Hello and welcome everybody. This is Donnie, and this is the Fish Out of Water Video Series. And in this series we’re gonna discuss everything you need to know…well…the most important stuff you need to know, in order to teach English in Japan.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Donald Ash and I’m from Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. "WOOT WOOT! ATL!" I have been living here in Japan as an expat:
“Expat – a person who lives outside of their native country.”
…for nearly eight years*, about seven years and eight months now.
Although my initial intentions were to only stay in Japan for a year, this place has really really grown on me. And I have been teaching English in some way shape or form for the entire seven years and eight months.
Another thing you might not know about me, if this is your first time meeting me, is that back in August of 2010 I started a blog called thejapanguy.com. That blog became my baby for some reason. I really enjoyed writing to it, making videos, and just sharing content with people.
Initially it was just to catalogue my experiences here in Japan and later it turned into other things. It was a place to share my thoughts, to rant a little when I felt like it, to meet foreigners I had never met before. And eventually it became a place where I could help other foreigners who might’ve had the same troubles and struggles that I did.
Even now in 2015, I still make video content for the site and tweak some of the old articles that need updating.
Well that’s the short version of me, if you wanted to find out more, you can check out the what’s your story page over at thejapanguy.com right here.
I would imagine that many of you watching this video are a lot like I was when I was getting ready to come to Japan. Yes, I know what’s it’s like to be that fish out of water. I didn’t come to Japan speaking any Japanese or any of that stuff. I just made choice and came, you know? It can be really daunting and I know that stops a lot of people from coming; because you just do not know what to expect.
While you can find information on the internet, I think sometimes it’s hard to get that true voice of what it’s really like. That’s what I want to be for people. I want to be that voice. I’ve been here for a while and I know what’s it’s like coming here, I know what it’s like not knowing a lick of Japanese, for those of you who don’t speak…
It can be a little scary. You’re on the plane moving to a new country; you’re leaving your family. THAT’S A BIG DEAL!
So, at the very least this video series will help those people who having an interest in teaching and working in Japan. It’ll help them make an informed decision. And for those who’ve already decided that you’re coming here, maybe it’ll put you a little more at ease.
And just a quick change to my screen guys, these are all of the different topics that we’ll be discussing in the Fish Out of Water Video series:
I’m a really big fan of keeping thing simple and this video series is no different.
The way I recommend using it is just starting from the beginning, first section, and going all the way through the fifth section, at your own pace of course.
BUT I know everybody learns in different styles. So maybe your style is to kind of pick and choose, you like finding the topics that are most interesting to you and start from there. And that’s fine, too. I’ll make sure the videos are labeled well so you can do that very easily.
No matter how you decide to watch the videos, just do it in a way that’s comfortable for you.
The biggest thing, my biggest hope, my biggest wish, is that you just get something from them.
Ladies and gents that’s gonna finish our overview for the Fish Out of Water Video Series. I’ll catch you in the first topic, or whichever topic you decide to start watching first.
Howdy gang! In this video we’re gonna take a closer look at ALT and AET teaching.
Let’s kick this video off with some basic definitions, shall we?
So we have two acronyms: ALT and AET. The first acronym is “ALT” and it doesn’t stand for a sandwich. HAHAHAHAHA HAHAHAHA! Worst…joke…ever 🙁
To explain the details of ALT teaching, instead of just talking about it I think I’m going to show you a picture because I think that’d be more effective for you to get the visual. I’m not an artist, so I apologize in advance. I’m gonna draw you a quick sketch:
And yes, I know I’m not winning any awards for art for this diagram. By the end of it, hopefully all of the lines and boxes will make sense.
This is the basic ALT system. Over here on the right, these gold boxes will represent your schools. I made a small one, a medium-sized one, and a big one to represent what? Elementary, middle and high. See what I did? I was trying to be creative.
No? Okay, we’ll keep going. In the middle, the big building is the B.O.E. (go figure…another acronym). If you’re not familiar with this acronym, get used to it because you will hear it a lot if you start doing ALT teaching:
BOE stands for the Board of Education, say it with me “Board of Education.”
The smaller building on the left is going to represent the dispatch company.
