This is the classic question that people trying to land the teaching job ask. What really do you need to get the job in the first place? This is a very hard thing to answer, especially if you are starting out and have no teaching experience yet.
There are books and regurgitated articles on-line about volunteering and mentoring so that you can line yourself up for the teaching job that you want. That might be good advice, but I think that if it is really your heart’s desire to become a teacher you will, sooner or later, wind up with the job you want.
But be careful what you wish for. Sometimes teaching jobs are pretty rough. Sometimes there are a lot of very unqualified people in this line of work, and if they have been around for awhile they might even be your manager or supervisor.
For us here at englishbiz, there are few things that you are going to need to land the job. Here they are, and in no particular order.
- Working Visa: This is a must. You need to have a passport with a visa that let’s you work in Japan. You may say, “What? That is ridiculous. I am a good teacher, and you should hire me, and you should see that and thus sponsor my visa!” I would probably agree. We do get a lot of very good applicants who send us CVs. To the ones I like I usually ask them to please come to Japan and work for one of our competitors. When they see how this market works a little then we can talk with them about why englishbiz is really an awesome place to be as a teacher in Japan. In the past we have indeed sponsored visas, but we do not do that at this time. The reason for that is that we have been “burned” a few times by people who got the visa we invested many hours into (translating, meeting, planning, and paperwork galore) just to have them disappear in a few weeks, or deciding not to get on the airplane at the last minute, or coming here and saying that they really hate Japanese food and want to go home. So, if you have a visa in your passport, and you have been around a little, we can assume that the food is okay, that you know what it is like to live in Japan, and you will not have any sudden attack of homesickness. Sorry guys, but this is a policy we are holding onto for now. The pool got muddied by others before you.
- A University Degree: This too, is a must. In the past we tried to work with people who were just in the midst of finishing up their degree, but when they landed a job with us they just put the brakes on their studies. This is really too bad. I don’t know how to say this in a nice way, but having a university degree DOES matter. It is expensive. It is hard. It takes a lot of time. But when you get it done it shows us that you are serious, and that you mean business. University degree holders usually are people who start big projects and get them done. University graduates usually write better, communicate better, and are not immediately confused when they are not agreed with. They usually spell better and have better study and learning habits. These are things that we need to pass to our students. So, sorry about that one too guys. Get your degree done. Yes, it is a pain, but you will be glad five years later that you got it done. Seriously. Trust me on that, okay?
- You Got to Like Kids: This is a hard one to judge in the interview. Whenever I ask, “Do you like kids?” everyone always says, “Are you kidding me? I LOVE kids. I ADORE kids. I plan to find a very fertile wife/well stocked husband/resourceful partner and have 20 or so kids myself!” I have to stop asking that when I interview people. The answer is very predictable, and no one ever says something like, “Well, you know, kids are okay, you know like parsley or something like that, but I don’t really dig them you know… I would just like a job please.” When teachers start to work with us we see pretty soon whether or not they like kids, and if kids like them. You either have kid-magnetism or you don’t. I think to be honest, the best way to connect with kids is to just be yourself. Ask them questions about their world. Ask what they like to draw. Ask them what is really the best ice cream in the world. Ask them who is a funny character on TV. Ask them if they have pets. And just hang around and let them talk and ask things too. Kids know if you like them, and if you do they will be on your arm in no time.
- You Got to Be Honest and On Time: Working in a company or school of any kind is serious. People depend on you. People need you. In our company, kids and parents depend on you. Be on time. Be punctual. Be better than punctual. Be early for work and make that your habit. Don’t take it personally. No one is trying to “exploit” you for being 10 minutes early for work. Just do it so you can get set up, organize your day, and then get to the classes you need to teach. When things go wrong, or weird, or unexpected, don’t panic and don’t tell lies. The truth works for us, even when it is an unhappy truth. If you screw up, or break something, or make a mess of something, or make a mistake just accept responsibility. Say that you are sorry and then ask what can you do to make it right. As soon as you do that, you give us permission and the ability to let things slide, or to work with you to make a solution. People who are late, slovenly, lack personal discipline, who refuse to accept responsibility when they cause an accident, and who are basically “takers” are not of any real value to our company or the kids we teach. Be honest. Be kind. And when trouble comes (and it always will at some time) accept that and bring it to your team so we can work together to fix it or get around it or forget about it. Trust me on this one. If you make a mess of something and then try to shift responsibility to someone else, or blame someone else, we will see instantly that you lack some important qualities that we need for our classrooms. Honesty works best. Truth.
- Be Flexible: Working in a school or company means that you work with other people. People are messy and make mistakes or make bad plans. Chances are that you will be affected by others in your school and company and they will make a mess of your day. Be okay with that. Be okay that other people need you to help them, and then go and help them. Sometimes you may need to take a shift in an inconvenient place for work. Just do it, and be helpful. We know that sometimes our plans need to be changed for all kinds of reasons (sudden cancellation of a teacher due to illness for example, or bad weather), so when things get messy just stay cheerful and help us out. Help your team. We remember that kind of thing, and then we can reward good teamwork too. Trust us on doing that as well if you can.
Well, that is the short-list of things that you need to do to get the job, and to keep the job. I am not sure how helpful it is. I think that the core element of this blog is to emphasize that empathy for your teammates and for the kids is very central to our work together. If you can do that, you will go far. If you can think of how to help others you will be a great teacher and a much valued teammate. It sounds corny, but it is true. If you “pay it forward” you will be happier in the long run, know you did the right thing, and give some kind of permission to those around you (if not the universe itself) to pay you back in kindness too.
Best of luck in the job hunt!!