Postcard from the Edge

Hello there! It has been ages since my last post. I had been hoping to leave this blog up to help anyone who needed to see what steps to take to fight an unfair dismissal. Though, reading back on some comments and letters, I wanted to tie up some loose ends. As well as comment on what, if anything, a big catastrophe like this earthquake could mean for foreign teachers.

Loose ends:

1. Ms. Tran cannot be contacted through this site. Nor am I allowed to give information on the union she is part of. The school would have a lot of motivation to try to link them to this site and cry defamation…(or maybe just cry). But, as we know, WordPress is great at protecting freedom of speech.

2. Many have been unclear on what it was that Ms. Tran got out of the settlement. In an unfair dismissal case, people sue for their job back, or the equivalent of back pay. In Ms. Tran’s case, it was for the job and no amount of money was specified. However, in settlements, it is always money that finishes the case. Getting her job back would have been weird for everyone.

3. Some have wondered what has happened to Ms. Tran and what she has learned. Well, she continues to putter about Tokyo, having dinner parties and doing her job. In her new work, well, the work of the last 2 years after leaving St. Mary’s, she has happily experienced the way teacher evaluation has been done at other institutions. For example, teachers are video taped and employers write a detailed report of what they saw with comments. All which is verifiable by looking at the tape. This is accompanied by a teacher self-evaluation and meetings with positive encouragement. Other teachers are required to watch each other’s tapes and write comments. All teachers undergo the same process, administered with objective rigor. Thus, when an evaluation comes out, you can bet it is useful and usable. It has been important to experience this fresh breath of professionalism. (My god. Isn’t this supposed to be normal?)

Japan in turmoil:

Many foreign teachers might have had a proper fright after that crazy earthquake on Friday March 11, 2011. Also, those nuclear meltdown warnings don’t sound so appetizing. Some might be tendering their resignation right now. Here are some ideas for those who are staying, regarding labor issues / education. (I am no expert, just FYI from a lowly blogger):

1. Thank you for continuing to stay in Japan. Your services are important for maintaining the level of education and economic progress of the country. Talk to your fellow teachers and employers about working together toward those goals. (An exodus of foreign teachers would be another huge setback for Japan, thus this is a time for teachers to recognize their worth).

2. Cooperate with your employer (on a reasonable level) to adjust to things like mandatory time off due to planned power cuts. Teachers on salary suffer less of course, but teachers being paid by the hour–you need to foresee how your income will be affected and decide what to do accordingly. Judge clearly to see if your employer is truly setback by the devastation or just using this event to justify layoffs that were in the works anyway etc. This is an important time to document things. Also, be aware that if you form your own union or join a pre-existing one, you become protected under Trade Union Law (which is can be a pre-emptive precaution to lay-offs and unfair firings etc).

Stay informed with the news:


The power cuts–(& find out if you can get to work on time!):

3. This is an amazing time in Japan. It can be used to educate students on humanitarian issues and the concept of rebuilding Japan. Talk to your staff about incorporating this into your curriculum from here on in. Make your school, students and staff on the forefront of helping to donate, conserve energy and preparing students to live in a country that has undergone a heavy blow etc. This is the post-WW2 moment and kick-in-the-pants that complacent and stagnate Japan has been waiting for. The help of foreign workers, English, and a motivated young generation is what is needed to get back on track. You are needed more than ever–foreign teachers committed to staying in Japan should get together and recognize that you are an important force of redemption and rebuilding here!!


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