What I Really Do for a Living

-Kevin G. O’Leary

I have been a teacher of the English language in Japan since 1989.  It is become something I have come to enjoy immensely.  However, English teaching has not been my main source of earning a living since 2010.  As my age and experience has increased over the years, so has the profession at the local level.  Some if not most of the changes are not to my liking.  Like any profession, after a number of years one can be assumed to become seasoned, skilled and an a sought after expert.  This has not always been the case during my last 10 years working.

Now in 2013, I engage myself in three distinct areas.  Firstly, I maintain the family business which has operated under the name O’Leary Language Systems since 1992.  Secondly, I teach a pretty heavy schedule of classes for other companies.  For example, I have worked under the Tokyo Center for Language and Culture(TCLC) since first setting foot in southern Japan in 1989.  For TCLC, I have been doing language training for corporate personnel working for Bridgestone Tire as well as others.  In addition, I work a few hours per week doing classes for JCS, which is a company owned by another American who has been here even longer than I have.  Finally, I work at a production facility for Watami Tezukuri Merchandizing.  At Watami, I work as an entry level part time worker from the hours of 10:30PM to 4:30AM.   I often assist in the cutting and slicing of huge quantities of onions and cabbage that will be shipped out to homes throughout Japan.

I am very proud of all my work.  And certainly feel very blessed to be called a working man.  I came to realization some years ago that my only hope for financial security was through the success of Kebunsha-O’Leary Gaigo Systems.  I worked very hard to build a solid company and went through some very hard times from 2002-2012.  Ten years of fighting to keep the school relevant in the market.  When I moved the school to the area where I built my home, I failed to achieve the success I had when it was in the urban area of Kurume.  Enrollments dropped to the point that it was hardly even appropriate to refer to it as a school or any organization.  In the 1990s, we enjoyed a base enrollment of 150 students and plenty of outside contracts with companies and kindergartens.  Then in 1997, my wife at the time requested a divorce and I had to make arrangements to move my business out of the building we owned.  The school was on the first floor and our living accomodations were on the second and third floor.  I did maintain the business on the first floor for two years until finally I had to regroup into community centers and a small room in my new apartment.  Not really understanding where my school was headed for the future, I put the growth of O’Leary Gaigo on ice.  I began part-time English lecturing at several universities, did some high school teaching, worked some classes for others and presided over a dwindling number of students.  After several years, although we had a small office and were listed in the local telephone yellow pages, we were in fact a school in name only.

In the 2000s, here I was.  Just an experienced and seasoned teacher trying to stay relevant in a terrible economic downturn.  Things got worse and worse income-wise each year.  University teaching provided me with an opportunity to share my expertise and adequate compensation for my efforts.  Additionally, working for other schools who were able to gather enough students for an optimal sized group lesson helped me maintain my teaching skills.  This is what I did to survive.  Doing my taxes every year was a big pain annualy.   One particular year, I had almost a dozen employers and had to sort a lot of things out to submit my tax return.  I did this until April, 2007 until the point that I just needed a rest and needed to start fresh again.  In 2007, I returned to the United States and worked for Lowe’s Distribution Center as a production planner and on my off days there, I worked as a real estate broker.  I returned to Japan in August 2008 to rejoin my family.  Before I left in 2007, I officially turned the presidency of O’Leary Gaigo over to my son and he remains the president even today.

When I returned in 2008, I had to take on a job as an assistant language teacher in the public schools.  I really liked the schools and the students, but this is the lamest job any experienced teacher can take.  Nowadays, teachers are dispatched by overwhelmingly shady staffing organizaitons with no education creditials.  As the regular Japanese English teachers have a fair amount of pride, they often are not keen to let a foreign teacher do much of substance.  It is exasperating to actually be told what to say in English to the students, whether wrong or right.  Added to that, I had to deal with total ditzy bitches who dispatched us.  Some of them I thought were more troublemakers than contributors to a quality education experience.  A rare opportunity was given to me in October 2010 and high tailed it out of there.

In 2010, I became the Project Director for a group of investors who wanted to build an English speaking area in the Huis ten Bosch theme park in Nagasaki.  Here I was able to use a great deal of my background to assist in the planning, marketing and setting up of the area.  I had to get myself a room in the area and only came back home on my days off.  I only did this for a year.  From my vantage point, I could clearly see this project was headed for financial disaster and would not be around for long.  The president of the company who was in charge of building kept spending and spending and hiring totally incapable staffing.  Although I was the second person hired and had the title of Manager or in Japanese Buchou, I really had no power over this people running amuck kind if getting what they can before it collapsed.  The first six months were very exciting being on the ground floor of something special.  The second six months were spent trying to navigate around a lot of workplace misbehavior and at the same trying to get my own work done.

—to be continued. Why?  Because I accidently deleted the last half!!!

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One comment

  1. Kevin, You’re an inspiration to me. I appreciate your frankness, but especially admire how you’re able to stay objective and fair. Most other long-timers tend to vent, but you actually inspire patience and persistence. I am now going through everything you have experienced (20 years now) and feel more centered with your viewpoint as my new standard. All the best to you!

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