The least favourite part of a teaching job interview in Japan is the demo lesson, but it is the best way to show your skills and land the job!
With nearly every teaching position in Japan, it will be required to give a brief demo lesson during the interview. Although this might sound daunting – what with the pressure of trying to get the job and all – here is the chance to wow the people evaluating you. So how do you go about doing an amazing demo lesson? Go simple, and release your inner showman.
Before starting, though, why should you bother listening to what I have to say? I have been teaching English in Japan for the past four years. I have taught students from as young as one-year-old to adults at all stages of their careers, and each one requires a different approach. Therefore, the following pieces of advice are based on my experiences. There’s more to a job interview than this, so check this post about crushing step two of the interview.
With that out of the way, here are five points to help you give an amazing demo lesson.
Students are Non-English Speakers, So Treat Them That Way
Remember that if you get the job, the vast majority of your students cannot speak any English. Although that may sound like a no-brainer, it cannot be stressed enough how critical it is to keep this in mind. You will be surprised by how much slang and cultural vernacular comes out while speaking. Be mindful that Japanese people, not just children, may have no context for what specific phrases or idioms mean. For example, using a term like the already used “no-brainer” would not be doing anyone any favors.
If, during the demo, something more natural slips out, do not worry too much. After all, your evaluators and your “students” (often demo lessons are performed in front of fellow applicants) do speak fluent English. The accidental lapse into day to day speak will not blow your chances. However, keep yourself in check. Do not come off as someone who thinks they are teaching English to English speakers.
This might sound counter-intuitive, but the less time you are speaking, the better you look. Try not to make the entire demo an explanation of a grammar point. Instead, incorporate an activity into the lesson. Get recruiters or fellow applicants to use the target language being showcased. Have people pair up, get them in groups, or have them walk around the room.
Starting in the year 2020, the Japanese government will be introducing an entirely new curriculum. For English, that means teachers need to teach kids how to produce the language rather than study it as merely another subject on a test. Therefore, if a demo lesson is more production-based, it is going to stand out in the best possible way.
Naturally, the target language can be on display “for reference,” but do not get bogged down in explaining why some words have “a” and others have “an.”
A demo activity I have done in the past was for a first-year junior high school lesson. The grammar point was present continuous (be + verb-ing), and for the activity, the room was paired off, and each pair was given a picture of a classroom with students doing various activities. The pairs would then say something like:
Partner A: She is eating a sandwich.
She is wearing a blue shirt.
She is sitting.
Who is she?
Partner B: She is Carol.
Briefly demonstrate what students are to do and then let the activity go for about five minutes. This allows you the chance to get away from the front and start roaming around the class, “correcting” any mistakes and praising any outstanding sentences.
Never say in five words when something can be said in two. For instance, if the lesson is focused on the proper use of the word “have,” try to avoid saying: I have a shiny, new car. Instead, try: I have a car.
Use the lack of adjectives to your advantage. Encourage the audience to make their own sentences and let them fill in the blanks for things such as color, age, and expense.
Additionally, take care to remember a student may forget a preposition or article when speaking. That is fine in that context since the student is the one trying to learn, and mistakes are part of the process. Also, since even the idea of “the” or “a/an” are nonexistent in Japanese, expecting a learner to use them correctly – or at all – is asking a lot. However, under no circumstances should this be anticipated during the demo lesson (or an actual lesson for that matter). Don’t use broken English for the sake of ease of understanding. Never say: I have car.
Yes, that may shorten the word count, but remember the goal: Getting a job teaching English. Even if I have car gets the point across, and even if it is what the students might be saying anyway, it is still wrong. Simple English must always be correct English.
A typical elementary school lesson lasts for about 45 minutes (50 for junior high school). For the interview, you may be asked to prepare a full lesson but then only be given 15 minutes – if that – to demo it. Therefore, your entire plan cannot fit into the allotted time, so do not even try. Besides, there is no need to rush through what you have prepared. If anything, you want to slow down and ensure that every word is said clearly and precisely.
Speed does not mean efficient, and remember, the job does not involve teaching English speakers. Even the pace of calm natural-speech is often far too fast for someone who does not speak the language. This becomes even more crucial when considering that many native Japanese speakers have a difficult time distinguishing the letters “B” and “V.” So, to an elementary school student, something like “A big black bear on a big black bed” will sound like utter gibberish at nearly any speed.
Proper pronunciation and enunciation are critical to nailing the demo lesson.
Be an Entertainer
Imagine the following scenario. It is the middle of July, the Japanese summer is brutally humid, it is right after lunch, and now a ten-year-old is expected to stay awake during a lesson that is taught in a language that is not their own. Yeah, good luck with that.
To combat this, you will need to bring more energy to the classroom. Where can you prove you have this kind of personality? You guessed it.
When giving a demo, use big gestures and highly exaggerated movements. Think of the interview process more as an audition. Do not be afraid to look a little foolish, and like any good performer, always remember to keep smiling. Most companies want their teachers to be fun to be around and to be taught by, so if you aren’t exciting and engaging then hiring managers will wonder if you can help them meet their goal of keeping their customers.
If you don’t want to be a kids entertainer, make sure you know what kind of job you want to be applying for. Here is a post all about the different kinds of teachers and which one you might want to be.
Needing to give a demo lesson for an English teaching job in Japan is par for the course. It is uncommon for a position not to require one. Although it might appear to be a massive stress point, it does not need to be. If anything, this is where you get to exert the most control and bring your resume to life. Take this opportunity to show how much better than the other candidates you are.