“Hey Mark, I got a friend, he’s really nice, yeah, and anyway, he is coming to Japan and he is looking for a job. His girlfriend/fiance/wife/life-partner is Japanese and they are going to be looking to start a new life. Yeah, and well, you see, he needs a job, and he is a mechanical engineer and a computer guy. So, well, he doesn’t really like kids so much, but he is nice and real smart, but really quite introverted, and he is looking for a job to pay the bills y’know…..”
I can’t tell you how many times I get this kind of request from friends or relatives, or people who are extensions of either. There seems to be this IDEA out there that teaching English to kids in Japan is not “a real job”, or that it is the “kinda job you kinda do until you find your REAL job in the REAL world.”
Let me break this down for you dear friends and neighbors why and where I have all kinds of problems with this assessment.
- Japan is a real country. Real people live here. They have real lives, real bills, real worries, real kids, real pets, and real worries for the future. Really.
- Teaching English is a job. Yes, that is right. You heard it here. Teaching is a REAL job. Teaching kids is a REAL job. Teaching kids in Japan is a REAL job. It requires REAL work from REAL teachers who get paid REAL money.
- Working as a teacher for kids is not a “temp job”. It is not the job where you are “slumming” until you write that great American novel, get discovered by America’s Got Talent, or until you are finally recognized by your peers that you are a genius in the other field (not teaching) for which you have a burning, yet unappreciated, passion. Teaching is a kind of mission for life, and a “calling”, a “pull”, and a recognition that you are truly NEEDED by others.
I wonder if we could find some parallels between teaching (arguably a “professional” type job) and another professional job, let’s say… dentistry?
Dentists have to go to university to get degrees, and they need training so that they are good at cleaning, flossing, repairing, filling, pulling, and shaping teeth. I love dentists. They are tremendously important and their essential nature for society is not in dispute.
Imagine a conversation where someone said to your local dentist:
“Hey man, listen I got this friend… Yeah, his name is Mark, and well, since he was a teacher for kids and that was okay, he needs to get a job for awhile doing something different. You know, he has to pay bills… Anyway, do you think he could come down to your dental clinic and help your customers floss? Maybe he could hold the drill, or that suction thing you put in their mouths? He’s a little smart, and he has teeth. Yes, ALL of them. Also, he has seen a lot of teeth in the mouths of kids he used to teach English to. Do you think you do a brother as solid and give him a job…? He’s kind of a jerk, but c’mon, can you just give him the job already?
Would you like me as your dentist?
Probably not. So why, for the love of all those delicious soy-flavored snacks you can enjoy here, do we have this idea that ANYONE should be able to teach kids English in Japan?
I hear the whispered responses…
“Well, if you are a native speaker you can talk to kids in English….”
“How hard could it be….?”
“You don’t have to be such a jerk, Mark….”
Yeah, I heard that last one. But, I am afraid that I have to be a little bit of a jerk on this one. You see, from my side of things we don’t just see the kids in the classroom. We also see the parents. There are a good number of our parents who whisk their kids to our front doors who arrive with the child on the back of their bicycle, or rumbling about in the back seat of an old junky car that has seen better days. We have moms in our community who are working like crazy at local convenience stores, at the supermarket check-out, and at McDonald’s, earning very low pay to scrape together enough to send their kids to English class.
This is for real.
I had one mother, who during a consultation because her daughters were acting up in class, burst into tears, and said, “I want my kids to come here so that they can do something that I could never do. They need English for the future, to have a better chance. I WANT that for them.”
Then I almost burst into tears too.
So, you see, as a school we really need to protect our classrooms, have a good program, make a safe environment, really design a good curriculum, and yes have actual good teachers who are thoughtful, caring, enthusiastic, interested, engaged, empathetic, committed, and full of joy in the moment, for the kids they meet.
The kids DESERVE it. They are REAL.
The moms DESERVE it. They sacrifice a lot to make it happen.
How could I possibly, in clear conscience just drop any “native speaker” in the classroom for the kids? Just because some guy has a Japanese spouse and needs a job (temporarily) until he can do something different? That is not a good reason enough. My job, though it may be hard to believe, is to protect the quality of the experience of our students, and to support, serve, and collaborate with our teaching team.
Does this mean that YOU will never be good enough to teach kids in our school?
Let me tell you again what we are looking for:
A teacher-type who is/has:
- Either young or old
- Has a university degree (education, language is preferred but not required)
- Has experience, passion, interest in working with kids (as a teacher, mentor, coach, camp counselor….)
- Wants to teach, not “needs to resort to teaching…”
- Has empathy for others, is tidy, organized, cooperative, flexible, teachable, has a sense of humor, is not adverse to trying soy-flavored snacks, kind to animals, enjoys pina coladas or getting caught in the rain, and other qualities that make you someone others can appreciate and enjoy being around.
- Has a working visa, or spouse-visa to be in Japan (Very sorry on this one dear readers. We do not sponsor visas at this time.)
- Is thinking that they may consider teaching as a long term career, or possibly, in time to come, to run their own language school.
What we are very much not interested in is someone who “just needs a job”. That is not going to work for us, and it does not work for our team, or our parents, and most certainly not for the kids. They need a good teacher like they need a good dentist.
Lastly, I really do not think we do anyone a favor by giving someone a job just because they need one. We have tried this in the past, to disastrous result, so we are not keen to go down that road again. I am not sure if I explained our position fully on this matter. I hope I did, but at the very least, thank you for letting me get this one of my chest.
All the best to you in your careers, and job hunt if you are on one!