Wednesday, January 31, 2018

How to get Hired as an English Teacher in Japan

Are you considering living in Japan for a year or two to experience Japanese life? Then…  becoming an English Teacher is one way to get to Japan with zero Japanese language skill.

I’ve been asked a lot of times about how I managed to secure an English teaching job in Japan. So here’s for those who have asked and to others who want to ask!

But before that you might also want to ask me how I landed up in Japan in the first place. Well, after few months into our marriage, my husband got this wonderful opportunity, one of a kind in Bhutan, to study Masters in Space Engineering in Japan.
He is also working on building Bhutan’s first satellite: BHUTAN-1(Remember this! You might get this question in RCSC exam some day). Even though we’d just ventured into a married life, both of us knew that this was the life’s greatest calling and too precious to let it go.  So he headed to Japan to embark on this new journey. I followed him after 3 months with a dependent visa.

For quite a long, I was lost in a new country trying to figure out what to do. I surfed on internet for any possible information but at the end of the day, teaching English was the only option I had with no basic Japanese. My options were further narrowed down by location because moving to another city for work wouldn’t have been possible. In the mean time, I attended free Japanese lesson at my husband’s university. I learned few useful phrases just to get along on the daily basis.

Nevertheless I was also sending out my resumes for whatever jobs I found appropriate. For my first interview, I traveled an hour long by train after they’d acknowledged my resume. The job was to teach 0-14 years English after their school hours. I was called again to do a demo lesson after which I didn’t hear back from the recruiter. I was outraged that I wrote to him instead asking about their decision. After all, I’d put in time and energy, and money of course. Since I was new to the place, I’d to take my husband which doubled the transportation charges. It might put you to wonder, “Even Japanese does that?” Ironically all the HR sectors in Japan are dominated by English men. At least in the dispatch companies if they’re recruiting foreigners. Anyways, the recruiter replied my email saying “We’re sorry.” ๐Ÿ˜ญBut that didn’t stop me from trying again. I managed a part-time job as a tutor in one of the private after-class schools since then.

How did I get so lucky and hit the jackpot then? Well, I’ll run you through the whole process of my interview here:

English textbook for 5th & 6th Grade
Do you have a conversational English speaking skill? Do you have a bachelor’s degree? Then you’re almost 80% close to your dream job—English Teacher, known as Assistant language Teacher (ALT) in Japan. Remaining 20% depends on how well you present yourself.

The requirements are almost the same for all teaching positions.
1.      Must be a native speaker of English
2.      Must have completed a University Bachelor’s Degree (or higher)
3.      TESOL/TEFL/CELTA (whatever that means) certifications not necessary 

If you’re a non-native speaker, you need to prove that you’ve acquired an education in English for at least 12 years. For Bhutanese, English is the medium of instruction in schools which works perfectly fine. Additionally, English Language Proficiency Certificate (ELPC) that we get from Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) works. Go, get it from BBE if you still haven’t got yours. Now you’re qualified—good luck! So send in your resumes and you’re in. However, it doesn’t work this simple. Meanwhile build up your patience! The interview process is in Japan is very systematic and annoyingly long.

Even though you’ll be working in the public schools, you’ll not be recruited by the government directly. The Board of Education (BOE) outsources ALT jobs to ‘dispatch companies’. This means you’ll have to go through interview with dispatch companies and then that particular company will dispatch you to various public schools. This makes you an employee of the dispatch company, not an employee of the Japanese government per se. You’ve to contact your company concerning sick, leave and holiday stuff. Since there’s Dispatch Company in between you and the BOE, you should expect little less than what the BOE pays for those directly hired by BOE. Then why didn’t you apply to the BOE directly? SMART! Who doesn’t want more money, right? Well, I do!!
But the process is more complicated and intense. You must have certain level of Japanese, some kind of teaching certificates or must be a native English speaker. The whole process looked out of my league. So I focused on what was within my reach.

