Saturday, September 18, 2004

Teaching in Japan

Getting a job here as a teacher isn't easy. Correction: arriving here on a tourist visa and getting a job isn't easy. Or at least it wasn't as easy as getting a job in Korea was. Before landing a job in Korea I talked on the phone with another teacher at the school precisely twice before signing on the dotted line. That was back in 2000, and I was basically interviewing him--it was possible to get several job offers within a couple of days.

In Japan there's an over-saturation of native speakers of the English language. Most people suffering from the lack of an MA or PhD (plus publications!) end up going through the large, chain English schools. Shane, Aeon, Berlitz, Nova, Geos and ECC are some of the more prominent ones. Teaching conditions, and they vary from branch to branch, aren't that wonderful. Some chains have more stringent hiring policies, but a number of knuckleheads manage to infiltrate every system.

I have one of those Cambridge-issued CELTA TESOL teaching certificates (which, I might add, are not the easiest things to get ahold of). All that was good for was an extra 3,000 yen per month (US$30) and an extra long interview. They seemed to be concerned that I might not be willing to swallow their one-size-fits-all methodology, or follow instructions from my superiors. I was eventually given the job, and everything went well. I understand that it is much, much easier to get a job over here by going through one of their overseas hiring centers.

Many instructors more experienced and qualified than myself have had to go the 'eikaiwa' (English conversation school) route. I am of course speaking exclusively about the teaching scene in Tokyo. I have no knowledge, or stories, of the way that things work in slightly less urban areas of Japan. What I can say, however, is that you shouldn't come here looking for work unless you have A LOT of money with you. It took me exactly two weeks to secure a job offer. Some will be awarded one more quickly than I was. Others will not.

Aside from paying for food and housing, I had to head to Korea in order to get the visa nailed into my passport. I'm not sure that this is absolutely required, but I have been told that it's the quickest way to start work. All told, I started work about six weeks after first arriving in Japan. That's a long time to be on an unpaid vacation in the most expensive city in the world!

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