This is part of a series of posts by one of my university friends, Graham Moore. He is currently teaching English in Japan, and has agreed to write about the experience for my blog. All of the posts are available under the ‘EFL in Osaka‘ category. Read phase 1 to find out more about Graham, and why he wanted to go to Japan. In phase 2 he tells us about the options for teaching in Japan which he investigated while still in the UK.
Phase 2: Searching from the UK
The most common recommendation for those wanting to teach in Japan is the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET), a government-run system that offers a lot of support to aspiring teachers. While former JETs talk fondly of their experiences (and indeed at the time of writing, I have a JET friend in Tottori who is enthusiastic about her work), ultimately I didn’t even consider it as an option for me. I wanted to teach adults and JET focuses mainly on high school students, plus it didn’t have the amount of free time I desired, having just finished a PhD, one of the few perks of which is you can generally come and go as you please.
A friend of mine recalled his time in Japan teaching with GEOS and recommended them as a capable eikawa (English school). A quick Google search reveals they are now bankrupt and hence unlikely to be hiring.
My first real consideration was By Education, Through Communication and For Community, better known as ECC, a hybrid school and corporation with a solid reputation. I believe their pay is marginally lower than JET’s but they offer higher support for their teachers and give the opportunity to teach both adults and children. I would be expected to do both, though I could put a preference for the latter if I wished. ECC’s main selling point though, was its relatively low working hours (29.5 per week) and its high amount of holiday time (7 weeks, including national holidays). At the time, this seemed like the perfect match for me.
I just made it in time for their June recruitment, though during the application I did get asked the question I was hoping I would be able to avoid: “If you have a PhD in Chemistry, why are you looking to teach English?” Despite this, I was accepted for an interview in London, though apparently Japanese companies often do not pay accommodation or transport costs for interviews, even when in another country. Luckily I have kind friends in London.
There were sixteen interviewees in total, some already teachers, some from other walks of life. After a company talk, we were given an hour-long English test; you had to get a minimum of 70% of continue with the interview process and about half of us were anticipated to fail. It was actually pretty difficult for a non-linguist like me, though I passed and I was able to go on to the next stage. As ECC predicted, seven people failed, two of whom were actual English teachers! Worst of all, I had a quick glimpse of the papers and saw some had failed at 69%!
The remaining nine of us had to plan and perform a practice lesson for teaching simple vocabulary. Long story short, I did my best but I was not among the final five who made it to the final stage. How many were accepted I will never know. But I imagine my lack of TEFL certification and previous experience did not benefit me. I was back to square one again.
The next phase in Graham’s adventures coming soon…