Archive for category Keikyu-Kawasaki NOVA

October 21, 2004 – Halloween Voice

Today I had yet another special topic voice session, this time at Keikyu Kawasaki school. The topic was Halloween. Japan doesn’t really “celebrate” Halloween (I don’t know if celebrate is the right word), but they know what it is. My personal highlight was getting the students to play pin the tail on the donkey.

(2014 Update) The NOVA Kids curriculum during October is usually Halloween related. One of the American teachers at Kawasaki NOVA went above and beyond with one of his kids lessons. He took the student (a 5 or 6 year old girl) to all of the other classrooms to go trick or treating. We all gave her flashcards with pictures of candy and other treats on them.

When both students and teachers are having fun in the classroom, it really helps a lot with learning English and job satisfaction.


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September 6, 2004 – Touring Noborito

Another schedule update at work. This month I will be working Sundays at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. Sunday is one of the busiest days, so it’s fantastic to be at Keikyu which is more relaxing than Kawasaki NOVA.

After work, Archie came back to the Noborito area with me. I showed off Hello House and we went for beer with Lux. A good time was had by all!

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July 29, 2004 – Happy birthday to me!

Happy birthday to me! I turned 26 today!

I got woken up in the morning with a birthday call from my parents. Lux gave me some presents including a six pack of Labatt Blue. I love Japanese beer, but it’s always good to drink something Canadian when I get a chance. Canadian beer brings back a lot of good memories.

Work was a very relaxing day at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. After work, the usual Thursday night karaoke became birthday karaoke. The regular Thursday karaoke group is usually about 6-8 people. Tonight we had about double that. I had the best of intentions to be sensible with nomi-hodai, but ended up having a little too much fun.

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July 19, 2004 – Six days and nine gates

My sixth consecutive day of work was a relaxing day at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. In the evening I actually got time to clean up my room. I also watched The Ninth Gate with Lux on her new massive TV. It’s about a 40 inch flat screen tube TV, which looks huge in a Hello House 5 tatami mat dorm room. I am thankful that I didn’t have to help move it up the stairs.

The movie was pretty good. I am not usually into supernatural horror movies, but it was well done and Johnny Depp is in it.

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July 15, 2004 – Return to karaoke

Today was notable for three reasons:

  1. I got my first full time paycheck! Much nicer than my part time paychecks! Yay!
  2. It was my first shift at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA in 2 months. Keikyu is always more relaxing than Kawasaki NOVA. Also, most of the students actually remembered me and asked where I had been.
  3. It was my first time at Thursday night karaoke in a few weeks. Karaoke and beer = good!

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April 8, 2004 – Sprinting in a suit

Today was a chaotic day. The fun all started at 4:00am, when I was woken up by some drunk gaijins playing soccer in the street right outside my window. There is no grass anywhere nearby, so the sounds of the soccer players and the ball were bouncing off all the concrete. After about 5 minutes of listening to kicking and bouncing, I went outside and asked them very nicely to move their game, which they did. It took me about an hour to get back to sleep.

Before work I tried to get some Playstation time. While playing, I spilled a 600ml bottle of Coke on the floor. My lightning fast video game reflexes allowed me to pick it up very quickly, which caused Coke to spray everywhere in the room. I got Coke on my futon, couch, clothes, Playstation controller, CDs and stereo.

I got everything cleaned up and expected that the rest of the day would move along smoothly. WRONG. Just before leaving Hello House I got a call from work telling me that due to some scheduling issues, my first 2 lessons would be at Kawasaki NOVA and my last 3 lessons would be at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. There are 10 minutes between lessons, and walking from one school to the other takes about 5 minutes. To avoid a big rush, I left for work extra early, went to Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA and planned all my lessons. After that I went to Kawasaki NOVA and got those lessons ready. Everything was organized and there would be no panic.

At Kawasaki NOVA I taught one lesson then a Voice class, before quickly leaving the building and walked the 500 meters to Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA. When I arrived I saw that the schedule had changed, and I was now listed as having “break”. I asked the staff to confirm, so they called Kawasaki NOVA and found out that I was now on the schedule there, and had one minute to get back. Since we are fined for being late for lessons, rushed out the door and sprinted back to Kawasaki NOVA, wearing my suit and wondering how I was going to find out who I was teaching and how I would somehow pull a lesson out of my ass with no planning.

I dodged and weaved my way through the dense foot traffic and managed to get back in 3 minutes, panting and sweating. When I got inside I learned that I didn’t actually have a lesson after all. I got to spend the rest of the class period filing in the teachers room before once again leaving for Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA to finish my last two lessons. Good times!

(2014 Update) This is a good example of how disorganized the large NOVA schools could be, especially when they shared teachers with a nearby satellite branch. My job satisfaction increased a lot when I later transferred to smaller schools.

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January 27, 2004 – Interesting students

(Original post) At work I taught a kid that was really good today! Why can`t all kids be like that? I also taught a member of the Japanese Self Defence force and a woman who designs diamond tools for cutting silicon.

(2014 Update) The location of a NOVA branch will go a long way in determining what kinds of students will show up. Kawasaki City is a largely industrial city full of factories and heavy industry. The majority of students in the evenings and on weekends are all engineers. I have nothing against engineers, but it is nice to have a little more variety in the classroom. Three electrical engineers and one computer engineer who all work and live in Kawasaki is not variety.

Variety of students in the classroom, whether it be people with different jobs, people from different generations, people with interesting hobbies, or the always rare non-Japanese student, keeps things interesting for the teachers. English teachers are responsible for teaching as good a lesson as possible, regardless of who shows up to class. However, it is much easier to stay engaged and excited as a teacher when you aren’t teaching the same lesson to the same types of students all the time.

