I wake up at 6:15am. Stumble down from my loft, and start getting ready in my shoebox apartment. I leave the house at 7:25am and catch the train to work. I arrive at about 8:10. On average I have to teach 4, 50 minute lessons a day at a Junior High. ALT’s roles vary drastically. Sometimes I’m just a tape recorder, others I take the whole lesson, but mostly I’m somewhere in between.
In the time when I’m not teaching, I am planning these lessons, making worksheets, talking to teachers about lesson ideas or thinking up new activities. But I still get some free time after that so I study some Japanese, or write up posts. I am certainly never stuck for something to do.
I leave work around 4:30pm and get back to the shoebox at around 5pm. Sometimes I go out with my friends after school, or just stay in and skype my family. Frankly though, after school I’m pretty useless, it feels like no time has gone by before it’s time to hit the hay and start it all over again.
Pay is pretty good, there is definitely room for some serious saving to be had. Also if you go private you will have a lot of free time compared to other countries. Japan has loads of national holidays meaning plenty of 3 day weekends, also 2 weeks Spring, Winter and 6 weeks in the Summer. Mainly though I just LOVE my job. If I’m having a bad day, the kids take that all away when they smile or if we sing a round of One Direction. I love the buzz of getting up there and the kids enjoying English.
6:15am wake up times are clearly not my thing; neither is 9-5 monotony. If you work here, you are still working for the man and have to adhere by strict rules (no pulling a sickie to go sing karaoke here I’m afraid). Teaching children is hard work and very stressful, it is definitely not for some people so you have to know whether it is your thing first. It also can be hard to live in a country where you don’t speak the language, but people are often super helpful, it’s just a bit demoralising to have someone read your mail to you.
Every recruiter is different. But mostly they ask for a degree (of any subject or class) and Native (or at least near native) English speaker. Teaching experience and Japanese ability is not required, but I would say you will definitely find it a shock if you have absolutely 0 of either of these. Being around children is hard work and exhausting so try and find some experience, even if it’s unpaid, at a local school. As far as Japanese goes, just learning to read katakana will get you a long way.
The most popular scheme is the JET programme, which while paying a lot more, offers less holidays and only recruits in October/November. Most private recruiters offer less pay, but more holiday time and recruits all year round. Each company is different so look around to find the right fit. Some popular companies include Interac, KBS, OWLS and Aeon. I personally work for Interac and would recommend them, but it’s a personal choice which company you would prefer.
About the author:
George is a 20-something hitchhiker, solo female traveller and cunning linguist, currently teaching in Kyushu, Japan. She circumnavigates the globe and teaches languages to all those in her wake. She has travelled Europe and Oz extensively, and has taught languages in 6 different countries and counting. Her blog is a mix of language learning, TEFL tips and general travel tales. Follow her journey at George on the Go or on Facebook or Twitter.