Oh! Sorry for drifting you off topic. My job interview, right? Here it goes-

The selection process was very simple involving only four levels. Just four? LOL. When I saw my current job posting I immediately sent out my resume. Exactly the job I wanted and the perfect location. I was called for the interview next day. First interview was, why do you want to teach?—these kinds of stuff. I got through the 2nd level. Acceptance of Resume is first level. Next one is tough one, a written test. It involved explaining some grammar points and essay writing. My grammar, by the way must have took them by surprise because I’m so fucking good with grammar! ๐Ÿ˜Ž Apparently, I could choose any topic I wanted for the essay. I couldn’t think of anything better topic than Bhutan. So there I wrote about Bhutan, about the great monarchs and about happy people. Then I was up to the final level— demo lesson. They gave me the flash cards of the days of the week and asked me to teach imaginary grade 5 students who are sitting in English class for the first time. DONE!

They told me they’d contact me regarding the result soon. I left the office and went to the nearest train station. I was waiting for the next train and there came the interview result. They couldn’t wait until I get home—I WAS IN! Maybe they were afraid that they might lose me to some other dispatch companies. Haha! Anyway, I’d like to believe that it was the essay part that out-shined my overall interview. When I saw the interviewer next time at the training, he told me “I like your country.” I was like who doesn’t? Then I attended teaching training for a week. After that, off to schools. Simple process, isn’t it?๐Ÿ˜›

Some more tips that would come handy if you’re seriously thinking about this job.
T1: Polish your resume and make it eye catching
T2: Don’t be shit at being on time. Dress smart! (These simple mistakes will cost you the job)
T3: Prepare essay in advance on your desired topic
T4: Learn Japanese before coming to Japan— handful of useful phrases

I did of course consider some of the other available options. But you’ll need a decent amount of Japanese language if not for teaching jobs. Not that you make a lot of money by teaching but it will give you enough time to work on your language and prepare yourself for jobs other than teaching. Your earning is just enough to pay bills. Unlike me, if you know how to budget well, you might be able to save few remaining.

Other option could be to do nothing for first one year but the language. I’ve seen others do it too. But it’s going to cost you an arm and a leg. Boy, I’m telling you, the language fees with other living cost in Japan will reap your pants off. Taxation, one more thing on an already expensive country, will take away whatever little you’re earning. Tokyo is ranked one of world’s most expensive cities. Here comes my T5: look for places away from Tokyo. In case you obtain student visa, you can work 28hrs/week and can get tax exemption. Then imagine a life working like a robot— classes during the day and work at night. What kind of strength would that take? More than I’ll ever have, maybe.

Where to find teaching jobs? Here are some sites that will help you land your dream job in Japan. It is also around this time they recruit new ALTs. Please visit the links below to check the job openings and apply. They also arrange online interviews for those who are not in Japan.

1.       KBS (the dispatch company I’m currently employed with)
2.       Interact (dispatch company)
3.       OWL (dispatch company)
4.       Fukuoka Now (teaching jobs in Fukuoka prefecture)
5.       Gaijinpot (varieties of jobs all around Japan)
6.       YOLO Japan  (varieties of jobs all around Japan)

What’s it like working in Japan?
A normal day in the life of an ALT will be working with kids in schools, teaching English and struggling with their language. You can read more about it here. To be honest, teaching isn’t really tough. Make it simple, more gestures say some stuff and ask kids to do something. YOU’LL BE FINE! You don’t have to explain some complicated grammar rules that you don’t know yourself. But it’s gonna rack your brain off sometimes. Did I tell you that, my Japanese teacher literally teared off because she couldn’t find a way to deal with one kid who’s up to no good in her class?
Having said so, different people have different experiences. Some have more complaints than reasons to stay in japan as an ALT. But one thing you should remember is you’re dealing with a new country. Things are bound to be little different because this is not your country. You’re the one who has to fit in like a missing puzzle. 

Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. After all is said and done, if you think this is your calling, then don’t wait.


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