Variety in the classroom is also good for the students. Not only does it give students a chance to interact with people they might not normally talk to, it also allows for a wider range of vocabulary. As an example, imagine the discussion about weekend plans in a classrom with 4 salarymen as compared to a classroom with an engineer, a retired senior, a university student, and a stay at home housewife with 3 kids.

In my 3 years of teaching in Japan I got to teach a great assortment of different people with different jobs. My highlights include a Buddhist Monk, members of the Japanese Self Defence Force, a game designer, a few doctors, a hostesse, a miniture dollhouse designer, a very opinionated retired ballerina, and an awesome construction worker from Peru who was studying English as a third language.

If you have an English school and have any control over scheduling of your lessons, do your students and teachers a favour and try to get some variety in the classroom. It will benefit everyone.

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November 22, 2003 – The University Educated tissue guy

Japanese promotional tissues

(rewrite of original post)

I was working at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA today with Smiling Mo and managed to get three no show lessons. As I had learned previously, when you don’t have students you are expected to find something useful to do in the office. There is usually enough busy work to cover one or two open lessons. However, Smiling Mo and I both had several no shows and completely ran out of office work to do.

We asked the staff if they had anything that we could do to help. They asked if we really meant anything. We answered yes, we really would do anything to help. Minutes later we were at Keikyu Kawasaki station handing out NOVA tissues.

Free promotional tissues are commonly found near all train stations. They are simply a package of tissues with information on a business in the wrapper. The tissues are usually handed out by part time workers or junior employees. On this day I got to join the illustrious ranks of the tissue givers.

While handing out tissues I was approached by one of my regular students. He was a fun guy from Peru who was in Japan for construction work. When he saw me handing out tissues he laughed and then asked me if I was being punished for doing something wrong. At this point I started to question the value of my Bachelor of Commerce Degree (with honours) and the choices that brought me to that situation. I was a smart, educated guy. How did I possibly end up handing out free tissues at a train station?

Then I looked over at Smiling Mo, who was absolutely having a great time. He was a charismatic, outgoing person and was using the tissues as an excuse to talk to strangers, especially groups of attractive female students. Smiling Mo’s enjoyment helped me to realize that I wasn’t just doing a menial task, I was getting paid good money to do a menial task in JAPAN, far away from the frozen tundra of Winnipeg. With this realization, I started to actually have a bit of fun handing out NOVA tissues.

If you are half way around the world for a limited time, you might as well enjoy everything that the experience has to offer.

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November 8, 2003 – Lazy teacher

Original Post

Man I love Saturdays at Keikyu! I had a no show for my last lesson, so I sat in the teacher`s room and read a book and sent email with my phone.

2013 Update

As someone who takes a lot of pride in their work, reading my original post really made me cringe. NOVA was one of the few English schools that paid you even if students didn’t show up for lessons. If you were scheduled for 5 lessons, you got paid for 5 lessons even if nobody was there. In turn, the expectation is that when you have a free lesson that you find something productive to do in the office, and not just sit around reading and texting.

Kawasaki NOVA was always insanely busy, so nobody had ever needed to explain what I should do if I had an empty lesson. A few weeks after this original post, I was in the same situation and a senior teacher explained the priorities. The job list for free lessons included:

  • Preparation of kids class materials – there was always some colouring, stapling or glueing that needed to be done for kids classes.
  • Lesson preparation – ensuring that you were prepared for your upcoming lessons and reviewing or improving your current lessons
  • Maintenance of student files – removing old students, replacing folders that were falling apart
  • Tidying the office – teachers are generally very messy and there were always files, books and other things lying around the office
  • Assisting the staff

From that time forward, whenever I saw a new teacher sitting around doing nothing I was able to get them working.

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November 1, 2003 – Keikyu Kawasaki Nova

Keikyu Kawasaki station

Original Post

I got to work at Keikyu Kawasaki today. It is a satellite branch of Kawasaki NOVA. It was very calm and relaxed, and I was done early. I get to work here every Friday and Saturday in November, and hopefully longer!

2013 Update

In 2003 NOVA was working on a massive expansion. Some of their advertising material included the slogan “learn English near the station”, so they decided to have an English school closer to a train station than any of their major competitors.

JR Kawasaki station is a major train station on the Nanbu, Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido lines. It servies 185,000 passengers per day. The station is connected to a large, sprawling underground shopping centre. Having a large English school near Kawasaki station makes a lot of sense. Kawasaki NOVA usually had a roster of 22+ teachers and featured many classrooms, a voice room and two fully stocked kids classrooms.

Keikyu Kawasaki station is a smaller station on the private Keikyu line. It serves about 58,500 passengers per day. It is not connected to the underground shopping area and is only 500 meters away from Kawasaki station. Since one of the competitors opened an English school close to Keikyu Kawasaki station, NOVA decided to open a small branch slightly closer to the station. Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA usually had 3 teachers (rotated in from Kawasaki NOVA), and had one shared voice / kids classroom.

Kawasaki NOVA had extra capacity and facilities, so there was no good busines reason to have another branch 500 meters away. NOVA’s “I’m closer to the station than you are” expansion policy in a country with extremely expensive real estate was likely one of the main contibuting factors to their eventual bankruptcy. That and gross mismanagement from the CEO, but that’s another story.

As a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed shifts at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA, which provided a break from the fast pace and chaos of Kawasaki NOVA.

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