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 Post subject: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:00 am 
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Vegan Since Before There Were Vegetables
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I have a few interviews coming up with ESL schools in Japan. I have a million misgivings and a million things that I'm excited about, and I'm still not sure if this is what I'm going to do, but I would love to hear any PPKers' experiences teaching English in Asia or elsewhere. I'm not looking for vegany advice as I feel pretty confident in my ability to be vegan in Japan after visiting, but I'd love to hear about experiences with schools and the culture, etc. Thank you so much for whatever input you might have!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:05 am 
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Kale Wreath
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Well, I'm teaching English in Japan right now. You should come here!

I work for a large company and don't enjoy the bureaucratic bullshiitake that comes with it, but that could be an issue anywhere (I just don't like big companies). I've been doing it for a year and enjoy it, but I don't see myself doing it for the super long-term or anything. The students are pretty great.

Are you looking to teach for a big/small company? Children or adults? Groups or private lessons? Now's a good time to be applying in Japan because I think a lot of people are still afraid to come here so many places are hiring I think.

The main issue I have with my job in terms of culture is the lack of rights/personal protection granted to teachers compared to students, but it could be just my company. And in terms of conduct between teachers and students as well (there are a few things they allow here that I'm pretty sure would never fly in Canada), but that would probably not apply if you were only teaching children.

Or maybe you were asking about cultural differences in general and not specifically related to work? Anyway, I'd be happy to answer any questions and I may feel like ranting about my experience tomorrow.

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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:02 pm 
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I didn't know you were teaching, PR!

I wouldn't be doing it super long term either. It's something I've always wanted to do and I meant to do it like 12 years ago so it is probably time!

I am applying to the bigger companies, after reading extensively about them on the Dave's ESL Cafe forums. I know I'll run into some frustrations, and my TEFL instructor was really great about covering what to expect, but yeah, I'm definitely nervous about the unexpected. Mostly I'm just nervous about the teaching! Standing up in front of a crowd isn't my idea of a good time, but I've worked with kids a lot in the past and it's different there. One thing people keep telling me is that I need to be very sure that the school isn't going to throw a million different mixed ages/levels at me...but I've also been warned that that is hard for a first year teacher.

I will email you with questions, I'm sure. Thanks for responding!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 1:16 pm 
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Seagull of the PPK
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I worked for a big one in Japan and loved it- as a big company, they were super organized, had everything down to a science, and everything flowed very easily. Our training was great, and later when I ran my own school I based my teacher-training scheme on what they did. And their materials were quite good (in-house creations).
many friends taught at many other schools of all sizes, and I think I made out really, really well compared to some folks in smaller or mid sized companies. The smaller school people, especially, had issues with getting paid on time, or not being allowed to do many things (socialize with students or people who work for the competition basically made them loners) or some odd situations that more resembled prostitution than teaching.
I was OK with teaching groups but not prepared to teach one-on-one, and I did both about equally. There was a definite sales aspect to teaching at a larger school, but that was OK too, as it actually really helped me develop my Japanese.

The first year is hard with any change, i don't think it is just hard for a new teacher. and teaching abroad, you have a lot to adjust to in the first year.

I'd say on the whole I really enjoyed it. When I stopped working for them after 3 years, I was really ready to stop teaching for a few years, which I did, but then returned to teaching afterwards. It made me so prepared for later challenges (teaching HS, developing curriculum, assessing adults and working in HR), it was a great experience.

ETA: if you like kids, I would totally recommend Amity, the people I knew who stayed the longest in Japan worked for them and had the best things to say. http://www.amityteachers.com/

I would advise lots of research. The teaching scene isn't as hot as it used to be, and is always changing. Luckily nowadays you can search for info on the schools you're considering and see what people have to say.

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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 2:49 pm 
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Thank you so much for that, torque!

I do love kids and I haven't come across Amity yet, so I'll check them out.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:00 pm 
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Man, Amity looks pretty solid. I like how up front they are about everything. I think I'll apply, but they only hold interviews in Toronto and LA. Hmmm....LA vacation?


