we gave it to someone else."

cue scratching needle on vinyl LP

"Oh, no! Did you try the second number? I received no message."

Employee: "Second number?"

Me: "..."

Employee: "Oh, here it is. Oh... Oooooh..."

Me: "Is your boss there? May I speak with your supervisor?"

Employee (enthusiastically): Oh, my, yes!

When I spoke with that woman, I tried to impress on her my outlay to get there and A to Z's minor, but-entirely-understandable-(for-morons)-whoopsy-daisy. The conversation started off civilly enough but I could not convince her of her responsibility and she could not adequately express what every Japanese knows; namely, *I have the power here, so bite me*.

She became almost hysterical on the phone! "You know why we don't have to pay? You know why we don't have to pay yoooou?! Because we never would hire a teacher like yoooou!!" Slam went the phone.

Somewhere, angels cried.

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Aug 23, 2014
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Just no... NEW
by: Anonymous

Oh man I cannot stress enough, DO NOT work with these people.
I had to leave half way through the school year to go home for an operation (pretty serious medical issues that needed addressing) and I got nothing but grief from the company. They tried to dock my pay 150000 yen to pay for my replacements hotel because I wouldn't leave my apartment as I had no where to go either but still had to work.

They offered me no help in cancelling my visa, phone service, internet.. anything! My Japanese is terrible too.
Avoid this company at all costs if you're looking for something more supportive.

Feb 07, 2012
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agreed
by: Anonymous

I have a hard time either recommending them or telling people to stay the hell away. My first year with them was great, and the second was hell on Earth. Very amateur, untrained staff. I think people can do better unless they absolutely have to be in Nagano.

Jan 05, 2012
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I. Had. The. Job.
by: Rudy

That school would have hired me according to what was said to me. Fact! When it came down to taking responsibility for my out of pocket expenses, the owner denied ATOZ's error.

Mine was a simple story, truth be told. I was in Japan for over ten years and loved it! I had great experiences everywhere, but also ran into a few bad apples. If other people had a great time at ATOZ it may be because problems, like the one the owner gave me, never arose. Difficult times reveal personality.

Apr 28, 2011
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Common points...
by: Hugo

Hey Rudy,

I'm also from Montreal and I now work for A to Z and I'm telling you, you missed out. They are nice and take care of both their staff and clients (eikaiwa students or schools in the case of ALTs)

I recommend A to Z to anyone.


Apr 13, 2011
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I agree
by: Rosc

Hi had the same experience with A to Z in Okaya. Completely useless and unprofessional.

Jan 21, 2011
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Bitterness!?
by: Anonymous

Sorry to have to say that but you sure sound bitter.

maybe it would be time to find another line of work or another country of residence?

I have been teaching for 7 years around the country and I always had good experiences. I realized that it depends on the person's personality. If you feel bitter, you look bitter and people are not eager to talk to you.

This might also make you harder to hire.

As for the hiring process, from what you describe, it seems to be either a communication mishap or a case of "I'm not interested in you but I can,t say no" Japanese syndrome.

Either way, i think you are both better off the way it turned out.

man, that was 16 years ago...

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