A Japan Guy Review: My First Year Teaching As An ALT In Japan (Part 2)

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…read Part 1 of this article…

Wait, are you supposed to start with the bad news first? Damn it! Ah well, I won’t say anything if you don’t. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of my first year as an ALT in Japan.

THE NOT SO GOOD
I’ll try to say these as tactfully as possible. They are my honest opinions, but I’m still working here.

Training
I honestly felt that initial training wasn’t at organized or as effective as it could’ve been. I think I was okay because I AEON training was so incredibly thorough. But I would imagine that a person who was new to Japan could feel like they were in a bit of a whirlwind. There were teaching demonstrations, but I don’t think it was enough to make a person feel confident about walking into their first lesson. No disrespect.

Pay
UGH! This probably tops my list of the “not so good.” I was aware that I’d be taking a pay cut to change jobs. I sincerely thought that the time freedom would balance out the money, but it’s truly a tough call. I have more time to do things now, but with the pay being so much lower, I have to use my free time to try to earn more money, so it kind puts me back at square one. I’m sure people want to hear numbers so I’m cool with that. I went from making 310,000 /month in last AEON contract to making 240,000 with Interac. There was a slight pay increase for the second contract, but the deficit still to big to ignore, so it looks like I’ll be doing more side jobs.

Benefits
The biggest issue I have is with health insurance. I really enjoyed having the National Public Health Insurance plan. Initially I thought everybody had to be covered by public health insurance, but there is a loophole with the number of hours you work that can allow a company to bypass this rule. It’s all fine and good until you have big expense to come up. I remember having to get a CT scan this year and I literally had to empty the remainder of my bank account just to pay for it. I was reimbursed, but that money comes like a month later.

Administrative Staff Changes
I didn’t like the fact that all three of the staff members who hired me, interviewed me and helped to get me started at Interac had all stopped by the end of my first year. I’m sure they had their reasons, but it really makes me a little uneasy. I can’t remember what business book I was reading, and I don’t know everything about Interac behind the scense, but isn’t it a bad sign for the company if there’s high management turnover?

I’m the only foreigner at my job
Deja vu, right? Yes this was on the good list, too. The negative side about being the only foreigner is that I really miss joking with my English-speaking co-workers, I miss people understanding exactly what I trying to say…every nuance of it.

THE HINDSIGHT LESSONS
Honestly, if I had to do it all over again, I would have waited for about six months longer to change jobs. Doing so would’ve given me more of a financial cushion. That’s been the biggest lesson. If I didn’t have to worry about that, that would take so much pressure off of me. However, me having those lean and hungry months from time to time has really done something to my head. It has become my mission to find out how to cure all of my financial woes for good!

All in all, I must say that the job I have is a great experience. It’s rare to have an opportunity like this, to be able to live and work in another country in a school where people know, like, and trust you. Is Interac perfect, not by any means. But, I know that no company is going to be perfect, so instead of griping, I’m going to continue to do the best I can to be a great teacher.

Donald Ash

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  • Reader

    ‘There were teaching demonstrations, but I don’t think it was enough to make a person feel confident about walking into their first lesson.’ This is exactly my observation! That is all training amounts to these days. Don’t know what’s happening with the company. Funny enough my branch thinks a couple of demonstrations by the same ALTs who are being trained is enough training. The ‘trainers offer no guidance after the demonstrations and everyone goes home the same way they came. Some not knowing if they are coming or going…phew.

  • Waltlanta

    Thanks for the post. Good candid feedback. Time vs. Money? Tough one, and something my wife and I struggle with eveyday. My philosophy, you can always strive to make more money, but time is fleeting, and when your time has run out, there isn’t a bank that will let you borrow any…even on interest. Question phrased differently: are you working to live? Or, are you living to work?

  • jon colvin

    I am curious about the health insurance, what happens if you suddenly become ill say with a heart attack, are you covered? Do you have to buy private health insurance?

  • http://thesoulofjapan.blogspot.com McAlpine

    What’s a typical day like for you? what time do you start and finish? how about gross vs. income

  • Lysa Yang

    Hey, I’m a not-so-happy EPIK teacher (English teacher in South Korea), so I’ve been considering teaching in Japan. But I’ve noticed that you’ve done both the JET and AEON programs. Which one did you prefer better? I believe JET and EPIK are similar in that you work in a public school, with certain hours. As for AEON, I kind of pieced it together to be more of a private school program. (Still, I’m not sure and would love a clarification.) But because EPIK isn’t giving me the autonomy I want in the teaching field (I was a preschool teacher in Minnesota), I’m skeptical about JET. At the same time AEON sounds like a lot of work and advertising. But on the whole, which would you recommend to a fellow English teacher? Thanks! -Lysa

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A Japan Guy Review: My First Year Teaching As An ALT In Japan (Part 1)

It’s official, I have signed on for an additional year as an ALT. I will have a chance to teach...

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