The Board of Education has a close relationship with this dispatch company. I want to say it’s actually a contractual relationship. This dispatch company is the go to company to provide this Board of Education with native-speaking, English teachers.
So around early to mid-December, the dispatch company starts putting out its earliest job postings for new teachers. So if you check job boards and those kinds of things, you’ll start to see salaries being posted and all of that kind of stuff. So the dispatch company is actively advertising and actively recruiting.
Let’s say you see an offer that you like and you contact the dispatch company. They look over your resume and they decide they want you to come in for an interview. So you go to the dispatch company, you have an incredible interview, and they decide to hire you. CONGRATULATIONS! You’re now an ALT. Of course you have to go through training and all of that stuff.
But once you’re trained, the dispatch company informs the BOE that we have trained teachers ready to work, to fill the positions that you let you let us know about at the end of last year. So the BOE will decide what schools you actually go to. You’ll end up having a meeting at the board of education and you’ll have a meeting at your school with your principal(s).
Hopefully all goes well and you end up teaching for the entire year. Or if you’re happy, the schools are happy, the BOE is happy, and the dispatch is company is happy, you end up working there much longer.
If the salary is on the up and up, then you end up with a steady job for many many years, and everybody’s smiling & happy. That’s the bare bones of it.
Have you ever heard of M.E.X.T. before? It’s another acronym (For some reason Japan loves ‘em) That’s the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In essence, that’s the body that governs all things education here in Japan.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! “MEXT…Minstry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports and Tech…” “Where’s the X at!” I remember seeing this acronym for the first time and I was like “Where the hell is the X!” But if you think about it in terms of katakana pronunciation, you can kind of see it. There is no X sound in Japanese. So X is pronounced like 「エックス」
So if you look at the acronym, the Culture, Science, Sports part is like the「クス。。。」that makes up the “X.”
The reason why I bring up MEXT is because they’re in charge of those decisions and initiatives to bring in English teachers to elementary schools, middle schools and high schools to improve English education in Japan as a whole.
I found this English Education Reform Plan on the MEXT website. I thought it might give us a little more insight as to why the ALT exists in Japan. Section One talks about what the English goals are at the different elementary school grade levels. They also talk about lower secondary education and the English objectives get progressively more challenging
So why does the Assistant Language Teacher position exist? Well, in short, it’s to better English education/English skills all over Japan. One teacher can’t do it alone of course. But, if MEXT is placing all of these native-speaking, university-educated teachers all throughout the country, that is going to have a big effect on Japanese youth. It’s going to affect how these students view English education and increase their exposure to it.
If we look a the objectives of MEXT, we can see that it’s a process. Initially, during those earlier years you’re trying to do more exposure. For the levels I was teaching at, kindergarten, elementary, and maybe early junior high, you’re that first exposure to kids for English.
So maybe it’s about getting kids interested, maybe it’s about making English lessons fun and engaging at this point. The goal isn’t necessarily to get them speaking at that point. That’s how it was explained to me. It’s getting them to really enjoy the classes. Now, some of the kids will start to excel very early at speaking because that’s how it is sometimes; some kids pick up things really quickly. But that exposure is important.
While I’ve never taught junior high school or high school, I would imagine at those levels that you get into more of the communication side of English: speeches, debates, and those kinds of things, just like they mention in the MEXT objectives. Getting Japanese students to progressively speak more English appears to be the overarching objective. The ALT plays a key role in making this objective happen.
When you make that decision to do ALT work here in Japan, you can either go public or you can go private. Which one is better?
Honestly I don’t think there’s a big difference. Your job duties are essentially the same. You still have to go out there and teach great lessons, you still have to interact with the students. Yes, you still have to communicate well with your staff, and you still have to get the parents involved.
The same things that are going to make you a great teacher anyway, you’ll have to do whether your teaching at a private school or public school. So please keep that in mind.
Now I will say there’s a significant difference in pay, at least from what I’ve experienced there is. But I don’t necessarily think the salary is related to it being a private or public school as much as it is the company that hires you to do the teaching.
Whichever route you decide to go, just keep in mind (at the end of the day) that there are great public schools here in Japan and great private ones. Unfortunately, there are also some private and public schools that aren’t so good. Be aware of that, too.
In any case, go in there and do your best! You can end up having a great Japanese learning experience, a great teaching experience, at either type.
