Thursday, January 11, 2007

Advise on teaching as a profession in Japan

Sometimes I get mail from people asking about teaching jobs or working in Japan in general. This is an edited version of one that I received as a comment yesterday. I deleted the comment because it contained personal information, but I thought I would share the comment and my response here.

Mr. Kirk, Didn't know how to contact you, so I'm leaving a note on your blog. I thought your views were great, and maybe you could give me some insight. I am researching the possibility of teaching English in Japan. I am a published author, with a background in journalism and commercial writing. I am planning on teaching in Japan and writing another book. I've been researching a lot and thought you might have some insight. If you could spare any advice, re: best companies/schools to work with, I would really appreciate it.
My reply:

Thank you for your comment to my blog, EFL in Japan. I enjoy posting there when I have time, which should be more often, but it is mostly about keeping a long-running record of my professional life, one that others like you may me interested in looking at selectively.

As for work in Japan, I came to Kyushu 20 years ago and worked at a "conversation school." You probably know what they are. Conversation schools are all over the place, and it should be easy for a person with your credentials to find a position, but to get a working visa, you may need to look from where you are. Some big conversation schools, like GEOS and NOVA, interview in other countries. Otherwise, I'm not sure how to find a position from abroad.

There are also universities that advertise abroad. You could always apply for a position through one of their offerings. What I could tell you about working here could fill a book, maybe one that I'll write someday, and I have very strong opinions about the treatment of international workers here. I'm not sure what you are interested in, though. Do you think you would like to stay here for a while, like five years or more, or are you here for a year or two of exploration? Do you have a family to support, or are you on your own? If you are single and here for a year or two, anyplace will do. They will pay you a living wage, and you'll have no responsibilities other than to slog out the hours in the classroom. If you plan to be here longer, want to work for one firm for more than a couple of years, and want a better wage, there will be more competition. Japanese schools and companies discriminate against international workers, offering them less favorable employment conditions than may be legally allowable. However, unless you know or care about that, most people never do anything about it.

I strongly suggest that, regardless of what you decide to do, you looked at Arudou Debito's web site, . There is a mountain of information there to wade through, but you should get an idea of employment in this country. I personally suggest that after you sign the contract, which is only for foreign workers you understand, that you immediately join the union at the workplace, or you start one yourself. It is easy and the only practical protection you have in this country from immoral and illegal labor practices. Courts of law are generally of no help at all and will cost you endless hours and cash to use.

I would be happy to communicate with you further if you would like to clarify your situation and what options are available to you.

This would go for anyone looking for work here, Japanese or foreign national.


EFL Geek said...

20 years! wow, I thought I was approaching veteran status in Korea, but it looks like I've got a long way to go. I'm only halfway to where you are.

Daniel said...

Ten years is a long time to be living in a foreign country. I forget sometimes that some people never even leave the state they were born in, at least that is true of the place where I spent many years, West Virginia.

20 years is just inertia.