Lick School, Sanda, Hyogo
by Simon W
A few months ago, I was in Osaka waiting for a visa (an application which took 8 months, and basically bankrupted me; but that's a different story). Anyway, I anticipated the visa was coming soon, and started looking for full-time work. I came across an advert on one of the Kansai classifieds websites from a school in Sanda, Hyogo, called "Lick English School".
I sent them an email, and got invited up to the country for an interview (2000 Yen transportation). The interview was positive enough, and I was invited back for a 'second interview' (2000 Yen transportation); which lasted 10 minutes, and consisted of them asking me if I could do some trial lessons at their school during the following week. Wasn't sure why they couldn't have asked me by phone/email, and they also said they couldn't pay me for the week, because my visa was not 100% complete (it was due within a fortnight, and in fact this was the case).
In the end, we negotiated that I would stay in their empty apartment in Sanda Flower Garden (which was a short-ish trian ride from the school's location in Sanda-Honmachi) during the week. I was told that the work load would be a "fair" exchange with being able to use that apartment each night. I figured a "fair" exchange for an apartment was maybe two lessons/day (enough to judge my ability as a teacher); thus freeing up the rest of the day to sort out residual visa issues, interviews, part-time flyer work, etc. However, the school wouldn't divulge the specific teaching/office hours at this point in time.
The first class was due to start on the Saturday morning, so I asked if I could bring my 100kg of baggage up on the Friday night, and thus have a nice fresh start on the Saturday. Despite the fact that I would be subsequently working for them for free, and the apartment had been empty for months, they said I could only stay Friday night if I paid their daily-rate of 4000 Yen. I obviously declined.
I arrived at the school Saturday morning, having dragged two suitcases, and three bags from Southern Osaka to Central Hyogo (four connections, 1000 Yen). Needless to say, I was sweaty and tired when I arrived. The owner - a miserable old hag - immediately criticised that I arrived looking tired. Not sure exactly what she expected having basically denied my request to move up the night before.
Anyway, after doing some menial tasks in the school I had my first pre-school classes, and things were fine. The male Japanese teacher who worked there (seemed a nice guy, and mostly not connected to the criticisms I have of this school) seemed to think my classes were fine, and he was acting as the go-between me and the non-English-speaking owner/secretary. The work-load of this first day seemed kind of heavy (7.5 hours in total, with around 3.5 hours teaching), but I went with it.
Late in this first day I finally received the full schedule; 7-8 hours every day, with around 4-5 hours teaching; nearly a full-time schedule, in exchange for "rent". Not a great deal at all, but with 100kg of stuff already dragged up from Osaka, and 5000+ Yen already dropped in train costs, I had to see it through. They should have told me it was a 40-hour week at one of the two interviews.
After the first day, I got to take my stuff over to the apartment. It had been empty for a month, after their previous teacher apparently ran away on pay-day. Unfortunately, he left meat/milk (etc.) in the fridge, and the smell was awful, as nobody had entered since. The
school representative made a brief attempt to clean-up, but then pretty-much left me to spend most of the night making the apartment livable. Before leaving, the school representative dropped the bombshell that there was no internet connection in the apartment. Additionally, there was no TV, and it was basically unfurnished (I wasn't really bothered about this, but would have been unhappy to pay 4000 Yen for it).
Arriving on Monday for the next 7.5-hour shift (via the local Sanda train, cost = 500 Yen/day), I was told that I could not use the internet in the office. This is because a previous foreign teacher had downloaded a virus the previous year, and subsequent foreign teachers were banned from using it. I was also informed that the 500 Yen/day local train costs would not be paid. Essentially, the deal was now to make minus-500 Yen/day (minus, of course, daily living costs) to work 7-8 hour days (4-5 hours of which were in the classroom, and the rest spent on lesson planning and menial tasks) to live in an empty/dirty apartment, with no internet access at home or work.
The school requested proof that my visa was indeed "on its way". Fair enough. I called my sponsor to email scans of the various sent/received paperwork. When I was notified by him that they had been sent, I asked the owner if I could log-in to my email to print off these documents her school's staff had requested. She angrily said no, and asked "what about no internet I didn't understand". Her lack of English (and I guess my lack of Japanese) prevented me from getting the point across, and it got rather heated. Eventually the bi-lingual teacher arrived to explain the situation to her, but it was too late. I had basically just argued with the owner, which isn't ideal in a work trial. I asked the secretary and Japanese teacher if this affected my employment prospects, and was just told to finish the week and "see what happens". However, the way the owner glared at me after this, I knew I was onto a losing thing. Yet, having transported/unpacked so many bags, and spent considerable transport/living costs, I felt somewhat trapped.
After 40-hours of work was finished, the owner told the teacher that I had not passed the work trial. I am sure she made the decision that first morning, when I arrived tired and sweaty with a huge collection of suitcases. The miss-understanding/argument about the email and visa documents probably confirmed it, and I feel the "work trial" was continued so as to get maximum free labour out of me. I wouldn't have minded so much, if the parents were not paying for the classes. However. the school would have done very well in terms of income/expenditure during that week.
I agreed to do a further 90 minutes of teaching after I was informed of the decision (rather than just walking out), to finish the schedule. However, aware of my disappointment/demotivation, the other teacher joined the class, and we played a casual game of scrabble with the student. Despite this, when I left for the last time, I never even got a "thank you" from the owner/secretary for my 20 hours of free teaching.
Subsequently, as I interviewed and worked at various Osaka schools, a few schools said they'd previously had direct issues/problems with this Sanda school, while a few others had "heard things" about them. While the school itself (building, facilities etc.) was nice enough, given what a completely useless/miserable/miserly old hag the owner was, I am not surprised they have a bad reputation. The school is tight with money to the point of being ridiculous.
Be careful with this lot.