Let’s talk major players in the Assistant Language Teaching space, or public and private school space.
When I think of public school, the big company that comes to mind is Interac. I want to say Interac is the largest of the dispatch companies (for public schools) here in Japan. So that’s a major player. Borderlink is pretty big I guess.
RCS which is Real Communication Solutions.
Heart, I honestly haven’t heart very good things about, unfortunately. I talked to a former teacher who used to worked there a long time ago. I don’t know how they are now, so please do the research first if you’re interested.
There is ALTIA.
There is WING – I don’t know if they do both public and private or not.
There is JIEC – I asked about what the acronym for JIEC was, and the person who interviewed me couldn’t tell me, so I’m not really sure. But JIEC is a great company I worked for to teach kindergarten. JIEC is one of the rare cases where it’s a company that’s kind of like dispatch, but not exactly. You do private school teaching mainly.
The JET Programme falls into it’s own category. You can’t really group it with any of the dispatch companies. It was organized by the Japanese government, so it’s kind of a special case, too. I know a lot of teachers who work for JET who really seem happy with the whole setup, and I can kind of see why. We’ll get a little more into that when we talk about salaries.
Those are the major players I can think of.
These are the seven core duties you can expect to do as an Assistant Language Teacher here in Japan:
Similar to Eikaiwa work, this is what you’ve been hired to do, so teaching English is your core duty.
When teaching English at the public school level, the system is lot more flexible (at least that’s been my experience). You have certain elements that need to be in your lessons. But as far as the content goes, you have a lot more freedom when it comes to what you want do in class.
If you're a passionate teacher, that’s the way it should be, right? What makes lessons fun is when you can put your own mark on them.
With English conversation school teaching, you can put your own personality stamp on lessons. But there's a very specific system that they want you to follow and teach because it’s a business. As a business, the larger eikaiwas want to create a standardized, quality experienced for their students, right?
This is really going to depend on the dispatch company you work for, and the school that you’re at. Sometimes you’ll have a lot more prep time at a public school than you will at an eikaiwa. It all depends.
When I was doing private school, I guess I had little less prep time. If you don’t have that time, MAKE THAT TIME because you want to make sure your lessons are good. And you’ll be teaching a lot more kids at the public school level. I remember my classes were between three and ten students, when I was doing eikaiwa work. It was more like 25-35 students in public school classes, though. With larger classes, lesson plans can sometimes go off the rails and it’s better to be prepared for that.
When comparing teaching in Japan to teaching in America, I really enjoyed that I didn’t have a ton of papers to grade. In Japan, you’re really trying to build an interest in English at the elementary & early junior high school levels.
The kids are going to have plenty of time to do testing, trust me. Once the students hit middle school, they’re going to be testing their butts off!
So this is chance to really build a genuine interest in English. If the students have that, even when all the testing starts to get stressful, they’ll still remember you, remember your class, and remember that they enjoyed their English experience. That’s really important.
I don’t know if everyone will agree with me, but I think THIS is the most important of your teaching duties as an ALT here in Japan.
Why? Because this is where the connections are made. This is when you go to eat lunch with them, when you go outside to play with them, when you reach your kids on a more personal level.
Sure you can make connections in class, but if students see that you’re willing to spend time with them outside of the classroom it can be really meaningful. Kids can get a sense what kind of person you are, that you’re not some big, scary monster. They learn that they can actually talk to you.* If kids see you in that light outside of class they’re apt to be more responsive inside of class.
*Many schools have no problem with you speaking Japanese during these times, so it’s great Japanese practice, too!
I’m not going to lie to you, this is probably the down side of ALT teaching for me. Especially the formal meetings where you have to go city hall. Those meetings can get REALLY boring.
I’ve had my eyes glass over and done the slow blink. Yes, I've even done the semi-polite, inside-of-your-mouth-with-your-lips-closed yawn countless times during these meetings. UGH!!
You’re just have to grit your teeth and get through it. However, you also have meetings with your coworkers and your peers. These staff gatherings, usually arranged by the dispatch company, are all in English. Everybody shares and swaps teaching ideas. That’s a lot more fun 🙂
Expect to do more cleanup at public schools than you would at an eikaiwa because public schools are bigger. Keep in mind that you’ll be doing this with the kids. I think of it as another chance to bond. It’s not backbreaking labor, it’s a little more intensive, but it can be a lot of fun. Don’t worry about it.
