William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

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A letter to Sean Carney, Personnel Recruitment, AEON Toronto:

Greetings, Mr. Carney!

      Thank you for coming all the way to Halifax to give your interesting presentation. In fact, I was riveted, and many of the other candidates said so as well, while you and Ms. Taniuchi were out of the room. I think we all really enjoyed the chance to hear about what you had to offer. I had been up all night preparing for the session, yet not once did I feel sleepy! I was too excited and your address was too engaging! It’s something that I will remember for a long time, and I’d like to thank you for that.
      It is a pity that the format was less interactive, because I would have enjoyed speaking with you one-on-one and building up more of a rapport. However, I am sure the candidates who were selected for interviews were able to make the most of that opportunity. There were many fine candidates there on Saturday, and it says something about your schools that you have the power to attract such people.
      I think you made the right decision in declining me a further interview. I was not as well prepared as I ought to have been, and I can think of several areas in which I could improve. If I knew what I know now, perhaps I would have been able to perform to your greater satisfaction. Unfortunately, I can only speculate about this without your input, which I would solicit, if you would be so kind.
      To begin, my English lesson was almost entirely unprepared and perhaps even unsuited for the environment. If I had known how much Japanese students appreciate handmade materials (in the same way that I enjoyed your carefully drawn posters more than I might have a PowerPoint presentation), I would have taken the initiative to make some, or at least realized that just staying up all night before the interview to put something together wasn’t an option. Perhaps I should have realized this anyway!
      You were also correct in your assertion that English language teaching in Europe operates quite differently than in Japan. The focus is much more on grammar and reading, and much less on speaking. The Japanese solution of dual streams is elegant, to say the least. As to my personal experience, I was often asked to “just talk to them (the students),” but there was really next to nothing to guide this, and I had to improvise as I went. There weren’t very many materials of the nature that you would find in the Aeon textbooks. I often had to stick to grammar or reading comprehension lessons from the Oxford books. I tried my best to make the lessons fun, and it’s a great sadness to me that you can only take my word on that. In any case, if you noticed that my typed lesson focused a little bit too much on technical bits instead of plain speaking, that is the reason. I must admit I did not wholly appreciate the distinction until ten minutes before I was asked to stand up, and the whole endeavour felt hopeless when the stopwatch went off and not even one group was able to demonstrate the dialogue I had laboured over. When I read “five minutes” in the pre-interview letter, I assumed “about five minutes,” and I made no special effort to practise my lesson to squeeze it into an exact five minute period. When I got up, I not only had that problem, but I also had to take into account what I’d learned about how the lesson ought to be. I was originally going to directly present some vocabulary, but from what I had been exposed to that day, I decided that wouldn’t be appropriate, so I tried to go in a completely different direction with zero preparation. I thought that I would be able to do fine. I was wrong.
      If there were only one thing that I would do over again if I could, it would be the teaching demonstration. I should add that the opportunity to see all the other candidates’ demonstrations was invaluable. It really helped me to see what is being sought and what characteristics I can emulate to best please potential employers.
      I also enjoyed the opportunities to write the quiz and essay. They really helped me solidify my thoughts and gave me chance to think seriously. I possess the conceit that the essay may have been well written, but I am more than ready to hear suggestions to the contrary. Moreover, I believe my tone in either the essay or the quiz (or both) may have been inappropriate or simply naïve. It would be fair for you to agree with this, for I have a very limited perspective now, and before your presentation I really had no idea what teaching English in Japan might be like. This is one more thing I can heartily thank you for – in just a few hours of your session I learned more than I could in days of surfing the Internet. This information will be of great help to me in preparing for future opportunities.
      I also realize that my employment history is suspect; something I will have endeavoured to improve by the next time you see me – in fact, that is something that time and work alone can fix. Given my situation, I was pleased just to get as far as I did.
      That is, until I saw your presentation. I had no idea that such an elegant life was possible – the chance to live so well in another culture, make many new friends and acquaintances, and to make some pretty good money besides. I quickly found out why your schools are among the best in Japan, why you attract the best candidates, and why your students keep coming back. It makes me want to strive for a life where I can pursue an interest and perform where my talents are appreciated. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean teaching English in Japan, but it is one enticing possibility among many.
      I thank you for the time you’ve given to my letter so far. I would like to sum up my thirst for self-improvement into one final question: What was the biggest “deal-breaker” for you? Is it something I’ve described here, or is there something entirely new that I have neglected to mention? Knowing this would be of great help to me, and to you as well if I have the opportunity to come for another interview, perhaps next year when you return to Halifax. This sort of question may not be proper in Japanese culture, but from one Canadian to another, I’d really appreciate it if you could help point me in the right direction.
      Best of luck with your new candidates! They’re a really sharp bunch, and I’m sure that you’ll get some of your best-ever AEON employees from this pool. And thank you once again for this opportunity for personal growth. I look forward to hearing from you!

Arigato gozaimasu,
~ William Matheson

William Matheson
** ***** Drive
Bedford NS *** ***
or, send e-mail to:

* * *

So you can see from that how the interview went. I've rarely been through such a stressful experience in all my life. It was maddening to come so close to such an opportunity, and yet fall so short of obtaining it. I possess the conceit that it's their loss, yet it's bitter consolation. I walked down Sackville Street a broken person. On the plus side, I ran into Danielle from Captain Eli's, which brightened me up momentarily. Then I had a good ol' GMC New Look for Route 80 (you know, the old busses with the comfortable, cushy blue seats), and I slept away most of the run. But when I was awake, I was in agony. I just wanted to crawl away somewhere and cry. And the bus of course took forever.

Dr. B says that one of my problems is that I'm trying to go sideways instead of ahead. He thinks I should be working towards a Ph.D. It would be nice to think that I'm "smart" enough for that sort of thing, but being a professor is really only 25% appealing to me. I'd like the title, and I'd like the lectures, but most of everything else (including having to constantly research and publish in academic journals) just doesn't appeal to me.

Essentially, at a time when many of my other friends are working real jobs for decent money, I'm faced with starting from Point ZERO. No experience, no skills, na-da. This is my own fault, but can I be blamed for looking for ways to, as I like to put it, skip Step B and go straight to Step C? Well, I guess I can look, but I can't really expect to succeed, can I?

On the other hand, I really do feel like a nobody without a more advanced degree, but I think that's just because I'm a snob. Lately I've tried to stifle such needless depreciation whenever possible. For instance, my educational status probably had little to do with why I was shut out of this opportunity.

There were some other really good candidates there - some of them opened their letters in the lobby. "Access denied!" one smart-looking girl said, reading hers. That's what we got, letters. Form letters. Dammit, that's not good enough for me! I'm sticking up for myself for once, and I'm getting an explanation. Not only that, I need the feedback if I'm to actually learn anything from this aside from how to deal with severe disappointment.

Well, if you'll excuse me, I've got 24 years of backed up dues-paying to get on with.
Tags: education, interviews, jobs, teaching
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