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By Gil Cruz

Good company

Don’t believe everything you hear. Nova rocks!

Gil Cruz is a Titled Instructor with The Nova Group in Saitama

“Oh!”
There’s a look of disgust, an awkward silence and the conversation dies. This is the usual response when I tell fellow foreigners I work for Nova. “What’s it like?” is the question that eventually follows—asked with suspicious, scrutinizing eyes.

Unfortunately, the company I have spent three joyful years with has received a lot of bad publicity and does not have the best of reputations. I therefore think it is time that the misinformed heard from me, a happy and (relatively) long-term Nova employee.

I admit there was a time when I had had enough. But after handing in my notice, I searched extensively for a bigger and better deal, which never came along. I thought long and hard about my unappealing job offers only to conclude I had it better with Nova. Fortunately, I was able to withdraw my resignation and stay with the company. Why did I do this? Please read on.

First, my job hunting revealed Nova’s starting salary (mid-¥280,000) is much higher than many other schools, regardless of an applicant’s experience. With debt like student loans, the more you earn, the more you can send home—and the quicker you can clear those bills.
What’s more, living abroad should be fun. I pity teachers I know from other companies who are incredibly inactive in their free time. This is not out of choice but because of money constraints. I have never had that problem. Especially after generous pay increments when renewing my contracts, I have always been able to live life in Japan to the max.
Many think that working for Nova is extremely hard work. That’s true—if you are lazy or were born with low energy levels. Our schools are famous for being right outside train stations. Combine this with sitting down for most of the working day, and the job hardly constitutes hard work. In fact, I find myself getting restless from sitting so much! And yet I was born with average energy levels.

To further combat the rumor that Nova works its employees to the bone, we recently changed our textbooks. The new books, which come with lesson management plans that explain how to teach every stage in a session, are proving popular with students and teachers alike. Simply “plug and play!”

Besides teaching, our unique shift-swap policy allows us days off whenever we like. Thanks to this, I have done more traveling in my three years with Nova than some do in a lifetime. There’s nowhere else left for me to visit in Japan. Thailand, Bali, the Philippines? Been there, done that, got the best massages of my life. When flights to SARS-stricken Toronto were practically being given away, I was there in a second. And does my family miss me? Not a chance. They see me too often for that. Twice a year, I might add. Recently my parents bought a house in Spain, and that is where I soaked up the sun last festive season—for three weeks, fully paid. Nova stands for “No Vacation”? I think not!

Acquaintances from rival schools argue that they have more paid holidays than I do. While that may be true, their holidays are inflexible and restricted to Japan’s peak traveling times. During that time, everywhere is more crowded and everything is more expensive. This discourages some people from doing anything exciting. What a waste of paid holidays! We Nova instructors, however, can take our holidays almost whenever we like, giving us the freedom to travel at the cheapest times. And we also receive generous discounts on package holidays from the Nova Tourism Bureau.

Supposedly, Nova employees lack opportunities to meet Japanese people, because we’re not allowed to socialize with our students. Are Nova students the only Japanese people in this country? For a long time now, I’ve been hanging out with more Japanese than foreigners—Japanese I met in my guesthouse, the gym, bars and clubs. Given the choice, I wouldn’t hang out with my students anyway. I’ve heard the adage about policemen never being off duty. That’s not for me. My time out of work is my time out of work. I don’t need Japanese friends who expect feedback on every English sentence they utter. Save that for the classroom.
Neither do I want to watch everything I do or say, in case my out-of-work antics interfere with my lessons on-premises. Students in Japan have great respect for their teachers, for their teaching. They don’t need to see me making the most of nomihodai offers, or upset their ears from accompanying me to karaoke.

Of course, Nova isn’t for everyone. But I hope you’ll think differently after my spiel, which was written by someone who almost turned his back on the company. If I had, I wouldn’t be where I am now: a travel-holic who also manages two schools and 12 instructors. Such financial, travel or career progression opportunities don’t come by every day. So I certainly have nothing to complain about.

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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