From time to time someone from your dispatch company/company will come to watch your lessons to make sure that the quality is there. The open houses are for the parents. A lot of people get nervous over these observations. But I like think of this as your time to show off!
Show your company what you can do and show the parents what their kids are capable of. If you think of it as a glass-half-full situation, it’s alot more fun.
Those are the seven core duties for the ALT. If you notice, they’re very similar to the eikaiwa core duties. I think that you’ll find with many types of teaching work in Japan, the duties are quite similar.
As an ALT be prepared to work from about 8:00/8:30am until about 4:30pm. This will vary from school to school, from board of education to board of education. This will change if you have meetings if you have meetings or you’re actively participating in any school clubs. So, sometimes you can end up staying pretty late. With ALT work I found that it wasn’t busy the entire day, you will have down time to plan, just make sure to use that time wisely.
Your typical day is going to be five to six periods long. Each class is going to be about 45-minutes. I say 45-minutes because I taught mainly elementary school (15-30 minutes for kindergarten). I can’t really speak on junior high school, but a teaching buddy told me his lessons were about 50 minutes, so a small change there.
As far as the school year is concerned, public school starts in late April and goes until the following March but it’s not year-round. You do have a summer vacation that starts around the third week of July and goes until the end of August.
You also have winter vacation which starts around the third week of December and goes until about the second week of January. You can also tack onto that the national public holidays and things, which is quite nice. There is, however, a downside to all that vacation time. Spending money. We’ll talk more about that when we discuss salaries.
Well gang, that’s going to wrap our discussion on ALT/AET public and private school teaching, and I’ll catch you in the next video.
Before we get to the actual video transcript, I wanted to address this question because it's an email I get quite often:
Can you teach English in Japan without a bachelor's degree?
Yes and no.
When we're talking about the standard, most popular teach-in-Japan companies, companies like your AEONs, ECCs, Berlitzes, JETs, etc., I'm going to say no.
When referring to these companies, not having a degree works HEAVILY against you. In some cases, you won't even be granted an interview without one. The reason I know is because I tried to help a friend whose student visa was expiring to get solid employment and a visa.
One of the things your standard teaching company will have you do is to make a copy of your diploma (some will ask for college transcripts, too). Why? I honestly think it's visa related. It's one of those requirements the significantly increases your chances of securing a visa, even outside of teaching.
However, there are some companies were there is a loophole to the bachelor's degree requirement. Some require that you've had 12 years of English education, which doesn't necessarily mean a college degree. While these companies may sponsor visas, I'd be very wary on the salary side of things. Unfortunately for those of you without degrees, it feels like companies here that don't require them pay less. The same companies aren't be as professional as they could be, either.
If you want to teach abroad without a degree, it's not my intent to discourage anyone...
Keep in mind that teaching in Japan is HUGE. I know I've mentioned that before, but it is. I do several friends without bachelor's degrees who have successfully taught private lessons here. Why does this work? Well, with a lot of the private lesson networks, it's not as much about your degree as it is your popularity. If students love you, feel like they're learning, and rate you well, you'll have students flocking to you.
That doesn't necessarily mean you can get a visa doing that, though. In some of the cases I've seen, the friend(s) has been on a different type of visa (like an one-year entertainer's visa) and used private lessons to make money on the side when gigs were slow.
What's up, guys? Welcome to the next video in the Fish Out Of Water Guide To Teaching In Japan video series. In today's very brief video we're going to take a look at all of the prerequisites, the requirements that you need in order to teach in Japan. From a big picture bird's eye view perspective, the two things that you'll need to teach in Japan are 1) a visa, and 2) a company to sponsor that visa. At least when you're getting over here initially.
The definition of a visa is an endorsement in your passport, granting you permission to enter or stay in a country for a specified period of time. Visas don't mean credit cards, guys. I feel silly for saying this to you, but I actually thought that I needed a credit card to be able to come to Japan. Yeah, okay, don't laugh at me, please.
