Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Season's greeting: "Sorry, we are leaving - next week"

It's that time of year again when families get shunted around the country at very little notice because daddy's company/employer decided so. Language schools dread the forlorn-looking mums who come into the school apologising profusely. What can you do?

The school manager immediately thinks loss of revenue & agonise; have to change the schedules again.

The teacher sighs and shakes their head; another long-term lanague learning project shot down in flames. A class dynamic now likely to flounder or the other girl in the class will quit without her pal to rely on...Maybe they'll get lucky and find another good school (do I know one near their new neighbourhood in Ehime prefecture??). As the teacher, I can't remember ever being asked to write up a student's learning history/profile for their next school. I could - I've been their teacher for the last xyz years and have put everything they can do (not just names of animals etc - all that invisible learning, "how to" stuff & strategies, confidence) on a plate for them. I'd love to be asked. I'd love to hand over their learning portfolio, all shiney & electronically unbattered & without bits missing. Maybe I invested to much in this class/student again?

So when the conversation in school turns to "So the other teacher can teach your 4 o'clock, half an hour later, and you can start a new toddlers class..." I want to scream. Of course, it will make sense because that solves a car parking issue, means another mum can bring younger son early for the new class on the same day (she likes my class style, too) & anyway I am good with the younger ones...all possibly true. But I have ambitions too, such as getting beyond single vowel phonics with a group & graduating from carpet-based lessons. I want to push my flashcard-eating nightmare class of 5 years ago into taking their YLE Flyers before they are eleven; they can sing & dance as well as read & spell after all.

Am I starting to rant? Sorry!

As a school owner for over a decade, I know we are looking at another sink-hole openning up beneath us at this time of year - been there, got the t-shirt & lost hair over it years ago. I am not emotionally attached to money; I know what comes around comes around; somebody else's prize learner will cross our threshold at random, with a bruised homework book if we are lucky. But that's it, isn't it? Luck. For my school, it's financial. For our students it's a crap shoot...Japan has no regulatory body to approve language schools & there are no industry-wide standards. Too often we are tarred with a dirty brush and assessed by the lowest common denominator. Price? Parking? Personality?