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:05 pm 
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Amity is (or at least was, back in the day) the kids' branch of Aeon (where I used to work). I know Aeon has done some restructuring since I was there but it is still gold standard.
I would email them and ask if they have any plans to do any interviews on the road (they periodically go to various places to recruit: NY, DC, etc. My interview was a great, crazy weekend in DC staying at a youth hostel full of Belgians who really, really wanted me to share their hash while i was terrified I would be drug tested at the interview.).

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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 5:35 pm 
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Thanks, I will! I'm working on my application essay now.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2012 7:11 pm 
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I'm not in the ESL business but I can answer questions about the culture if you have some!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 2:56 pm 
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Thanks aelle! I will definitely have questions when I'm preparing to go.

I have my first interview already! I've been upfront about the fact that I am wanting to come with my boyfriend, and this company's provided apartments (which are nice and a bargain) are strictly single-occupancy (not surprising). They don't seem to have judged me on that, but just say that he'd have to find his own place. Which seems ridiculous, but I get it. It is still an option for me to go for a year on my own, but we've done the long distance thing a million times before and it is getting old. I'm just going to not mention it again now that I know how they feel, and see how the interview goes.

This position is in Nagoya City.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:18 pm 
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Seagull of the PPK
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I would definitely advise against saying anything about boyfriend. For the beginning he could certainly find a hostel or something and by then you could know your employers well enough to know if they are going to surprise inspect you or not give a crepe.

Remember that Japan operates on a system known as honne and tatemae. Tatemae is the front that is put up for others to see, and honne is what people really think. My company had extremely tight rules but as long as you paid lip service to them (tatemae) it wasn't really important that you complied (honne). I was made to swear 100 different ways that i would never drive in Japan (tatemae) but when my boss saw me driving a very cute sportscar that, coincidentally, was parked in the space behind my building, she didn't care (honne). It isn't so much just plain old deceit, but a bit more complicated- the boss might think it is a stupid rule, but can't say anything or she'll get in trouble, so she turns a blind eye. I found that often stuff was this way, at various levels. If you paid lip service to the rules, and stayed out of huge trouble (crashing the car i wasn't supposed to drive, or getting caught driving it drunk, would have caused huge problems because of the blatant disrespect of the rule), and knew in what areas you could stretch the rules, you would be fine.
Nagoya is where Mr T's brother (and family) lives. Big Brazilian community there. I wasn't thrilled by Nagoya but I spent a night in a Kafka-themed bar there that reminded me of several scenes in Gibson's Idoru.

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I'm just a drunk who likes fruit. -- Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Wed Jan 11, 2012 7:25 pm 
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Thank you! That is extremely helpful. I think I might have been too upfront already, but that's just to the hirer who is located in Vancouver, and she doesn't much seem to care. But I will keep that all in mind as I move forward.

I wasn't thrilled by Nagoya either, but I like its proximity to places like Kyoto. And I have a good friend in Gifu. This is just the first company showing interest, so I'm going to take my time.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:56 pm 
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Interview Monday! I'm so nervous. Any advice?


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:02 pm 
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Seagull of the PPK
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Smile, be nice, dress conservatively. Do they require a demo lesson?

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I'm just a drunk who likes fruit. -- Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:06 pm 
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Apparently not, which I'm kind of disappointed by since I have one ready to go! But who knows, maybe I'll get the opportunity to pull it out and impress them. I am going to have to invest in some long sleeve shirts that don't fall back easily to hide my forearm tattoo. I have a feeling I'll have to get used to that!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:13 pm 
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Mispronounces Daiya
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torque wrote:
dress conservatively.

It's not unusual for some schools to expect their teachers to wear a suit and tie, so for interviews don't be afraid to overdo it on the formal side.