While it really is that simple, we need to back up a few steps. How do you actually get the company to sponsor you in the first place, so that you can get the visa? That's where all of these English teaching companies kind of come into play. Your ALT companies, your Eikaiwas, and all of those different kind of English service providers.
I figured the best way to do this would be to go online right now. I'll show you my screen, and we're going to take a look at some of the big English teaching services here in Japan, big English teaching companies. We're going to find out what they require. We're going to link up and see what the common thread is between all of those companies. We're going to look at seven different companies and the things that they require just to get your foot in the door to get in for that interview.
We'll look at Berlitz first. Berlitz is one of the bigger Eikaiwas here in Japan. Berlitz, we're not going to read all of this, but let's look at the important points. To qualify for this visa, an applicant must hold a bachelor's degree from an accredited university, and have completed 12 years of education in a native English-speaking environment. They also accept non-English speaking applicants from non-English speaking countries. As long as you can provide detailed information on degrees and you hold proof of 12 years education in a native speaking English environment.
Okay? That's where we'll stop there for this one.
The next one we'll take a look at is JET. In the US, JET is probably one of the more coveted positions that people try to get when teaching in Japan. And from what I understand, it's one of the more competitive ones too.
I didn't personally work for JET, but I do have friends who spoke very highly of it. So let's take a look at what they require.
Application forms, medical forms, authorization and release, transcripts, proof of graduation, two letters of recommendation, statement of purpose, proof of US citizenship. If we look into the proof of graduation, you'll need a photocopy of your undergraduate bachelor's diploma, and an official transcript. This includes the name of the degree and the date it was conferred.
Okay, let's go back again. "Additional required documents." This one was neat: criminal history explanation and FBI criminal history background check. Some companies do this, but I can't say that all do. Some kind of let you slip through the cracks. But JET definitely does, so just beware that if you have any spots on your record, be ready to explain them. In supplemental documents, TESL/TEFL qualification, proof of Japanese language proficiency, study abroad, teaching certification. This is kind of like icing, guys. I think I've noticed that with a lot of companies.
Next is ECC, probably the largest Eikaiwa right now, if not them it's AEON, but it's really, really big. ECC, what do you need? You need to be a native English speaker, hold a bachelor's degree or above. Must be able to work for at least one year, and having teaching experience is advantageous. Short list, no more to it.
Next we have AEON, which is one of the larger eikaiwas, once again, English conversation schools here in Japan. What do they require? A bachelor's degree in any major from an accredited institution. So your degree could have been in basket-weaving, as long as you finished, you're cool. I think this is worth noting as well, so those who desire teaching in Japan soon after receiving their bachelor's degree should apply no more than six months before receiving their degree. So six months before graduating if you want to apply and try to have a job right out of school, it would be a very, very wise move. That's one of the regrets I think I had about coming to Japan, is that I didn't do it sooner.
Okay, also a strong understanding and masterful command of the English language, so native English speakers. It's also important to note that with AEON, if the applicant is from a country where English is not the native language, they must have a total of at least 10 years of education from schools where English is the primary mode of education, and a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in an English speaking country. I know AEON's real big about recruiting different types of English speakers, so people from New Zealand, Australia, UK, US, different types of English speakers. So if you have your degree from one of those places you should be okay.
Next is Interac, which is the largest of the ALT dispatch companies here in Japan, or at least one of the largest. Base requirements for them, be a native level speaker of English, have acquired an education delivered in English for at least 12 years, graduated or be about to graduate from a university with at least a bachelor's degree in any subject.
Okay, we know about being professional, anything else? Driver's license. I saw that up here as well. To be honest, I don't have a driver's license here in Japan. I'm going to get one. But to be honest, when they need teachers, they need teachers. I worked for Interac for almost two years, and when they need teachers, they'll find a place to put you if you don't have one. So I don't think I'd worry about that as much. Just being honest. Let's see, so that's a bonus. Teaching experience is a bonus. CELTA, DELTA, TEFL, bonuses. Speaking some Japanese is also a bonus. All right, studying a second language at a school or university, bonuses. That pretty much sums up Interac, I believe.
