Hello and welcome to the third instalment of Teatime Tuesday with me, your host, Naomi.
This week, my wonderful followers over at twitter voted for me to talk about what it’s like to work in Japan.
Let me start this party by sharing how yours truly, a young girl from Wales, managed to be find herself in the beautiful sea side port of Nagasaki.
The answer is very simple; the JET programme. After spending my third year studying in Kitakyushu University, I knew that I wanted to move back to Japan after graduation. At first I wasn’t really keen on the idea of JET, but after listening to a really good talk, I decided to apply. The process was long and a little stressful, but before I knew it I was sitting drinking tea by the sea in Nagasaki city. That was almost two years ago now!
Working in Japan as an ALT, (assistant language teacher) has been, and still is, a mixed experience. During my time here I have had so many eye opening and life changing experiences. I’ve been given amazing opportunities, both personal and professional, during my time as a teacher here. Experiences that are so vastly different simply from a cultural standpoints.
Since coming to Japan I’ve had to (somewhat) face my fear of public speaking just by getting up in front of my class everyday, a part of my job that has made me surprisingly resilient. Just recently I had to take part in a class evaluation, helping out one of my JTEs (Japanese teacher of English) and give my opinion of how it went, in Japanese, in front of the board of education and around forty other teachers from across Nagasaki city. Of course I wasn’t expected to talk and participate as much as the Japanese teachers, but I was included and did my part.
There are so many small things I had no idea I would have to do as an ALT, things I just didn’t really consider. That may sound a little scary, and it is, but I also find it somewhat exciting. The one sad thing about my job is it gets a little repetitive sometimes and there are days or even weeks where I will find myself teaching the same topic or class back to back across four of my schools.So the little unexpected moments are for the most part, exciting. A little change up is nice from time to time.
The one thing I wish I had known before coming, however, was the fact that TEACHING AND WORKING IN JAPAN ARE VASTLY DIFFERENT. I was truly unprepared for this fact. My year abroad had seen me travel all across Japan during the holidays, taking purikura and filling up on delicious food with my friends. Each semester would end and I would have a big chunk of time to enjoy myself, with days off in the week to keep me refreshed and on my toes. Work life in Japan, as some of you probably already know or can guess, is not so lax.
Famous for their work ethic and perfectly timed transportation, the Japanese take their work very seriously, regardless if your a bin man or the mayer. Overtime is expected and accompanied by no extra money. Weekends are spent at work for the most part and many won’t get home until around nine or ten at night, every-night. Teachers in Japan work particularly hard and are expected to conduct themselves at a very high level, and working in both primary and junior high schools I can confirm, very confidently, that they do. From home visits to check on the students home life and health to organising club practices everyday all year around, it’s probably safe to say that to some degree, the students spend more time with their teachers than their families.
Unlike western countries, teachers in Japan don’t get holidays off either. They come into work everyday over the summer, and if they do want to take a holiday, they have to use something called Nenkyu 「年休」 of which they have 40 days to use as they please. It’s worth noting, however, that they never take it off. Of course, there are some holidays such as new years, golden week and Obon which most teachers will take off as it doesn’t cost Nenkyu and for once, they are not really expected to work.
In regards to my job as an ALT, I get 20 days off a year, as decided by the Nagasaki City Board of Education and am expected to work Monday-Friday during summer, winter and spring and all other vacations. Like Japanese people, however, I do get New Years, golden week and the smattering of national holidays off. One benefit of being an ALT is that any work I do on the weekends, I get compensated for. ALTs in Nagasaki are pretty involved in the community and we attend, help and run many many activities and fun days during the year. I’m also in a Ukulele group and we too give our time to play at many events. This means that I get to enjoy meeting locals and participating in events and get given the time off to take during the week as compensation. It’s a pretty sweet deal in that regard.
Working in Japan sometimes gets to me. As a foreigner I don’t always fit in and I know a lot of the teachers probably don’t consider me a part of the staff. Despite having an intermediate level of Japanese, it’s hard to understand everything and from the work time to the fact that teachers eat lunch with their students, the entire schooling system is very different to the one I experienced and I’m still trying to get the hang of it.
Thanks to my amazing students, who always manage to brighten my day, and the amazing staff with whom I work (and enjoy the occasional drink or too ) with, my time in Japan as an ALT has been pretty great. Not to mention all the support and friendship I have been given by my fellow Nagasaki ALTs!
So all in all, working in Japan has both it’s pluses and minuses and is certainly something you need to think about seriously. However, my dear readers, if you ever get given the chance to come to Japan, be it for work or just a holiday, I implore to you take it, for I can promise you it won’t be something you regret!