When she left, as all substitutes do, I was a bit sad, because you rarely ever see substitute teachers a second time. Fortunately, not only did I have this teacher as a sub later in high school, but she would be a part of my life for years to come. No, we didn’t have an inappropriate, hot teacher/younger student, romantic relationship and run away together. As a matter of fact my initial admiration has grown into true respect as the years have gone by.
I ended meeting the same teacher, years later, at my mother’s church; I was around twenty years old at the time. I remembered her instantly (she looked exactly the same) and she remembered me, too. It’s so amazing when a teacher-student relationship is a good one. It’s teachers like Ms. Vincent that made me even consider teaching in the first place. She has been a member of the same church for years, and she talks to my mother on a regular basis.
I know what you’re thinking…what in the world does this have to do with teaching English in Japan? Well the other day I got a Facebook message from Ms. V’s son because he is about to graduate from college and is pondering traveling abroad. He actually emailed me some questions that he had about teaching English in Japan, and I want to share them with you. It may give you some insight into what it takes/what it’s like to teach in Japan:
Thanks for your response. As you know, my Mother is Mrs. Vinson from Greenforest. She has always spoken very highly of you. I’ve been talking to her over the past few months about my interest in traveling abroad after I graduate in May 2011. Given your current work in Japan, she thought that you might be a good person for me to talk to.
My understanding is that you work for Teach for Japan. I have tons of questions…..
– Why Japan and not some other country?
– How long have you been there?
– What certification was needed in order for you to obtain the job?
– Could you speak any Japanese before your arrival there?
– Any particular safety tips for American travelers in Japan?
– How has your Teach for Japan experience benefitted you?
I’m sure that I’ll think of other questions later.”
I could probably go on forever with this question. I chose to live in Japan for several major reasons. Number one, my older sister actually lived here before I did and highly recommended coming. My sister was an English teacher for a short time and later became a fashion model in Tokyo. She suggested that modeling was highly lucrative and that I should try it. I’m not as pretty as my sister, so I don’t know if I can do what she did, but it is fun.
Two, I grew up taking martial arts, and karate was the art that I received my black belt in. I wanted to come to Japan more than any other country. Actually, I often put a list of goals on my ceiling and read them every morning before getting out of bed. In America, one of those goals was to be able to visit Japan for at least two weeks, and here I am…over two years later.
I have been in Japan since January 10th, 2008. So, at the time of this writing, that’s 2 years, 9 months, 7 days, and about 13 hours. Okay…maybe that’s a bit too much detail.
I am currently working for an Eikawa (a private sector, English language school) and to get this job, having a college degree was all that was necessary. I can’t remember that grade point average that they recommended, but I don’t think it matters all that much. One of the teachers only had a two-year community college degree, and it was just fine. With Eikawas, that have their own, specific style of teaching, and they will train you on how they want lessons taught. If you have a college degree, good diction, are trainable, and have the money for the flight (or in my case, I had to nickel and dime it to get here)…you can teach English in Japan.
Honestly, I couldn’t speak much Japanese before I came. The only reason I don’t say that I didn’t know any Japanese at all is because when I found out I was coming here, I bought the beginner’s set of the Pimsleur Language Program…so I did know some choice phrases. But I wouldn’t have even considered myself to be a beginner when I came here. No hiragana, no katakana, no kanji, and no understanding of Japanese grammar. But don’t let that bother you too much, Japan uses more English than you might think.
Umm…not really. I didn’t even consider safety issues when coming to Japan. Just make sure you don’t have anything out of the ordinary when going traveling to new places, because airline customs could be a nightmare. I definitely think the US customs department is FAR more strict than Japan’s, amount of time it takes to get through Japanese customs takes literally a fourth of the time. If you were going to another country I might have better tips, but by and large Japan is a safer country than America is.
Teaching in Japan has been amazing so far. One benefit for me is knowing that I can survive in place that’s completely foreign to me. Another benefit is that I’ve been able to save more money than I could in the United States. I have become better at reading maps (the Japanese train system). I have made some lasting friendships with some wonderful people. I have seen castles, buildings, festivals, and so much more that I just couldn’t experience living in America. The biggest benefit of all for me, is having the opportunity to learn about another culture, from the food to the language to the people. Being in Japan is just downright amazing!
I want to thank Kyle for some great questions. For those thinking of coming to Japan, saying I recommend it is an understatement. If I had a regret about coming to Japan, it would be that I didn’t come sooner. If anyone has additional questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments section, and I will do my best to answer them.
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.