In Japan, advertisements about English language schools and learning programs are everywhere because many Japanese people cannot speak English very well and want to improve for various different reasons. Some for business or work, some for travel or study abroad, some for volunteer work for the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, while others because they have an admiration for cultures or certain interests that contain a lot of English – e.g. American Hollywood movies or famous English-speaking singers etc.
English School Advertisement in a Train Carriage
It is in high demand. Therefore there are a lot of the English language schools that are always looking to hire teachers and teaching assistants who are native English speakers.
In 2016, a English man came to Japan to be an animator. He first got a student visa and learned Japanese at language school. He attended classes for over a year in the meantime he worked as a part time English tutor.
He continued working as a English teacher because it is easier to switch his visa after he finished studying under a student visa. He got his work visa and has worked for almost a year as an English teacher at a cram school where he soon will change his job to being an animator. But before he does I wanted to ask him a few questions about his experience teaching English here in Japan.
“How did you find the job at first?”
It’s quite the story, but I started off when I was living in a guesthouse I saw an advert for teaching a private group at the local community hall (公民館 Kominkan). There I got my first experience teaching English, and I met a friend who was connected to another study groups that I started teaching also, so I originally started out as just a private English teacher to ease myself into teaching.
Later, this person recommended that I try apply for work as a substitute teacher at the nearby school if I needed the extra money and as a Japanese language student my savings were draining rather significantly, so I decided I needed to try. I ended up applying for this cram school where I gave them my CV (履歴書 Rirekisho) in English and had a short interview and trial lesson. I passed and got the part-time position. There, I was trained a bit in their teaching process, and I gained a bit more experience teaching English.
When my time as a student was starting to approach the end, I was searching around for what I could do next. For me as an native English speaker, English teaching was the easiest way I could stay in Japan, as my language skills and portfolio were still lacking. I needed to buy myself more time in Japan, so I asked the cram school that I worked part-time for whether there were any full-time positions available and it so happened that they did.
That’s how I ended up working as a full-time English teacher.
“Have you ever taught English before you came to Japan?”
No, I’ve never taught English before coming to Japan. It was a very new experience for me.
“What were your grades like for English classes in your country?”
As a high school student way back when, I was OK at English. Not great, but not terrible either. I think that’s because I didn’t like reading back then – ha ha!
“What are the students like?”
I think I’m kind of lucky in a way that I have mostly good students. A few can be a bit of trouble, but I’ve become a little more used to how they operate. All I can say is the best students are the ones that have an enthusiasm to learn. The hardest lesson I think are when you have to teach those as young as 3 years old English. That’s tough and very exhausting.
I also think that you have to be flexible as a teacher in your approach when teaching English. Every learner is different and learns at their own. You shouldn’t be too harsh or too soft. Just have good balance as I believe students would appreciate that more in their own lessons and in turn that reflects on what they think of you as a teacher.
“How is the condition or salary as a English teacher?”
If you work at a Japanese school as apposed to where I work at an cram school, things are quite different. I can’t say too much as I’ve never worked in an actual Japanese Junior/Middle or High School before I don’t know too much, but from what I’ve heard from other teachers it’s much better in both salary and the amount of holidays you get.
For where I work however (at an cram school), it’s a little tough. My salary is the typical standard for English teachers – ￥3,000,000 annual income, but there are a few small bonuses for giving trial lessons to new potential students as well as company campaigns where the most successful teachers are awarded a little bonus, but these aren’t particularly significant or anything.
Holidays aren’t so much really only 10 altogether, but because I work as a contract worker (契約社員 keiyakushain) not as a permanent worker (正社員 seishain), I only get 5 days after 6 months of work and then the other 5 days after working a year as the contract lasts altogether for 1 year and 6 months. Also there are periods (e.g. during school holidays) that are really important for the cram schools’ business so in those periods you can’t take any paid holidays which kind of sucks.
Again because I work as an contract worker, I don’t get the same health insurance benefits that a permanent employee would get, so I just have standard citizen health insurance (国民健康保険 kokumin-kenkouhoken).
Also, teachers working for Japanese schools tend to have the standard Monday to Friday – 8 am to 5 pm work days. While because cram schools work after the kids finish their lessons at the main Japanese schools our working schedule starts later and finishes later. For example, mine is Tuesday to Saturday – 12 pm to 9 pm. While I know some other teachers I know have to work both Saturday and Sunday getting Monday and Tuesday off instead. That to me, seems a bit inconvenient, especially if you want to hang out with friends on your days off.
When it comes to things like banks, apartments, tax, health problems and such I know that these English companies try to look after their teachers as many of them can’t speak Japanese and are new to the whole way of life here. I think it’s nice but for my case I didn’t have that as I came here originally as a student anyways.
As a whole, if you want a career as an English teacher, I’d recommend teaching in a Japanese school as apposed to a cram school as you’d get better benefits, a better work schedule, more holidays, and maybe in some cases better salary. However, there is one advantage to working for an English company as apposed to a school. That is the opportunity for other work. If you work at an Japanese school you’d most likely get the Instructor visa that allows only one type of work you can do, just teaching; however, working for an English company, you would most likely get the Specialty in Humanities visa (人文知識 jinbunchishiki) that gives you a much broader option of other potential careers in the future and as for my case was very necessary for me to get.
Aside from that, I can’t think of anything else to mention…
Maybe you also want to read this JAPAN AND ALL THAT JAZZ
“What are other English teachers like?”
Well… everyone is unique, but most every teacher I’ve ever met has been friendly. I think that’s because many can’t communicate in Japanese, so perhaps they look for someone to have a normal native chat with… maybe…
Some teachers are playful and good with kids, some are super serious and good with explaining complex grammar, some a little strict, and some not, so every teacher has there own strength when teaching I think.
If you are interested in becoming English teacher, read International TEFL Academy