Next is JIEC. While it's not a really big company, it's the one that I taught kindergarten for, I had a pretty good experience with them when I was out in Yokohama. What do you need for them? Native level English speakers. Currently reside in Japan, that's a big one. University degree. Two years EFL, English as a foreign language teaching experience with kids. So those are the basics there. So I guess, the JIEC, if you've been at another company for a while and you're kind of looking to change over, I think that's what happens with a lot of teachers over at JIEC, they were coming from other positions and maybe wanted to be paid better. So if you had some Eikaiwa experience or ALT experience, it really helps big time if you're looking at JIEC.
The last one we'll take a look at today is COCO Juku, which is an up and coming Eikaiwa with a lot of money behind it, I guess. Let's see, requirements and responsibilities, self-explanatory here. Bachelor's degree or higher from an English speaking country. Be able to work for a minimum of one year. TESL, TEFL, and CELTA is favorable, not absolutely necessary. Completed all education in an English speaking country. Teaching experience and instructor training experience are favorable. And student visas and working holiday visas will be considered. That is my first time ever seeing that. I'm not aware of any companies that I've taught English for that let you work off of a student visa or working holiday visa. Very, very, very interesting. But that's COCO Juku.
Now let's link it all together. So what were the common thread requirements for all of these companies? Number one was the 12 years of education in a native English speaking environment. While AEON said 10, why not be safe with all the companies? It's better to have 12. Number two, it was getting a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in a native English speaking country. Let's say that one more time just to make sure everybody gets it, okay? So that's 12 years of education in a native English speaking environment, and that's a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in a native English speaking country.
There may be others, but these are the main ones. I guess the question is, do you really need them?
My simple, honest answer to that question is, "No." You don't need them, and I'm the proof.
I don't own any of those certificates and I mean, I'm doing just fine. I've been able to get jobs just fine.
I think those certificates may be more important if you're teaching a foreign language in the US as opposed to teaching here in Japan. However, having those certificates is not a bad thing. I do not knock anyone for having them. They can be useful. So let's say you get into this situation where there's a job that you really, really want.
There's like a knock-down, drag-out application pool where everybody has these great qualifications. If everybody's qualified, then having one of those certificates just may be the thing that gives you the edge, that puts you a cut above the rest of the competition.
But for those of you who don't have those certificates, do not let it stop you from applying if it's really what you want to do, because you could end up missing a really cool opportunity because you thought you needed one of those certificates.
Another thing that I want to mention, guys, is during the face to face interviews, never once have I been asked if I have one of those certificates. Now, they may make mention of it in the application process, but it's never stopped me from landing a gig. Never did I feel ill-prepared because I didn't have one of those certificates. Granted I did have some teaching experience prior to coming to Japan. I did teach middle school math and science for two years. To do that, I acquired a provisional teaching certificate, five year teaching certificate in the State of Georgia. I had that prior to teaching English in Japan as well.
But no, I've never had TEFL, TESL, TESOL or any of those.
What did we look at in today's video? We took a look at the requirements that you'll need in order to teach in Japan successfully. So we took a look at seven, large English teaching companies, here in Japan, and what they require. We found a common thread. You need 12 years of education in a native English speaking environment. You also need a bachelor's degree from an accredited university in a native English speaking country.
So, hopefully you meet those requirements, you get your foot in the door. Have a great interview. I hope all goes well, and that you end up getting those two big things that you need: the visa and the company to sponsor it.
That's going to wrap our discussion on teaching in Japan requirements. Hopefully you got something from that video, and hopefully it was pretty painless. One other thing to mention, just be ready with these companies to also just kind of give up a year of your time. Usually contracts are about a year. I know some companies that do six months. But that's the other thing you need to be ready for. That'll do it. And I'll catch you in the next video, okay, guys? Bye.
Wait, wait, wait! One more thing, recommendations. It's always a good idea to have two to three people that can vouch for you professionally, because that's what all interviewees do, right? They're going to ask you for recommendations. I'm sure they know just as much as you do how much of a hassle that really is. But just kind of have it ready to go.
In the US, or if you're outside of Japan especially, it seems like it's a bigger deal. I haven't really had much of an issue with it here in Japan. It just seems like it's easier to get recommendations. But anyway, have that stuff ready to go and it'll make the process smoother. See ya.
We've gotten an opportunity to talk about salaries and what you can expect there. Now, let's go into other aspects of what you can expect from your teaching job here in Japan.
