Thinking of teaching in Tokyo?
Are you thinking of teaching in Tokyo, and wondering if it'd be the right job for you? Well, here's a quick mini-guide to the requirements for the job. A university degree (any subject) and an ability to speak better English than your students is a requirement. Got those? Then jump on the plane and get a job. Grammar knowledge, teaching experience very optional.
- You must have good sense of humour. The importance of this is evident on many levels. The best way to execute this is to remind yourself that you won't be working in the same place forever and all students eventually will leave. Playing tricks on your students is always a good one too - Japanese learners like a safe environment, choosing the same place to sit each week, etc. It's always fun to rearrange the classroom so they are forced to sit in a different place ;-)
- Acting skills are a prerequisite. For example, the 10 millionth time a student tells you they went to shopping and cleaned their room at the weekend, you must make it sound like you think it was a fun thing they did and pretend to be interested in who they went shopping with this time and what they bought. This time.
- You must have no inhibitions. You will spend a part of every day demonstrating verbs, racing around a classroom, dancing in front of parents, making stupid noises, etc.
- Subtlety is important. You cannot say: 'what the fuck are you on about?' to your students. However tempted you may be. Likewise when a student is doing so little work on their English and attending so erratically that their English is actually getting worse, you cannot tell them they are crap and wasting your time and their money.
- Patience is very important. You will have older students with memories of drunken goldfish. Expect to spend 3 weeks in a row, for example, explaining 'Fair Trade' to the same student. Even when you've exhausted every pie graph, chart, story, time line, diagram, picture you can think of, and they appear to have 'got it'. And then ask you about it again the next week. Patience is also important when you're doing a craft activity with a table of 3-5 year olds who ALL need help at the same time.
- Multi-tasking skills are a bonus. See above. You need to have eyes in the back of your head, be able to work your hands like an octupus, supply cuddles as required (strictly with kids this one. Although, come to think of it, some of the male teachers.... ), think 3 steps ahead all the time, fix a kids' hair clip while handing a tissue to another kid, helping a kid glue and stopping another kid from cutting their activity in half.
- Time management is important. Always clean your board while saying goodbye to your student. Never after. Not if you want to sprint to the toilet and get a coffee before the next student 3 seconds later.
- Creativeness is a bonus. My current favourite gadget of choice is a timer. I've got low level students amazed at how fluent they can be when they don't have time to think in Japanese before speaking. It also seems to be working well as a motivator for phonics work, which kids don't really like.
I'll add some more soon!