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Making It As An English Teacher In Japan

If English is your mother tongue, you are lucky enough to be able to find a handful of teaching jobs all over the globe. Last year I spent over eight months teaching English in Japan at three very different establishments. These jobs were really easy to get but they were all very different, so let me give you the low down.

Japanese High School Life

This job was crazy easy to get. Usually the school won’t interview you, but rather a company hired by the Education Board. The interviewer asked me if I had experience, but then didn’t ask for any details or examples, so you can just tell a few fibs… She then asked for my availability and that was pretty much it! I got the job with sponsorship for a working visa, so I technically could stay in Japan forever if I carried on with this company.

Working in the High School was a bit of a joke at times. I worked twice a week (six hour days) and I barely had to teach. I’ve heard from other English teachers that they have to plan lessons extensively, but for me this wasn't the case. I found that working in an school involves as much effort as you want to put in to it, therefore it can be a challenge and quite rewarding if you really want to get involved. However, I only planned some of my lessons with my Japanese teachers (who spoke fluent English and always led the class whereas I stood on the side), but they had the syllabus and planned most of the work. I taught eight classes a week, all the same lesson, which consisted of reading out a passage, and then I helped the children with any grammar or translation questions in the class. But as I didn't speak Japanese, the students weren't able to use me as much as they would have liked, so I did stand around a lot. Also, there were many days where I didn't have to teach due to exams/school trips but I still had to be in school because it was on the schedule provided by the Education Board. Therefore a lot of my time I sat at my desk watching movies on my laptop.

Corporate Language School

I hated this job. There are many companies in Japan who provide this kind of language service, which involves teaching slots of 40-50 minutes and has students starting from as young as 14. My company had eight lesson days (40 mins each, a ten minute break between each) where I taught classes from 1-4 people out of a textbook. The levels ranged from complete beginner to what I would consider almost fluent. I think it’s a bad way to teach as I wasn't allowed to speak any Japanese to the students; therefore time was often wasted explaining a word or a grammar point, where a simple translation would have been far easier and quicker. Also, as the lessons were out of a textbook (usually involving “please listen and repeat”) I found this dull and honestly not a fantastic way to teach or learn.

However, I’ve met teachers who teach full time and have done for over ten years, who love this job, but I preferred more of a challenge and input, so it wasn't really for me. Also, as these types of companies are very corporate, you don’t get paid the greatest wage. If a student didn't turn up to your lesson you wouldn't get paid, but yet the company still received the money from the students initial booking. However, these companies tend to interview you on Skype, and from your home country. Then they will sort out your visa/accommodation/bank account, so a plus side to this job is that they make it easy for you to get to Japan and be instantly sorted.

Advanced Conversation Class

The third and most enjoyable job I had was working at an advanced conversation class. This was a two hour class which ranged from 1 to 8 people, but usually the same people took my lesson each week, so I had about a 6 person class. It was entirely up to me what I talked about, and my boss encouraged me to talk about things which interested me. As my interests of drinking, movies and travelling were covered in the first few weeks, I got stuck on what to discuss next, so I looked online at advanced teaching topics and found a number of different discussions which ranged from the environment to violence and society. These provided a base for my lesson and then I created questions surrounding the topics to discuss with my class. As it was an advanced English class, I simply spoke in my normal pace and tone and used my everyday vocabulary. The class could speak at my rate, and I simply corrected any grammatical mistakes, or explained any words or phrases that they weren't too sure of.



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Overall I've have visited over 30 countries, and gradually building the list each time I pack my over-sized backpack. I've lived abroad in Japan, working in a ski resort, then teaching English. After Japan, I lived in France to learn the language. At the moment, I'm travelling through Australia and New Zealand with Helpx and Couchsurfing. I love beer, chocolate, air conditioning, the ocean and of course scribbling down what I get up to on each backpacking experience. My dream is to own a beach house with a pet shark, but until then the blogs will keep on coming

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