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A Day in the Life of a Frustrated Eikaiwa Teacher

I'm (not) fine, thank you. And you?

By 5 min read

It’s 7:30 a.m. when my alarm goes off.

I debate just how important it really is to get to work early and prep for my high-level business English lessons. I’d prefer ten extra minutes of sleep, but I pull my butt out of bed because I know I’ll regret having to come up with new business phrases on the spot during class.

Morning routine

8:40 a.m.

I say good morning to the Japanese staff and my coworkers. Or rather, they say good morning to me. I don’t mean to be cold, but I’m not a morning person. Please don’t talk to me until 10 a.m.

9:00 a.m.

My first class of the day starts. I walk in with energy and a smile that shouts, “Hello. I’ve had my morning coffee today! Tell me about your week.”

How to get ready for work

And my student does, but his week was the same as all my other students’ weeks. I don’t mind small talk, but sometimes I feel like I’m in a time loop having the same conversations over and over.

“How are things going? Oh, you’re busy? I’m sorry.” Except not really, because I’m busy, and so is everyone else, and isn’t life just too busy these days?

9:40 a.m.

My student and I spend the last 10 minutes of the lesson on the roleplay activity. Ideally, this is where he would show me everything he has learned. Instead, he stumbles through it, making the same mistakes I’ve spent the last 40 minutes correcting him on.

He doesn’t use any of the grammar or vocabulary words I’ve just spent the lesson teaching him.

11:00 a.m.

It’s time for the next lesson.

“Hello, Mr. Sato. How are you? Fine? That’s great!”

I’m fine too. Thanks for not asking despite coming here for two years now.

Is it lunchtime yet?

12:30 p.m.

Mr. Tanaka is reading through book activities, but I’m too hungry to focus on whether his answers are correct. I knew I should’ve eaten more than just an onigiri for breakfast.

I try my best to hide my yawn, but I’m not too sure if Mr. Tanaka is convinced.

Mr. Tanaka: “Am I correct?”

Me: “Huh? Oh, yes, good! How about the next one?”

1:00 p.m.

Lunchtime, finally.

I eat with my other gaijin coworkers. We try to keep our volume down so we’re not heard throughout the whole school, but sometimes we get carried away. Luckily our students at this time tend to be low level because our conversations aren’t always the most work appropriate.

The lunch break goes too fast, and I feel there’s not much time between eating, conversing, using the restroom, and reviewing for my next lessons. Review—oh wait, did I forget to prep for that last lesson I didn’t have time to prep this morning? Well then, this will be interesting.

2:00 p.m.

Emails. Why, out of all our business courses, does this student have to take the email course? The textbook is notorious for not having many activities to work with, and a lot of the phrases aren’t natural or even used in emails often. Not to mention many of the chapters could be condensed into one, and it stretches a 50-minute lesson over a few phrases that are meant to be written.

It’s also quite difficult to expand on the topic or create a conversation from it.

“So…do you email a lot?”

I groan internally. Why do we still sell this textbook?

Connecting with students

4 p.m.

It’s time to teach Ms. Ota, my favorite student. We hit it off the very first time I taught her because we talked about anything and everything and laughed the whole lesson. She’s got a wicked personality and doesn’t let anything stop her.

She’s a successful businesswoman, balances work and family effortlessly, and is not afraid to get what she wants. I can only hope to be half as incredible as her. Talking with inspiring students like Ms. Ota who teach you about business and life is one of the reasons this job can be so great.

It reminds me of why I became a teacher—to help people and to improve my students’ confidence and careers.

5 p.m.

I teach Mr. Watanabe, who is serious about improving his English and always interested in learning new grammar. He’s always appreciative of my corrections and is particularly excited about today’s lesson because it’s relevant to his career.

It’s a stark difference from Mr. Sato earlier, who seems to only come out of boredom, and I’d be lying if I said his indifference didn’t bother me. Mr. Watanabe leaves while thanking me, saying it was a great lesson and he’s learned a lot. It reminds me of why I became a teacher—to help people and to improve my students’ confidence and careers.

6 p.m.

The last class finishes and one of the school staff asks me to write a progress report for a student, but my shift finishes at 6 p.m. so I tell him I’ll do it later. Then I leave, but not without giving an “otsukaresama” (thanks for your hard work).

Even though not all my classes were the easiest, my afternoon lessons were great and I leave feeling fulfilled. I’m glad this job gives me the chance to meet and learn about so many different people on a personal level.

Now, where is the nearest izakaya?

If you’re an eikaiwa teacher in Japan, what does your typical day look like? Let us know in the comments.

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