Why I Stopped Teaching as an ALT in Japan – Part 1

Why I Decided to stop Doing ALT Work in Japan 2I remember making the decision to quit my job as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with Interac like it was yesterday. I remember the anxiety, I remember thinking “How am I gonna explain my reasoning to people?”

Why did I stop? Where do I begin? Well, I guess we’ll just take it from the top…

I had been working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with the dispatch company Interac for about a year-and-a-half when I decided to stop teaching. This decision wasn’t a sudden one at all, it was one that I had been contemplating for a several months. There are four major reasons why I decided to stop teaching as an ALT: 1) time constraints, 2) pay, 3) health-related reasons, and 4) a personal promise.

Before I discuss these reasons, I have to mention that I didn’t leave Interac because I was dissatisfied with my school, with my fellow teachers, or the Interac staff. I was at an amazing school with great kids and SUPER-friendly teachers! I also met some other great teachers at Interac…people that I will continue be friends with even beyond the job. As far as the staff members go, I really felt like I got good support when I started to question whether or not I wanted to stay. The branch manager simply treated me like a person, and it really meant a lot to me. He would call me and talk to me, check on me, man-to-man to see how he could make things better for me. Overall I think I learned a lot from my job and had fun doing it. Unfortunately, something inside of me just wouldn’t allow me to stay…

So, here is why I left…

TIME CONSTRAINTS

One reason I decided to change from eikaiwa work to ALT work in the first place was to free up time to do other things like internet stuff, modeling jobs, TV gigs, and the like. Though I really enjoyed having a full summer vacation, I ended up discovering that once you really start to get into other types of work, even the ALT schedule can be too constrictive. Sometimes there are opportunities that happen outside of a summer break. I didn’t want to repeatedly ask for permission to miss work just to do other jobs, because it’s not really fair to Interac. Besides you can only have so many sick days, right? In the end I signed my name on a contract, so in quite a few cases, my hands were tied. I ended up missing out on more opportunities than I wanted to.

Click Me!

PAY

No job should ever be all about the money…I truly believe that, but I do think a person should be comfortable (at the very least) with what they’re earning. Truthfully as an ALT, I wasn’t. No doubt monthly student loan payments factor into that, but they’re something I have to factor into what I’m earning.

Yes, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but as you probably know, there was a substantial salary gap between my Interac job (final: around 240,000yen) and AEON job (final around 310,000 yen final). It’s like a $700 difference…per month! Initially I though having the extra time would be a consolation for the lack in pay, but for some reason it didn’t feel like it. During the year I would work just as many hours as I did at AEON but with less to show for it. During the vacation months, the 60% pay was a killer. It wasn’t something I had to worry about during my eikaiwa days…pay was the same year-round. Sure you have time to prepare for it, but having to work extra jobs just to make what you were making at your old job takes a lot of that “extra time” away from you.

Now Lower pay isn’t necessarily a bad thing if there is a chance to move up in the future. I sat down with an Interac staff member to discuss it, and after the meeting, I realized that there was really no place for me to go financially. The kinds of pay increases I could expect to receive for each new contract would mean I would have to work for years, literally…years, to get back to my old eikaiwa salary, where I was able to pay significantly more than my monthly minimums and even have extra to invest with.

Now if I landed a different position in the company, like an Interac trainer or something, maybe that would be different. However who’s to say that would ever happen? Being a trainer, even if a position were available, just isn’t something I’m interested in doing (no offense to any Interac staff out there).

At the end of the day I got a little tired of not being able to do the things I wanted (like flying home once a year) because funds were so tight.

Some of you may be asking “Well won’t stopping mean MORE financial trouble?” My answer to that is yes, in the short term it will. It may seem counter intuitive, but I don’t want to have to beg for raises as a way to augment my income…so I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’ve been fortunate with modeling gigs this summer. These gigs will buy me valuable time that I need to get things under financial control.

I figured things out because I had to.

<<...read part 2 of this article...>>

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Donald Ash is an ATLien expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last six years. While in aforesaid time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator, writer, designer, editor, programmer, and occasional bad artist of thejapanguy.com blog (that's just way too many hats, dude). Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.
  • Thanks for sharing this. I’m hoping to move to Japan in the fall and I can’t decide avenue to pursue. This has really helped!

    • Super glad to hear it Tianna! I hope you find a job/teaching gig you truly like that pays well, too.

  • Lili

    Thanks for sharing! I’m teaching English to employees in a company and thinking about quitting. They changed the salary system from performance-based to giving everybody on the same rank level the same amount, so I feel there is no point challenging myself anymore and contribute to the growth of this community since there is absolute no way my efforts would pay out. Do you happen to know if you are eligible with a higher final salary if you are employed for more than 5 years in the same company? Timing is important, isn’t it..

  • Roh p

    Hey Donald, I see you continue to kiss up nicely to Interac in case you have to go back to them- nice one

  • Rafael Mateo

    Hello Sir, I just want to ask if there’s a chance for a Filipino like me to teach as an ALT in Japan? I’m a BSBA graduate Major in Economics, and with no TESOL or TEFL certification, or anything like that. However, I’ve been working as an Online English Tutor for almost 3 years already (to Japanese students), and I have 10 years experience working in a Call Center where we handle American and UK Accounts. I’d really love to work in Japan. It’s always been my dream to get there. :)) I hope you can help me with this Sir. Thanks in advance. God bless!

    • christinanolanXD

      I think you should still take an English Proficiency Test, one of the certified ones, just to demonstrate your ability (such as CPE or IELTS). Unfortunately, recruitment can be a bit discriminatory if you are not from an English-speaking country. But if you have that certified certificate that shows that you are 100% proficient in English, you should be good. I don’t think you necessarily NEED a TESOL or TEFL certification, as people have got in without one. However, like any certification that relates to teaching experience, it is an advantage over other applicants. Again, it can be an advantage, but is not entirely necessary.

      Simply claiming that you were a previous employee at a call centre cannot prove your proficiency in English. It’s a nice addition to you IELTS in an interview situation, to demonstrate that you have had conversations with English speakers, but can in no way prove that you are fluent.

  • Darren

    Which part of Japan were you working at? Was that prefecture expensive enough to make you that tight in budget?

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