My First Time Teaching English in Japan
By Grace Buchele Mineta
On March 17, 2015
A lot of people don’t remember their first day teaching English in Japan. I can’t forget mine. It was my first time teaching, of course. I had taught Mathematics in Texas for several summers before eventually moving to Tokyo. Shortly after I was settled in, I saw a notice on Craigslist for English teaching on Saturday afternoons. The pay was pretty good and they said no experience was necessary. This is perfect, I thought.
I showed up for an interview about a week later, only to be thrust into a classroom with a dozen or so elementary school students. There was no warning, no lesson plan, and no co-teacher. I had no idea what to do. The lady said “Lessons are 50 minutes, good luck!” and… just left.
Back then, I barely spoke Japanese and the kid’s English ability was even lower. I stumbled through the hour with games, repetition, and a lot of stammering. It was so awkward. The only game that seemed to work was the “color game,” where I said a color and all the children had to run around the room and touch something that color.
At the end of the “lesson,” I took my earnings and never went back.
Talking to some of my other English teaching friends, I learned that experiences like mine are incredibly rare. Usually English schools will make you give a demo lesson to a teacher (to make sure you are comfortable teaching) or hand you a curriculum to work with (so you have an idea on how lessons are supposed to work), not just throw you in the lion’s den.
What was your first time teaching English like?