I don't know how it goes for teaching jobs, but I've had some ridiculous interview questions for engineering jobs here. With questions like "can you drink soju/sake? can you eat kimchi?" to "what is your favorite K-pop band?" Maybe some were to try to figure out how well I'd fit in the team (with the mandatory eating and drinking with your boss and colleagues) but some seemed to be completely random and just to pass time.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 9:46 am 
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Seagull of the PPK
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"can you use chopsticks" (heard that one, if i had a nickel for every time.... no, i'm a bloody yabanjin, i just stick my face in the food like a dog.)

seriously, you are going to have to cover that tattoo every day for your entire time there unless you are EXTREMELY lucky and have a young, open minded boss. But who knows, you might luck out.
I kept my wrist piece covered with a big bracelet or watch for a few months until one day the boss noticed (I was working in HR but mostly in the office, not in the field with clients). Then the "meetings" began to decide what to do with me. They had already hired me and needed me, but they were horrified that there was a tattoo in the office. We finally came to an agreement that I would wear long sleeves for the rest of my time with them. Long sleeves in Tokyo summer were BAD! But it is easy enough just to always keep a cardigan in the office on your chair, or whatever. Make sure it doesn't show in your interview!!

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I'm just a drunk who likes fruit. -- Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 1:16 pm 
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No, I know. It's the first person EVERY SINGLE PERSON tells me when I talk about my plans. :) I'm just going to have to find some lightweight nice long sleeved shirts to make my uniform for all times.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:26 pm 
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vijita wrote:
Interview Monday! I'm so nervous. Any advice?

awesome! good luck!

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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:31 pm 
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Seagull of the PPK
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vijita wrote:
No, I know. It's the first person EVERY SINGLE PERSON tells me when I talk about my plans. :)

Sorry!! I should have guessed. You know, you do have another option. Find some medical makeup, like the kind they use to cover varicose veins or scars or vitiligo (i know dermablend but am sure there are others). That shiitake will cover anything.

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I'm just a drunk who likes fruit. -- Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Fri Jan 13, 2012 4:29 pm 
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Good to know! I thought about stage makeup, which I used years ago on a tattoo, but it didn't stick very well when I was sweating (it was for a stage play). I'll make sure I have both options before I go. Last time I was in Japan I went to an onsen in Kyoto without incident, but back then I just had the one pretty small tattoo on my shoulder blade. If I find some awesome makeup to cover them all up, that would be great. I'll check out dermablend. My colleague and I did get yelled at in that onsen, and we totally thought it was because of my tattoo, but actually it was because my friend's ponytail came out and her hair was in the water. Oops. It is quite disconcerting getting yelled at in a language you don't understand whilst nude. The more you know!

Oh and my interview Monday is via Skype. So I could even be pant-less, if I so desired. (I will be wearing pants or a skirt.) There will (hopefully) be a follow-up interview face-to-face in Vancouver, and covering up won't be awkward since it's winter.

Thanks for all your advice! I hope they ask me ridiculous questions. I'm far from being any expert on Japan, but I think it helps that I visited, travelled around independently, and encountered a lot of things I think some other people from the West might have found challenging. And I continue to do a lot of reading and research. I have a pretty okay amount of work experience with kids, and both my degrees have been related to English, so I hope that helps. I hope my Masters helps, because so far it hasn't exactly resulted in job prospects (not that I expected it to). I've heard that Japan is one country that does value grad school degrees.

Exciting!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:26 pm 
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So my Skype interview went well. Next interview is on the 27th in Vancouver with some serious long sleeves. The recruiter is adorable and we laughed and joked, so that's good! I think I semi-impressed her with a silly anecdote about an experience I had in Hiroshima that made me want to be an ESL teacher. I wish my tattoo didn't come down so close to my wrists. It would be so much easier to hide.


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 4:30 pm 
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great! congrats!

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I'm just a drunk who likes fruit. -- Desdemona


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Mon Jan 16, 2012 5:22 pm 
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Thanks! I really appreciate all your advice. I'm pretty nervous still but I feel like I can do this. Here's hoping!


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 Post subject: Re: ESL teachers who have taught/are teaching in Asia!
PostPosted: Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:40 pm 
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Update! We've decided not to go to Japan this time around. My heart was in it but my partner's wasn't, so despite going through those interviews and stressing out (and the interviews went great, btw!), we're going to wait on this for awhile. Still, it was great experience interviewing and I appreciate all your thoughts and advice! I hope in the next few years we can arrange a trip to Japan so I can convince my boyfriend that we need to do this at some point. I'm going to try to resist getting huge amounts of ink tattooed on my other arm until then. :)


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