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Two Years In: If you want my job, come and take it (really)

Two years ago today I returned to Japan after a three month absence following the conclusion of the internship that brought me here in the first place. I was excited, hopeful, and jet-lagged, but most of all, I was overwhelmingly happy to be back in Japan. I had a week of training with a few other new teachers at my company’s headquarters and then a week of class observation at the school where I now work.

Over the last two years, I’ve come to know most of my students well. I know their names, yes, but I also know their strengths, their weaknesses, their personalities, and their skills. They are all unique and challenging in a variety of ways. My classes consist of 55 students with 60% being children (age 3-12), 30% teenagers (13-19), and 10% adults (for reference, I have only 3 adult students). A majority of my students are young children and a few of the teenagers still behave like they’re six or seven at times.

I have no education in teaching (other that what I’ve gained working here). I have no knowledge of early childhood education. I get by in my lessons, and actually do a pretty good job. But I’ve finally decided that teaching kids just isn’t working for me. I have little patience when children act out, and am uneducated regarding how to properly deal with it. I feel frustrated often because I know most kids don’t want to be in English class, and it shows. I feel frustrated for their parents (who are spending money to have their kids take lessons) because even though the kid learns in my class and makes noticeable progress, they have a crappy attitude. I feel frustrated for the kid because they don’t understand how any of this can benefit them, despite having me, a real life foreigner, in the room with them for 50 minutes a week.

Admittedly, a lot of this sounds like whining, and it is. I’m aware that much of this perceived “problem” I have is my own attitude toward the situation. I resolved some time ago to change things. I intended to end my employment here six months ago, but things didn’t work out, and I was uncomfortable quitting without having a clear transition plan to a new job. Now, however, I’m ready. I signed a contract on January 24th of this year confirming that I will be vacating my position. There are a number of reasons for this: a) the above mentioned frustration, b) the school is far from my apartment and I’m spending a ton of money just getting to and from work that isn’t being reimbursed, c) my family has exciting plans for 2012 that I would be unable to take part in because this position does not allow unscheduled time off, d) I want to work in a different position (one that doesn’t involve children), and e) the owner of my school came to me and said the school imposed a three year limit on all teachers. I work for a franchise, which means to some extent they get to make their own rules. He explained that this was because he wanted students to be exposed to a variety of different native speakers over the course of their English education. While I can understand this, it does seem somewhat risky to throw out what may be good instructors and replace them with something unknown. My coworker is one such instance of this occurrence – his three years are up in March, which means his replacement will arrive that month for observation. My coworker has been looking for a new position for several months now.

I decided I didn’t want to have to deal with that. This three year limit isn’t something that was outlined in my employment contract, anyway. I’m not even sure if the imposed limit is legal. Regardless, I chose to make now the time for my transition. I don’t want to put it off for another year and grow progressively more frustrated. My last official day under my current contract is Sunday, May 27th. My last teaching day is Friday, May 25th.

Teacher Contract Extension Form

If you’ve ever wanted to come to Japan, this is an opportunity. There are many, many other teaching jobs out there. This one is based in Tokyo and is about 30 minutes west of the city center. The staff are all extremely kind and helpful. The students are fine – I’ve just come to realize that teaching kids isn’t for me.

My company is called American Language School. If you’re interested in taking my job (or another job that may be available in Eastern Japan), you can apply by sending them your information to the email address on their website. They even currently have an ad up on Dave’s ESL Cafe. This is the same website I visited to get my current job. I will have zero influence over whether or not you get the position, should you choose to apply. Even if I did, I’d leave it up to the recruiters to decide because I don’t know the first thing about who to hire or not hire.

What I can tell you is this: You must be good at, and enjoy working with children. You must be friendly, approachable, and outgoing. You must not be overly sensitive. You must be okay with making mistakes. If you have some skill in Japanese, it’s helpful (but not necessary). There are a couple times a year you will be asked to dress up in a costume for a week and take pictures with kids (much like a Disneyland character). My working hours are typically from 2PM to 9PM Tuesday-Friday. I make just enough money to break even every month (I pay rent, bills, student loans & other debt, and feed myself (sort of)). If you don’t have a lot of financial obligations and are okay living nearer to the school than I do, you can feasibly save $300-$600 a month (depending on how important entertainment is for you).

It’s a great place to start in Japan. I can’t say enough how kind, wonderful, and helpful the staff at the school are. They can help with teaching questions as well as life in Japan questions you may have trouble with. Everything from getting a health insurance card to searching for a new apartment (initially a guesthouse room is provided for you) to recommending restaurants is something they’ll happily help you with. You’ll pick up some Japanese while working here, too. I couldn’t have asked for a better first teaching experience. I highly recommend the school.

If you’re interested in this position or other similar positions within the company, head on over to their website and send them your info. If you’re serious about coming to Japan, send your info to as many different places as possible. There are tons of opportunities out there; you need only take action to give yourself  a chance.

If there are any questions regarding my experiences I’m happy to answer them in the comments. Please remember that if you decide to apply with my company I will not be influencing any decisions. I will have no say in who my replacement is. It’s up to you to make a good impression.

Best of luck to those who apply! I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life in Japan. This job has truly been a learning experience.

4 Comments

  1. Charlotte Charlotte February 11, 2012

    Knowing what you don’t want to do is as important as knowing what you want to do. Good luck with your transition plan. Have fun. Life is too short to be miserable! Charlotte Alverson

  2. Sin Sin February 16, 2012

    Makes sense. No point spending your life doing stuff you don’t enjoy.

  3. Holly Holly April 7, 2012

    I was doing some research on American Language School because I’ve just been offered a position with them. In fact, I think I’m being offered your position. I know it’s located near the hitotsubashi gakuen station. What are your honest feelings about the Hitotsubashi area? Is it a nice area to live in? I’m looking for something with a little more nature. I’ve lived in Bangkok for the past year and I’m sick of mall after mall after mall. What are your feelings about the school and your coworkers that you haven’t mentioned above? Any info that would help me make my decision would be greatly appreciated. Good luck on your future endeavors:)

    • Alisha Alisha April 9, 2012

      Hi Holly,

      I really can’t say enough good things about the school. The staff, the owners, and the receptionists are all extremely kind. My coworker is helpful and can provide great insights and suggestions.

      The school is located in the Tokyo suburbs. There’s a small university in the area, and a big park within bike riding distance (or a long walk, if you enjoy that). The school is across the street from a station, so it’s very convenient. I wouldn’t say there’s a lot of nature in the immediate vicinity, but it certainly isn’t full of skyscrapers. It’s very residential. The population is mostly families.

      It’s about a 30 minute train ride to the heart of Tokyo, so there’s great access for shopping, food, entertainment, etc.

      The students are primarily children, as I mentioned in the post. If you’re cimfortable being a little silly from time to time, you’ll be great. I now teach one class a week for very young kids. It involves some singing, dancing, and active motion. The class is 40 minutes long. Otherwise, most of my other classes are a little more structured. We practice a grammar point or learn some new vocabulary, then drill it using classroom games, which you can be extremely, extremely flexible with. It’s wonderful. All teaching materials and games are at the school, but you can feel free to bring your own too.

      If you have an interest in teaching in Japan and are comfortable working with children, I highly, highly recommend it. I feelextremely lucky to have started teaching in Japan here.

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