With Backpack

One World in One Lifetime

Job 6: Interac

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 5, 2017

March 2015 – March 2017 

This is the continuation of the entries I did on the overseas jobs I’ve had. Previously I wrote about my time at GEOS, English Channel, SMOE, BFITS, and my time in the JET Programme.

Leaving for Interac’s Orientation

A Different Company

Before I even signed up with Interac, I knew this company was different from all the other companies I had worked for so far. First off, they do not pay for your flight to or from Japan. They give you nothing to cover moving expenses; not one red yen.

Let’s see, GEOS gave a contract ending bonus which paid for your flight home, assuming you completed the full year with GEOS. English Channel paid for your flight to South Korea up to $700 and there was a contract ending bonus. You got the $700 after working for English Channel for 6 months and the other bonus, you got after completing the contract. SMOE paid for your flight to Korea and back, up front. Plus, there was a yearly pay increase. BFITS did not pay for any travel expenses, but for every year you re-signed you got a raise. The JET Programme, like SMOE paid for your flight to Japan up front and your flight back. They also showed you how you could trade in your plane ticket for cash, if you wanted cash instead. With JET there was a raise for every year you re-signed too.

With Interac, you get nothing other than your paycheck. There are no travel expanses paid, no contract completion bonus, nothing. This would not be so bad, if Interac didn’t pay so little compare to all the other companies I worked for. But since I lived in Miyoshi, and Interac is the only game in town, my choice was Interac or nothing.

not bad

I was surprised when Interac put everyone up in a fancy hotel for orientation. I was half expecting to foot the bill for the accommodations, but no, Interac paid for it.

Orientation lasted a little less than a week. We started at 9:00 usually, and ended at 17:00. Then there were “optional” meetings we had to attend until about 22:00. This was to avoid having to pay us over time. If these extra meetings were officially mandatory, they would have to pay us. Making them “optional” made it legal for them not to pay us for it.

Honestly, I didn’t mind the extra meeting scam so much. They were, after all, paying for us to stay in a really nice hotel and everyone got their own room. I would much rather not get the extra pay than have to stay in a roach motel with a room mate.

One of my many schools

We were drilled in the arts of ESL lesson planning. It was quite boring for me because I have been doing this for years. But there were many new teachers to the game who just didn’t get it.

Interac made it as simple as they could. They showed us exactly what they wanted. For example, they would show us a game that we could play with our students to drill some new vocabulary like… days of the week. Then we were put into groups to demonstrate what we would do to drill some other new vocabulary, say… months of the year.

I would sit in my group as my team members would rack their brains to come up with some new and innovative game. Then I would say, “Why don’t we just do what they did, just swap out ‘days of the week’ for ‘months of the year'”. Since my suggestion would come when there were only a few seconds left, everyone would reluctantly agree.

All the other groups with their fancy ideas and convoluted instructions would get chastised. Their instructions would be too complicated. The activities required too much pretending for equipment and props that were not there. Then my group would come in and repeat exactly what the trainers had done, but with the new vocabulary. And the praises would pour in.

They kept telling us that no one was expected to reinvent the wheel, but a few people just didn’t get it.

Sports day

The job itself was easy. My coworkers were nice people and I got along with everyone. There were some schools that I liked more than others, but no school was so terrible that I would contemplate quitting.

They did pay for my train ride back to Miyoshi from training.

Tips for working at Interac:

  1. Always get it in writing. Follow up any phone call or conversation with an e-mail. That way you will have proof of what was agreed on.
  2. Don’t buy a bunch of stuff for your classes. Instead of laminating a bunch of flash cards for every lesson, get the plastic covers from Daiso. You can put stick-on magnets on the back and switch out the paper inside for each lesson. Also, every school has a stationary room where you can use markers, magnets, post-it notes. Just use what you need and don’t be wasteful.
  3. If you want credit for your good work, brag about it to the higher-ups at Interac. Send them an e-mail talking about what a great job you did helping out with your school’s speech contest. If you have a great lesson, post that thing online where your supervisor will see it!
  4. Don’t burn yourself out trying to be spectacular. The credit you do get when you do a great job is a flimsy certificate and a standing ovation. There is no monetary reward and there is little room for promotion.
  5. Don’t be afraid of being unoriginal. If another ALT tells you that she has a great lesson, ask her if you can straight up steal it and use it in your class. (I get all my fun lessons from Mark. Then I take full credit for it at my schools. The students and teachers think I am a Powerpoint Presentation game god!)
  6. Don’t forget you will get reduced pay for the months of April, May, September, and January. (You are actually only working about 10 months of the year at Interac.)
  7. Be careful when telling anyone at Interac your personal information. At meetings throughout the year the supervisors tell anecdotes and cautionary tales of ALTs. They try to keep the people in these stories anonymous, but many times they fail at this. There was one story about an ALT that got kanchoed so often by students that the ALT had to visit the doctor many times. While the ALT’s name was kept private, the ALT’s gender, nationality, prefecture, and last year of work with Interac were freely given. Then there was a time when one of the supervisors forgot which group of ALT’s had shown up for the meeting and proceeded to tell everyone about a silly ALT who had gotten in trouble with the BOE. The story stopped when some shocked people from the “silly ALT’s” town told the speaker that the “silly ALT” was sitting in the front row. “Oh,” the speaker said, “I thought that happened to someone working in another part of Japan.” If you get sick, Interac will happily share all the details they know about your illness with your schools, unless you specifically tell them not to. There is no expectation of privacy here. So, if you don’t want everyone in town and their moms to know you personal stuff, don’t tell Interac.
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