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

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I mentioned last week that I made the decision to quit my job as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with Interac. How can I explain my reasoning? 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.

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’ll figure things out because I have to.

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

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  • http://www.thetiannamarie.com Tianna Marie

    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!

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