I have been teaching English in Japan for almost five months and I would like to give a little insight into my role as a teacher in Japan. I hope I may entice you to come out here and teach.
My mum said that she thought I was always born to be a teacher, and I think this becomes more apparent to me every day. Usually to teach in Japan your mother tongue needs to be English, you need a university degree and a teaching qualification of some sort is desired but not essential. You require a working visa in order to work and earn money in Japan.
I hear that most teaching positions will come with an apartment or small house already organised for you, rent prices vary. This was the case for me; I have also been given a bicycle so I can get from school-to-school easily. I usually work about 25-28 hours a week. Whilst I won’t state my own personal wage, wages are good in Japan, you can live comfortably every day, travel Japan and hopefully go home with some savings (this depends on how luxuriously you live your life in Japan). I did a quick bit of research into teaching figures and on average teachers earn about 240 000 – 260 000 Yen a month. My motivation to come here was not about money, but the experience of teaching and also immersing myself into another culture. Having worked in recruitment, I strongly believe that you should never do a job because of the money.
Private language schools for English are known as eikaiwa. Often teachers will teach private lessons and are also contracted out into kindergartens, primary schools and private companies. This is my case. I work for a private language school and students range from kindergarten to adults and working shifts range from day to evenings shifts. My earliest lesson of the day is 11:00am, which are always my adult’s lessons. Many of my adult’s lessons are free conversation classes; I often talk about our week, recent news articles, hobbies and interest. I really love these classes it’s a great way to learn about adults and even ask about the best places to travel in Japan. My students love to give me travel tips and advice, so it’s a great opportunity to find out about those secret Japanese gems which are off the tourist track.
Giving gifts to teachers is quite common. This week I have received a few lovely gifts as a little token, and it really brightens my day.
After my 1 hour morning class, my main teaching day begins around 4:00-5:00pm. I usually have about 4-5 hours teaching in the evening depending on the day, and most classes are children (16 years old and younger). Children are grouped depending on their ability and class sizes are small, the biggest group class I teach is 4. A teaching year is April to April, and you are teaching the same topics e.g. family members, phonics and actions over and over again to engrave it in their memories. These classes are always different; obviously every child is different so some classes are very energetic and fast paced whereas others are more reserved.
I am also sent to different kindergartens across the city. I absolutely love these classes. The class sizes are much larger (up to 30 children) compared to the private/ group classes. I literally threw myself into it from day one; there is no way you can afford to be shy in front of 30 kindergarten children. The more of a clown you are, the more they will think you are the best teacher. Every week I try to use big animated expressions, silly noises and voices, dancing and songs.
I have learned that you really have to be enthusiastic and eager to teach, and you certainly can’t have an off day in teaching because it effects the children’s education and ability to learn. Of course at times it can be frustrating when a child can’t pronounce ‘a’ properly or ‘the.’ Patience is a virtue. It’s about repetition constantly, this requires patience’s because you are doing the same thing over and over again. But I found that you have fun and they learn more if you actually spend time thinking of new games or activities for each month otherwise it is boring for the children and productivity declines as time goes on.
Most importantly you should have fun!
I personally do not find this job stressful at all, it’s a rewarding job where you meet really interesting people and learn a lot. I admit that not every day is going to be ‘the dream.’ There is no standard ‘teaching in Japan’ experience, each experience is different and everyone can look forward to a unique role within a workplace. Whilst I cannot compare this experience to teaching in another country, I can genuinely say you would not be disappointed teaching in Japan. I hope that I can give a little insight that may help if you are considering moving to Japan.