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Teaching English in Tokyo

I have to work how many hours?

I WILL get straight into it. Finding a teaching job in Tokyo and going through the overall process can be complicated. There is a different system to contend with, foreign language and culture. A mixed bag of uncertainties and new things to learn. The good news: it all depends on you. Here is a brief overview on my teaching experience in Tokyo.

When I first started looking for a teaching job in Japan, the first and most important decision I made was committing to working and living in Japan. Before even beginning my visa application, sending out any CVs or cover letters, I sat down and had a conversation with myself. At times, out loud, but for the most part I outlined all the pros and cons of teaching in Japan - what the benefits to my career would be, what I could bring to schools in the Far East, as well as what skills and experiences I could pick up if I were to live and work in Japan. Not to mention the rich cultural and linguistic learning that I would go through in a new, quite unique country.

What kind of teaching job did I want and what was I willing to do? An important motive for me at the time was to get experience in two particular areas of teaching: business and IELTS English with predominantly adult students; and working with younger pupils under the age of 12. I had limited experience in both of these areas and wanted a more well-rounded CV where I could confidently say that I had successfully worked with a diverse range of students from a variety of backgrounds and ages. Having different teaching options available when going to teach in Japan is certainly advantageous when considering relocating and working there. The two main avenues one can take are working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) and joining an Eikaiwa (private language institute).

In Japan, I taught predominantly in an Eikaiwa. The types of students I had included kids, high school students, university students looking to improve their IELTS scores, business clientele (focusing on more formal, workplace English, improving TOEIC scores, translation, etc.), stay at home adults, and just people who wanted to travel and use English casually through open conversations and discussion. Student abilities varied. Anywhere from absolute beginners to quite fluent students. My working hours changed dramatically over three years. At one point I taught in the mornings (as early as 7AM) and often I finished at night (10PM or later, depending on how quickly I went through my lesson records). Much more on this in a later post. 

As for class sizes, I mainly taught one-to-one but also was able to teach offsite in different companies where there were up to 8 students at times. Lesson materials were provided for the most part. Once you become accustomed to the lesson flow and begin memorising the assigned texts and materials from each school, teaching becomes more comfortable and repetitive. This is a negative for some teachers as boredom sets in after a while. That's a whole different topic in itself. Professionalism is key in Eikaiwas. Everything from the dress code, behaviour, mannerisms and movements. Finally, knowledge of Japanese is really not required. I always enforced no Japanese in my lessons. The students will thank you.

There is so much to work with in Tokyo from an educational perspective. If you take the profession seriously, from the job searching process, arrival and integration within a specific school system, to your actual lessons, then the experience will be fruitful. Which brings me back to my original point: it all depends on you. The attitude, personality, work ethic and general flexibility that you can bring with you when searching for and engaging in a teaching job in Tokyo are immeasurable and vital to your overall success. Good luck!

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