This article is about my experience as a teacher in Japan and about Kindergartens here and I will try to touch both the positive and negative aspects about working in Japan as an English teacher along with a few tips and information on how I applied, what you should know and what you should prepare for if you want to teach in Japan.
I have divided this article in three parts as there is a lot of information to cover and I will be starting part one with..
I came to Japan before as a student while in University and after going back to my country, I decided I wanted to try working in Japan for a few years. Easier said than done.
I applied continuously for a few months after graduating University and getting my Bachelor Degree. Usually, in order to get a work visa in Japan you need a Certificate of Eligibility first and in order to be eligible for it, you either need to have a Degree or many years of experience behind.
So, I had to pass my exams, get my Bachelor’s and start looking for jobs on various sites that would post job announcements in Japan. I have to mention before everything that I was born in Europe, but not in an English speaking country..however, I did learn English from a very young age and got my TEFL Teaching Certificate while in University,too. Not to mention that I had experience working as an English teacher in Japan while I was a student here and my Japanese level was that of N2.
Unfortunately, odds were not in my favor…being born in a country where English is not a first language regardless of my experience, qualifications, and English level, was a huge wall when applying for teaching jobs as most people look for teachers from America, England, New Zealand and so on.
Without even looking at my resume, they would send out a ridiculous email saying something like “We are sorry, but even though your level is near Native, we can’t hire you because we are currently looking for someone who can speak American English and as you were not born in an English speaking country, we are afraid we cannot sponsor your visa”(an actual email from one of the companies).
I did have quite a few interviews , though, where the employer could actually see my actual skills, but finding a company that offers good conditions can be quite a challenge sometimes. We all know that living in Japan requires money, so I couldn`t accept a salary that couldn`t cover my expenses. Even if I wanted to come as soon as possible, I had to look for a company that provides an income enough to survive in there.
In the end, I have found a company that seemed quite nice and promising. It was a dispatch company that offered training, annual pay, national holidays and most importantly, a salary enough to live by.
After passing the screening, the first interview and the demo lesson via skype, I sent the documents necessary for a Certificate of Eligibility and they did the rest. I must say I got the certificate so quickly (in about two weeks) and everything moved so fast.
Without even having enough time to get a hang of it, I woke up with a ticket to Japan and the next day I was on the Narita Airport heading to the hotel.
I had my first meeting with my superior and other three girls that were hired together with me and the company paid the hotel we were staying at during a three-days training in Tokyo.
The training we had in Tokyo was mainly to introduce the system we are working with and the resources we will be using. It was really fun and I got the opportunity to meet many wonderful people, veterans and beginners like myself with whom I learned a lot from during the three days together.
However, I was a bit overwhelmed at the beginning of it, thinking that there are so many experienced people in there that have lived in Japan for many years and I must admit I was afraid I won’t be able to keep up or I might screw it up big time at some point.
Fortunately, nothing happened and the organizers took care of us and thought of a nice schedule, full of fun activities, getting to know each other through lots of interesting games, a lot of stories and karaoke (of course, related to the resources we`ll be using when teaching).
So overall, it was a good experience and the things I learned became very useful as I started my initial training as an Intern in a Kindergarten.
After the training in Tokyo, we hopped on the shinkansen and went all the way to Shizuoka to start our two months training. There, the people in charge of us were from a company that collaborated with ours and they helped us go through making a pension handbook, a savings account and a bankbook.
Fortunately, I already had all of them as I completed all the forms while in Tokyo, but I had to tag along when they went to make it for the other girls.
The first week was mostly taking care of that, self-introductions, going to the city hall, getting registered etc.
After things got settled up a bit, we started our training. The first two months were trial lessons and we had to remember about 4 manuals we were going to use in our lessons (and I mean stories, songs, activities). After being given a lesson plan we were supposed to do it in front of our other colleagues while they were pretending to not understand what the person teaching was babbling about. At first, it was really awkward, but we gradually got used to it and slowly began to have fun with the trials.
We had to prepare for beginner, intermediate and advanced levels and after we got the hang of it, we’ve started making our own lesson plans.
While doing that, for a few weeks we also went to one of the local kindergartens to observe our trainers teaching and made reports on what they taught, what questions they were asking, what activities they did, reports that were later sent to our company.
For part two of this article series, check Finding work in Japan: Both the Dark and the Bright Side Part II Article