Finding work in Japan: Both the Dark and the Bright Side

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  • This article is about my experience as a teacher in Japan and about Kindergartens here and last time I explained a bit of how I got a visa in Japan, how did my training start and what I felt teaching for the first time in a Kindergarten.

    For part one of this article series, check here

    Last month of training- Teaching in a kindergarten

    こども園・保育園・幼稚園で遊ぶ子供と先生

    In the last month, we switched places with our trainers and gradually started off teaching from 20 minutes to an hour by taking turns. Now, we were the ones being observed. It was really difficult in the beginning as the children wouldn’t listen to us and it was hard making them pay attention.
    Personally, I had problems managing them in the beginning, but slowly gained their trust and at the end of it they were all participating and having fun in the classroom.

    We would also stay for the afternoon classes, with bigger students(elementary school) and, after one or two hours, we would finally wrap up and head back home(usually around 6 pm).
    The kids` level was really high and I could see that their teachers put a lot of effort in every lesson, balancing it so they would have fun , but also gain something during that hour. At only 4-5 years old they were able to properly talk and they all had such a beautiful accent, so I thought is amazing how fast they absorb everything.

    I sincerely hoped I can become such a wonderful teacher some time and I decided to work hard towards that goal.

    Playtime and Ensoku

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    In the Kindergarten, besides the English Lessons, we also had to eat lunch with the children, play with them, help the teachers and stay with the kids throughout the day.

    We all taught all classes, but when we started the training, we were assigned one class to be with during the day(when it wasn`t English Time). My class was Nencho, that means they were about 5-6 years old and it was their final year in kindergarten. All classes had names of birds and mine was called Seagull.

    Being with the kids all day helped reducing the distance between me and the students and by no time, we grew so attached to each other and they would come talk to me about everything, sit in my lap, drag me outside to play while I am cleaning the classroom an so on.

    Unfortunately, the last day had to come sometime.. Our last time seeing the kids was when we all went together in an Ensoku.
    Ensoku is the Japanese word for School Trip.

    We were all told to prepare a bento(lunch box) and dress comfortably as we were going to walk for about 40 minutes with the kids towards our destination.
    I love walking, but I was a bit unsure if is safe walking such a long distance on the city’s narrow streets with really small kids.

    Character Lunch boxes and final goodbyes

    みつばちのお弁当

    I did worry for nothing. The kids were organised and very energetic, however they did get pretty tired when we arrived, but regained their power in no time and started running around . Our final destination was a park in that area and after we’ve arrived, we sat down on our picnic mats(by the way, I bought mine from Daiso, really cheap and convenient!) and started eating.

    Many of the kids had キャラ弁/KyaraBen (Character lunch boxes) with Pikachu, Totoro and many others. Mine was just a plain lunch box with salmon, rice and a bit of salad. However, one of the kids saw it and he told me: “It`s ok, sensei, my mother doesn’t know how to make Kyara ben either. Even so, it tastes delicious! I think your lunch looks delicious, too”.
    How adorable is that?

    After finishing our lunch, we started the おやつ交換/ oyatsu koukan , that means exchanging snacks. As it was during spring, outside was pretty hot and we weren’t allowed to bring chocolate. I remember I brought some gummies and cookies. We all exchanged snacks and after, started playing again and running around. At the end of the trip, the kids were picked up by their parents and we took some commemorative pictures together to always remember our last (in my case, the first) Ensoku Day, quite an important event during any scholar`s life here, in Japan.

    I cried, we all cried.

    After saying our final goodbyes, we took the kindergarten bus together with the Japanese teachers and head back to the Kindergarten as we had to part with our Afternoon Elementary School Students, too.

    An unforgettable day it was.

    However, not everything was a fun experience and the problems with my company start from here on..

    The company lied. There`s no guarantee you`ll get placed

    Woman in stress in front of computer

    As the training was over, I was expecting to pack my luggage that week as I already informed before coming to Japan where I would like to be placed. That time, I was even told I will find out way before my training ends and that didn’t happen.
    My choice was somewhere in Kanto (preferably around Tokyo) and during my Skype interview they said that most of the kindergartens they have a contract with are around Tokyo and that I will get placed very soon.

    During our training, our salary was half of the salary we were supposed to get after finishing and that is around 100,000 yen from 200,000. We stayed in a share house provided by the boss of the company we’ve trained under and fortunately, I didn’t get such a bad room either.
    However, my coworker`s room was pretty dirty, full of small hairs and the sheets from all rooms were not new (including pillows) , so we complained about it because it wasn`t hygienic and we were expecting something else after paying rent and all.

    With a 100,000 monthly salary for a few months, is quite hard to buy it yourself and unfortunately, I woke up with a rush after my first night sleeping there, so we had to tell them about the matter.
    They did apologise and were really nice and also thanked us for bringing this into their attention so they would know from now on and change it every time someone new comes in the house.
    We cleaned up the place and finally felt more comfortable after putting the new sheets on our beds.
    We would have our company calling us on Skype in order to discuss how we are feeling now and then, but as the training days became less and less, all of us felt some pressure.

    Why? Well, because neither of us has heard any news regarding our future placements..
    Among the old trainees, there was a girl that has been there for one year and she ended up never getting placed. Also, not hearing from the company, we all felt very insecure as they kept hiding things, not clearly telling us the situation or at least if they have a few kindergartens in mind. We were told that they are negotiating (for about two months they kept negotiating).. What for? I still don`t know. However, working with them for quite a few years, I came to realise how disorganised they were and I feel that their disorganisation was one of the reasons they kept lying.

    But the problems were just starting…

    In my next article, you will find out about all the problems I had after getting placed, what you should be aware of when coming to work here , your rights and what to ask for.
    You`ll also get to know more about teaching and all the information you need if you plan on becoming an English Teacher in Japan.

    For part three of this article series, check Finding work in Japan: Exposing the Dark Side of Getting a Job in Japan Part III Article

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