Monday, September 04, 2006


The company from which I receive referrals for private students sent an e-mail message, presumably to all teachers who work with them, requesting that teachers now start to send an account of the content of each lesson taught. I've worked on and off with this particular company for over a decade now and this is the first time they've made such a request. It's not that I mind fulfilling their request because I already keep such records for myself and can just copy the file for them but I'm suspicious of their motives in making such a request.

The reasons given for this information is a desire to know each teacher's methods, track the progress of students and to know if the lessons have been completed and when. The final reason is absurd since that information is already included in the report of total hours each teacher must make. A teacher cannot claim a student attended for an hour and request payment if the teacher didn't teach for an hour.

This service has been pretty good to me but I do find it odd that this information wasn't necessary for years but now is of concern. It seems unlikely that they suddenly have decided to waste man hours reading such reports. It seems even more unlikely that they would care about lesson content since their materials have always said, quite correctly, that students who take private lessons often just want to have friendly conversations. The fact that the service provides only an idioms textbook and no other materials also shows a lack of commitment to serious learning.

When I worked at a company, I found that stated reasons were often lies or distortions to cover up unpleasant realities. At one point, we were told to make sure we kept the kitchen door closed because they didn't want any lunch preparation-related smells to waft into the office if a client visited. This request was despite the fact that clients rarely came to the office as the salesmen usually visited the clients. In the end, the real reason was the company president's neurotic aversion to any type of odor, even relatively benign ones.

Additionally, often new blanket policies would stem from one problem with an aberrant student or client. Almost always, it was the case that pointless added work for the foreign staff was the result of one complaint or lone request. For instance, my schedule was shifted an hour later because a client once asked a salesman if later lessons were possible. A few years later, they wanted to switch it back because it turned out that that time was relatively unpopular with most clients.

It's safe to say that I've grown accustomed to both short-sighted decision-making and big white lies when it comes to the reasons why I'm being asked to do more work. Because of this, I can't help but view this request with suspicion. I have to consider that the real reasons are that someone complained about something and the company feels this will give them some (imaginary) measure of control over the teachers and lessons or they want to accumulate information for sales purposes. That is to say, they want to be able to say they track lessons and are an attentive company even though they may not do anything more than file the reports away.

When I worked in the United States, I worked for 3 different private non-profit agencies where corporate culture was not an issue so I can't say if this sort of misleading or fibbing is done. Some part of me wants to believe that this is related to tatamae and honne and not necessarily something all companies do but I'm uncertain. If I had to guess, I'd wager that companies in the U.S. make similar short-sighted blanket policy changes and arbitrary decisions but don't bother to give a sugar-coated reason.

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