As I mentioned in the previous article, finding your place as an English teacher in Japan isn’t always a smooth process. It can feel overwhelming when choosing the “right” teaching job in the ideal location. There are so many factors to look at, especially if you are pursuing teaching full-time.
One aspect that is often overlooked is the style, or teaching method, that you will use in a certain environment. Here are some examples of teaching environments you will encounter in Japan. See which of these best fit your “style” as an English teacher.
Public and Private Schools
Teaching in a public or private school is a unique experience. The ages range from pre-k to senior high school, so you have a wide variety of ages to choose from when you’re reviewing job openings. Of course, most of the teaching is done from the front of a classroom. Often times, speaking Japanese is not required because of the emphasis on English being the only language spoken in the classroom. The school you work for will show you a specific curriculum to use, and your job is mostly to relay the information, especially to the younger grades. If you would much rather handle a class full of kids from the front of the room than try to teach one-on-one, this option fits well with your style.
One thing to consider, however, is that some schools require a certain number of hours after class for one-to-one tutoring. This requires a different set of skills, and adds more hours to your workday. Make sure to check out all the requirements in detail before accepting the position. For some, this is exactly the job you’ve been looking for; if that’s you, congrats! Your style is right at home in a school environment.
We’ve all seen the ads for big corporations like GABA that offer one-to-one lessons, but is this method really for you? When looking into these jobs, there are a few things to consider. Often, like with GABA, you work on a tier-system. This means your pay and hours are determined by how many hours you complete in their company. To get those hours, you often have to start taking lessons at very early and late hours. This will help you gain students from the working sarari-man and women who can’t take lessons during normal working hours. And at first, your number of lessons won’t be so many until you have proven yourself as a teacher and built your repertoire. This is a great option for people who are ready and willing to commit to a few extra hours at the beginning to help them quickly rise to the top.
During the lesson time, you will most likely be following a set curriculum, but in a one-to-one environment. Unlike in the school setting, you are confronted with the struggle of creating conversation with beginners. At the same time, though, you get to know your student personally, and it can create some great friendships as opposed to being “distant” at the front of a classroom.
If you are a teacher of patience, and enjoy working for a big company with benefits, pursue a career with one of those corporations.
Cram schools are one of those unique aspects of Japan that are curious to any westerner trying to understand. Essentially, working at a “cram,” or tutoring, school is similar to an after-school program that we have in North America, but is sometimes only for English lessons. I worked in a cram school part-time in Yokosuka, and I saw all ages, not only young children. The responsibilities include committing to a certain number of hours or students, abiding by their (or the children’s parents’) curriculum, and being flexible with the amount or ages of students. In this position, you could teach a group of 3 or more children, or have one-to-one lessons with adults and teens. This job requires more flexibility in your teaching style, but usually makes up for it in pay and the comparatively casual setting.
For me, this was a difficult position because of the varying ages of students. I wasn’t able to shift from teaching 7 year olds one hour to a 60 year old the next, and felt like it was too much stress considering the other options I had available for teaching outside the cram school. For my co-workers, though, the gentleness of the boss and great working environment was enough for them to stick around for years. If you’re looking into cram schools, consider how your style would fit in to this after-school environment.
Finally, you have the option of teaching private one-on-one lessons to students outside of any corporation or school. This is a great option if you are still needing flexibility in your job or would like a supplement to the job you already have. During hiring and graduation season (March-April), the number of students’ requests for teachers will drastically increase, so its important to create your advertisements ahead of time.
Some ways of obtaining students are through flyers in your community, online profiles such as with hello-sensei, and of course word of mouth. This job does take a bit of grunt work, and a lot of researching curriculums and materials, but if you’re willing to take some extra time at the beginning you’ll have a successful personal business. You can even check out online teaching positions such as with SkimaTalk to add to your in-person students.
Like with the corporations, you will mostly teach one-to-one, and often will keep the same students for years. If you can get through the start-up work, you’ll be able to find lasting friendships and make great connections with this method of teaching. Not to mention you have more control over your hours and pay, which is always a bonus.
As you’re frantically job hunting for that “perfect” teaching position, take some of these environments into consideration. How does your teaching “style” fit in?