Let's talk kids first. The first expectation I want to set for you is that you should expect kids to be kids. I know there's this whole stereotype that Asian children are all so focused. When you get in the classroom, you're probably going to expect them just to bow to you and just focus on everything that you say. That's just isn't entirely true, or realistic.
They do all stand up at the beginning of class and do the whole bow and introduction type deal but kids are kids though. You are going to have kids that are playful. You are going to have kids that can't focus for anything. You are going to have kids that are bouncing off the walls. You're going to have the shy kids. You're going to have every type of kid that you would have anywhere else in the world.
One thing you might not expect, and I don't know where this game comes from in this country, but for some reason, kids like to play a little game where they put their fingers together and they stick you in the butt with their two fingers. Not a fun game, in my opinion. Not a fun game. Some teacher under the sound of my voice is going to get caught with it because you're not paying attention, okay? I just want you to be ready, just in case. Anyway, that's off on a tangent. Kids are going to be kids.
You're going to get all kinds of questions, and here is my thing, guys, just be patient and have fun with it. I never got irritated with kids asking me tons of questions. I found it cute, and I found it funny sometimes. You're going to get personal questions, like do you have a girlfriend.
You're going to get questions that may seem silly to some people, but maybe genuine questions to a child. I've had kids ask me why my skin is brown, because they really don't know. You may be the first person that's like you that they've ever seen. Don't get frustrated or angry or upset. Have fun with the questions. That's what I did, and it just makes things a lot easier for you, makes you a lot more approachable. It makes things a lot more fun.
An expectation I want to set for adult students is expect your adult students to have their own lives outside of your class. Expect them to be busy sometimes.
You may get that researcher, or that business person, or that college student that's going through finals or that has a really big project or a really big deadline. Maybe they didn't have time to do the homework that you assigned last class. If you get in there and find only half of your students have done the homework, it's not necessarily because they didn't want to. Perhaps it's because they were too busy to. That does happen from time to time, so just be prepared and be prepared to teach around it when it happens.
Another thing you might expect from your adult students is you may have that occasional student that really doesn't want to be there. They're there because they have to be, so their company has decided that they need to learn English, so their company is paying, so they have to go. That does happen. It's not as common, but be ready just in case.
Another expectation I want to set for you is expect some student to be romantically interested in you. This especially applies if you've been teaching for a while, guys. Yes, this is one of those taboo type expectations, but I want you to know about it, because, sometimes, it gets glossed over. I'm not glossing over it.
Well, that's beyond the scope of this course!
In all seriousness, guys, it happens a lot more often than you might think. I know plenty of teachers that end up getting married to staff members or to students because they've been dating for a long time. Newsflash, you don't get fired for dating one of your adult students.
I think most companies know that that's going to happen, and they prepare for it. I don't think there's any way to stop it, really. If two hot people find each other attractive, it's kind of hard to stop that attraction once it happens. At the end of the day, you have to decide what's comfortable for you.
There are some teachers that won't date students at all because they don't want it to be awkward. You don't want to be in a classroom full of students and have that one that's just smiling at you, all starry-eyed because you're dating them. Then there's another set of teachers that would be totally fine with the idea, and I don't think either one is wrong. You just have to choose what's comfortable for you.
That being said, I do want to offer some words of caution. Don't turn into a sleazeball. Don't be that dude, don't be that lady that just runs through all their students, and then ends up having students that are at each other's throats because you've been romantically involved with a couple of them. That can be bad business, I think. That's more of a taboo expectation, but it's one I still wanted to set for you.
You're going to have standouts in both directions, okay? You're going to have that handful of students that can do everything that you tell them to do and more. They're just incredibly talented no matter what, and they're just overachievers. You're going to have that bunch. You're also going to have that bunch that struggles, that really, really has a hard time learning the English and picking things up, and then you're going to have everything in between.
When you really go out of your way at a school, expect the staff, the teachers, and the parents to really go out of their way to show their gratitude. I actually wanted to show you something really quick. Please excuse the glare, but this is actually an album that I got from one of the kindergartens that I was working at, okay? I just wanted to show you just ... You can tell how much time they put into this thing, really well done, super, super cute.
