Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Teaching style" as a product

I just finished an interview for a teaching position here in Osaka Japan.  The position is for a company that dispatches individuals to Japanese companies to perform business English lessons.  I don't have any experience with teaching English to business professionals but the company was willing to see my demo lesson and I was willing to give it.

On the day of the interview/demo lesson I was late.  I didn't seem to care, nor did the man waiting for me yet I wonder how much of my failure in life is because I just can't seem to care enough about being a couple minutes late.  I guess it is hard for me to care because I am always occupying my "waiting" time in other completely natural moments of wait - the the barber - with books to read and thoughts to think.  After the fellow waiting for me ensured I was indeed James we moved to the bar of a fancy apartment building.  I was served tea and water as the patient interviewer man interviewed.

At some point in the verbal altercation I felt urged to bring up the topic of the demo lesson I chose.  This revealed 2 things: I am horrible at gleaning meaning from emails, and the topic of this post - according to this man my teaching style is not a style.  The wonderfully understanding man told me that I was not to teach about how to retrieve a stapler from a co-worker but as he put in the email, I was to teach about properly conducting a phone conversation in a business setting.  He then went on to show me a manual outlining the politics and guidelines of his wonderful company.

It blew my mind.

Although I was not able to understand in the email that I was to teach about phone conversations what I did understand was that the purpose of this demo class was for them to see my teaching style.  That much was plastered all over the email.  As I read through the manual of the company I was bombarded with papers upon papers that outlined the style of teaching the company has designed prior to seeing me.  How would they see my teaching style if the style they want me to teach has already been defined?  It was "highly recommended" for me to follow it for the demo lesson I was to conduct shortly?  They should have said in the email that we want to see if you can teach how we want you to teach.  The wonderfully patient man even gave me a handout that he also "highly recommended" I use and pass out to the students during my lesson.

I gave the lesson, there was an awesome energy in the class and I did not do or use anything that was highly recommended.  After the nice man heard this I could see his brow age as frustration took over his face.  We still managed a friendly goodbye but I highly doubt the dood will return.

Here is how our teaching styles differed:

Their                                                                                  Mine

 Teacher generated objectives                                 Student generated teacher guided objectives
 Evaluation at the end of lesson                                Ongoing evaluation throughout entire lesson
Linear class flow                                                     circular class flow

What I realized is that this company has a product in the same way apple has the iphone.  The product of the company is their teaching style.  They want all their employees(teachers) to be teaching within the framework of their product.   When the dood said in the email that he wanted to see my teaching style what he really meant is he wanted to see if I could improve UPON their product.  This means I would have to already agree with their product and understand it well enough to improve upon it.  I understand it as it is similar to many other companies I have worked for and I do agree it can be improved, but not improved UPON - improved from within.

I think I just stumbled upon why I have been having a hard time in the education world as a professional.  I don't see education of as product as most companies/schools do.  I see it as something the world needs.  Therefore my approach is to not make a target market happy, but to make humans happy.  I guess if I am to be successful in this business I gotta figure out how to make humans a target market.


  1. This unwillingness to communicate clearly and directly amazes me! "James, we highly recommend you follow the outlined teaching style BECAUSE IF YOU DON'T WE WON'T HIRE YOU."

  2. Im convinced teaching style in the popular sense mean how entertaining you can be while you fool students into learning.

  3. Im convinced teaching style in the popular sense mean how entertaining you can be while you fool students into learning.

  4. That doesn't sound like a bad thing. As long as the students are learning.