Working at Japanese schools can be a demanding job. You have grading, lesson prep, classes with forty students and teachers that sometimes don’t speak very much English, sometimes don’t like you, and sometimes both.
Working at Eikaiwas or Kindergartens too! The parents are a constant struggle for the school, and they have to balance the kids educational needs with the (often unreasonable) demands of the parents. Adding your teacher demands to that is a great way to put yourself back on the job market.
An important part of your job is being a representative of your culture. This is where you have an opportunity to forge job security and a reputation that will give you more power than other English teachers.
Here are some major tips for you on how to make sure you get hired back next year, and maybe even give you what you need to get more money and leverage in negotiations.
#1 – Get to know students at your Japanese School.
This is the best thing you can do with all that spare time you use mulling about the teacher’s room thinking about how boring your test weeks are. The students are human beings, and the way humans learn language is through enjoyable and positive relationships. If you spend time with students outside class, this will make a massive difference to not only their English level but their attitude in your classes too.
And I don’t mean going out for drinks with them! I mean going to (different) clubs every day, chatting with students between classes, and talking to the students at the front gate in the mornings (aisatsu ‘挨拶’ is invaluable for your relationships with the students and keeping your job at the school).
#2 – Get to know the Japanese teachers
I know this can be hard. For better or for worse working in a Japanese working environment can sometimes be very hard to understand coming from a western culture (or even a different Eastern one). That is why being understanding and non-judgemental while you form a working relationship with your Japanese co-workers is especially important.
#3 – Do what the school asks of you without complaint
Don’t be a maverick. When you complain about a task the school has given you, you set yourself out as a person who isn’t willing to pitch in. Like we said in our article about learning to deal with Japanese culture, nobody likes a complainer.
#4 – Remember Japanese cultural holidays and traditions
If I had a hyaku-en 百円 coin for every time a teacher came back fron New Years break and didn’t realise they should have sent nenkajyou 年賀状, New Year’s Cards. To every teacher!
This shows that you have cultural sensitivity and teachers who might have never spoken to you in the whole year will at least respect that you honour Japanese culture.
#5 – Meet your students’ parents (where possible)
This might be harder in ALT positions, but this is especially true if you work at a Kindergarten. Getting to know the mums, and getting them to like you, will be a feather in your cap when it comes time to see which teachers stay and which teachers go. If you can, figure out who is the head of the PTA and be really nice to them, learn to speak Japanese a bit and be really polite and smiley. They will be a huge asset, as the school doesn’t want to upset monster parents!
Now remember, if you don’t like your job you can quit – nobody can make you stay at a job you don’t like. However, if you don’t go a little bit above expectation you might find that decision being made for you. Set yourself up for success.