Teaching Japan

The Highs and Lows of Teaching in Japan

Teaching Japan: What are the highs and lows of teaching in Japan?

I`ve been teaching Japan English now for over 20 years. I`ve taught at various schools including ECC, the YMCA, St. Mary College in Nagoya, Tokai University, Keio SFC, and my own school -- Kevin`s English Schools.

After about 1 and a 1/2 years here I felt I knew enough to open my own school and I opened Kevin`s in 1991.

It was a tough struggle, and certainly one of the highs and lows of teaching in Japan.

I enjoy teaching. I enjoy meeting new people and talking with people and I enjoy the exchange of ideas that teaching involves. Not only between the teacher and students, but between colleagues as well. My colleagues at Tokai are great!

I enjoy the act of teaching. I enjoy teaching people of all ages. I also learn so much, maybe more than they do!

Some of the lows of teaching

When students quit studying at your English school, especially if you felt they were just about to take off.

Or if you teach at a junior high school or a university, it is difficult to get through to some of the students.

Teaching Japan English can cause burnout. It is always a problem for teachers I think. I put so much of myself into my teaching that I have to remember to pace myself.
It isn`t a sprint, it is a marathon.

Some of the office politics you have to put with, and I include in that, some of the rudeness of colleagues or students here and there. For the most part though, people are kind and caring, and it seems to vary from institution to institution. Some placesare more relaxed and warmer places to work at than others.

Hearing people put down teachers or the job of being a teacher.

I feel that good teachers are born not made--really like good athletes. If you have it, that`s great. You can always improve on it.

I feel we are lucky to be teachers. It is such a great job no matter where you teach. And to those who complain about it or think it is not a worthy endeavor, I suggest if you don`t like it, then it is obviously time to move on. Either to an institution that suits you more, or into another profession.

There are many highs and that is why I like teaching:

When you finally get through to a difficult student or find common ground with them--this often happens in some of the junior high, or university classes I teach. It is always a high when this happens.

At the end of a term and the students have obviously enjoyed and gotten something out of the class. When students improve is always nice to see. Seeing the children or even the adults progress in their English is rewarding.

Generally I feel that teachers make a difference. I really don`t feel I am just an English teacher, I feel I am an "internationalizer" in my own small way. We as teachers, are opening up Japan to the world. It just happens to be through an English class.

Some of the highs and lows of living in Japan

Some of the highs, meeting my Japanese wife. Having three great kids!

Living here is always interesting. It is quite different from Canada. Then again I often find things very similar too.

Japan teaches me many things about myself, about Canada and the way Canadians think, and of course about Japan as a country itself.

Meeting people from all over the world, not only Japanese but people from many countries.

In general life is pretty good and pretty easy for me here.

Some of the lows:

Experiencing racism occasionally. Getting the absolute worst table in the izakaya (Japanese bar), or hearing some kind of racist comment. These incidences are relatively rare however.

If you are interested in teaching English in Japan, here is my advice:

Learn all that you can about teaching. Pay attention to which teachers you like. We have all had many great teachers over the years, why were they great? What was it about them that you liked? Then try to emulate that yourself when you teach.

Learn all that you can about the country that you will teach in if you plan on teaching abroad. Know before you go, in other words.

How to be a more successful teacher of English?

Read! Attend lectures! Talk with colleagues and the star teachers of any institutuion you are associated with.

Study! -either on your own or at a university.

Never stop learning you can always improve!

Check out our Teaching Japan links below:

Teaching Japan: teaching business English lessons.

Teaching Japan: teaching at English schools in Japan

Back to How to teach English in Japan (home)

Our list of English Schools

First Steps: what do you need to do first?

Check out ECC where I taught for a while.