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Teaching English in Japan

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One of my students left to go to an international elementary school, but gave me this card

When I came to Japan my goal was to be taught, not to teach. I wanted the chance to live in Japan again and to finish college, so I decided to transfer to Temple University, Japan Campus in order to fulfill these goals. One of the things I had to think about before leaving was how I would support myself during my stay here. I realized that teaching was probably the way to go since I didn’t have a high enough Japanese level to get a ‘normal’ part time job. After almost a year of teaching kids now, I’ve come to really love my job here and it has enhanced my experience of living in Tokyo and made my life much more interesting. Now I teach children up to 6 days a week, in addition to having 15 credits this semester. Pretty rigorous schedule, but for now it’s going well.

Mini-snowman I made with a student after the snowfall last week

Mini-snowman I made with a student after the snowfall last week

Teaching kids didn’t initially seem like a very appealing job to me.  I don’t like kids. At least, I didn’t like kids before starting my teaching jobs. Back in America I lived with my family, which includes 3 younger sisters. After growing up with younger kids always around… coming to Japan and taking care of kids didn’t seem like it would be all that fun. Children can be noisy, dirty, and hard to control. Even so, I needed to find a job to make money here so I took to GaijinPot and searched for some part-time jobs. Many of the ads were for teaching children, which, for the above reasons, wasn’t high on my list of “jobs I want”, but nonetheless I applied to one because of the nice sign-on bonus. After an interview at the school I got a phone call 2 days later asking me to go to an orientation lesson and then sign up as a teacher.

At first, teaching kids wasn’t easy. I had experience leading Sunday School groups at my church for several years (I eventually stopped after becoming an atheist, but that’s a long story), but teaching English in Japan was quite a bit different. Eventually though, I did get the hang of how the lessons were structured and what I was expected to do as far as the actual teaching was concerned. It may have taken a few months, but I learned a lot about the best ways to interact with children and how to engage them in learning a new language.

Right now I’m very comfortable at my jobs and love sharing my passion of English with young learners. It’s extremely rewarding to see them learn new vocabulary/grammar and then be able to practice it immediately with me. All the different personalities make each class unique and challenge me to approach the lessons from different angles in order to teach the kids in the best way possible.

Whether it’s Japan or not, I think people who love their language should consider trying to teach it abroad.  If you get in with a good company it can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your life, even if you’ve never thought of yourself as a ‘teacher’ before. I’d highly recommend the experience, it can end up teaching you a lot too.

– Paul

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