Do you have it takes to be an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher in Japan? Here are four tips you can do to make your students and employer happy. Knowing these can give you a valuable head start in your teaching career.
1. Being Punctual
An important expectation in Japan is that you will always show up to work on time. Some things can be overlooked, but consistent lateness is not usually one of them. It costs you and your employer money, damages the school’s reputation, and will be seen as disrespectful to the students.
Teachers who show up ready and on time demonstrate that they take themselves and their responsibilities seriously. If you slack off in showing up on time, you’ll have dissatisfied students, will get minimal pay raises, and won’t get any consideration for a promotion.
A reputation for being a latecomer or a no show is very hard to shake, so don’t get one, no matter how tempting another round of shots may be at 3:00 a.m.!
Tip – find out how early you are expected to arrive and get there five minutes before that.
2. Showing Patience
When the students are motivated, the lesson material strikes a chord and the atmosphere is good, teaching can be the best job in the world. Other days though things won’t go so smoothly. When students are having trouble, pull back and try to find a way around the difficulty. Could you present the material in a more accessible manner? If it’s a grammar issue, would slowing it down and giving more examples help?
If it’s a classroom management issue, have the students understood your instructions properly? If not, can you make the instructions simpler? If frustration is evident, would doing rather than telling help to change the mood?
Whatever the situation, an irritated teacher will only make things worse. Be patient. Understanding, encouragement and a willingness to change the script when necessary will allow you to cope with most classroom difficulties.
Tip – take a deep breath and try to see things from the students’ perspective.
3. Being Organized
Being prepared is not only having your vocabulary sheets, role play cards or multimedia aids sorted out, it’s also about understanding the lesson material and knowing how you are going to implement it. Have the lesson plan on paper or in your head and make sure that you’ve got all the materials you need where you need them.
Few things scream ‘panic!’ more than a long streak of teacher frantically rummaging through books and bags at the last minute. Organization allows you to assume an air of calmness, and everyone feels more comfortable with a teacher who appears to be in control.
Note that while a fortunate few can wing lessons with confidence, this is because they have taught before, know the patterns and can improvise on them. Not many of us can count on being able to display such virtuosity when we are just starting out, so don’t try to.
Tip – have some activities in reserve for the back end of the lesson. It can be hard work if you’ve finished all of your prepared material ten minutes ahead of time.
4. Being Enthusiastic
Seeing people learn is a rewarding experience and teachers should remember to enjoy it. Keep a smile on your face. Praise the students when they do well; lend encouragement when they don’t. Engage them with words, gestures, humor and attitude. Let your own enthusiasm be infectious and the classroom will be a much better place for it.
Tip – always start and finish your lessons with a positive word. Learning a language takes time and persistence and part of our job is to brighten the path.
So there we have it: punctuality, patience, organization and enthusiasm. Cultivating these habits will go a long way towards making you, your students and your employer happier.