The reason why I remember this book so much is because the way they presented it. On my very last day at the school, it's a two-floor school, all the students on the second floor came out of their classrooms and were all on the balcony. All the students on the first floor just came out of their classrooms and came into this central hall, all right? They had me sit down, and this entire school, all the staff, all the teachers, they sang to me, almost like they prepared it. My name was in the song. It was crazy. They had practiced this with their students, and I just felt so appreciated at that school.
I think that's a big problem with teaching in some parts of the US, anyway. Teachers are both underpaid and underappreciated. It sucks when you have both of those. I think, sometimes, when you feel appreciated, you can make do with aspects of the salary or vice versa, but when you feel underpaid and underappreciated, it sucks. In this case, I have the best of both worlds. When you get those situations that happen when people go out of their way to make you feel special, show them that you appreciate them too. I think it's a great way to build rapport.
On the flip side of that, don't expect every parent, teacher, and staff member to like you. You are going to run into those situations where there are some teachers that are going to be a lot more standoffish, or parents and staff members that are a lot more standoffish, that don't really have a whole lot to say to you, who invite other teachers out that are also foreigners but won't invite you. It's going to happen from time to time. I guess, my advice with that, guys, is just don't worry about it. You go in there and focus on being awesome, don't worry about what people think of you. If you go in there and do a great job every day, they'll come around. If they don't, so be it. Just keep being awesome.
Not really any big expectations to set here, guys, but be prepared to teach your lessons in a smaller than normal space, because sometimes your school may have a special event or something and they may be using your classroom for something. I've had that happen before, and you end up having to teach in this little tiny space. With anything, if you're prepared for that going in, then it should be fine.
Expect classrooms to be a little bit too hot sometimes. Expect them to be a little bit too cold sometimes, and dress accordingly. On those days when it's a bit too hot, wear layers that you can strip off pretty easily so you don't end up burning up when you start active, or in those days where it's a little bit colder, bring extra layers with you, so you can bundle up, so you don't freeze to death.
One big realistic expectation I want to set for you as far as lessons go is expect that you're going to be worn out some of these days after lessons, especially if you go in there and give it your all, you're going to have those days that feel a little bit long just like with any job. Keep that in mind. It's not going to be rosy every single day. You're human. You are going to get tired.
On occasion, expect to get that lesson that you weren't prepared to teach. Now, this generally won't happen when you're new to a company, but once you've built a certain level of trust and once they know what you can do, it does happen. I remember one school in particular, man, where they would always do this. They would come to me right before our lesson and tell me, "Oh, we're going to combine classes today, and the parents are coming."
Right? There was no mention of it, because you usually think if there's going to be something like an open house, they would at least inform your dispatch company so you would know about it. This school would do this all the time. I just started going in there prepared with two different lesson plans. I'd make one just in case they pulled something crazy, and then my normal lesson plan.
The vast majority of the time, I would have to just do my normal lesson, which is cool. In those days where you're not prepared for it, it sucks to get that curve ball, but if you've been at a school and you've shown what you can do, they expect more of you. You can't just be like, "No, I'm not going to teach it." You have to adapt and adjust.
Expect a live-in-Japan learning curve. Even if you have access to great information, it's one thing experiencing something secondhand, and then actually being in the thick of it. This can be everything from using ATM machines to ordering food to going to the convenience store for the first time, just all kinds of things to be aware of. Some of these things, it can be frustrating because it's everyday stuff you might be used to doing back home, but here, you've never done it.
That can be anything from riding a train for the very first time in Japan to using a rice cooker, to using a washing machine, to drying your clothes, to getting a cellphone, to dating, and just everything in between. There is value to great information, because great information can significantly shorten a learning curve, but short learning curve, long learning curve, expect there to be one.
Expect there to be a little bit of culture shock when you're living in Japan. Things may be done a little bit differently here than they are back home. For example, for me, I'm a pretty big hugger, but in Japan, I'm not, because it's not really a normal practice. I feel awkward hugging people because they get the deer in headlights thing if you hug them, so yeah. It's a little a bit more welcomed back home, but that's just one of many examples of types of culture shock you can experience while being here.
I hope that gives you a clear idea of what to expect for your teaching job here in Japan, and I'll catch you in the next vide. Bye guys.
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.