Working At Where You Do Not Work For

Every now and then, I get tired of not existing.

To understand this you first have to understand that although I work at a school, I don’t work for the school where I work. Instead, I work for a dispatch company that assigns me to the school where I work.

This is a fairly common state of existence for a lot of teachers in Japan. The schools like it because someone else is doing the hiring and firing and reference checking and disciplining. If the schools have complaints, they will find at least one sympathetic ear in the form of the salesman who will quickly relay the complaint to a higher up who will pass it down to a lower down who will dump it on the teacher receiving the complaint.

This makes it easy to get rid of teachers the schools don’t like. It also puts most of the pressure on the teachers and the dispatch companies to develop all the lessons with, according to the law, little or no input from the schools.

If the teacher has a complaint, however, well, if it’s not life threatening, it will probably get dealt with eventually and until then “thank your for your hard work and cooperation and we really appreciate your effort” (translation: your complaint has already been shredded and incinerated). My company even has two layers of human firewalls whose only job is to absorb complaints and deliver bad news. (There used to be one layer, but that layer decided it needed a layer of protection as well.) The firewalls don’t have the authority to make any decisions. They simply pass messages along, or at least they claim they do, to the people who can make decisions.

Basically, I’m the English teaching equivalent of a plumber. I’m sent to a place to fix the pipes but if the clients want their pool fixed, I have to call my company and get permission. If I’m at the place for a long time, I still take orders from my company not the clients. However long I stay at the place, I’m still not part of the family, just a guy there to clean crap out of pipes.

The companies like it because they get a decent amount of money for the contract but don’t have to pay a decent amount out. As teachers, we find that the schools couldn’t care less (if they did, they’d hire direct) and the companies don’t care as long as they have the contract. The companies also like that they can change terms and conditions at their whim. (Our previous statement is no longer active and if you don’t like it, we will just cut your pay if you don’t comply. Thank you for your cooperation.)

If you don’t like it, tell it to the firewall. Someone will eventually get back to you once it’s too late to actually do anything. (No, really, I don’t work for the government.)

For the most part, because I got in reasonably early, this situation has been pretty good for me. (For example, I get full pay during the summers.) The problem I have, though, is that sometimes the clients expect to have more control and start giving instructions and the company looks the other way but if something goes wrong the clients don’t really care and the company blames me if the clients complain.



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