Teaching English in Japan is a great first job abroad, but with so many companies hiring, which is the best to choose? I chose AEON, and if I could go back in time I’d make the same decision again. Here’s why:
The difference of an Eikaiwa
There are numerous types of English teaching jobs where one can work in a daycare in a big city, a high school in the mountains, or at a branch office in a bustling suburb. AEON is an Eikaiwa (英会話), an English conversation school – Eikaiwas, of which there are many, are a place where students of all ages work primarily on spoken English rather than the rote memorization of grammar that is common in Japanese schools. The Eikaiwa is a great first step into teaching in Japan as it gives the teacher an opportunity to interact with students on a personal level and learn about your new area through daily conversations.
Getting established in Japan
Through AEON’s practiced, streamlined hiring process, my biggest concerns when preparing for my Japanese work life were saying goodbyes and choosing souvenirs for my AEON co-workers.
Once hired, I had a say in which region and even which school I would be placed in. I received a partial flight reimbursement, boarded my flight, and was promptly greeted by AEON staff in Japan. Along with the other trainees, the Japanese staff ushered us to our company provided training accommodations.
After initial training was completed, I was met by my manager at the train station nearest to my school and was guided through the most necessary tasks – legally speaking – of getting established in Japan: setting up a bank account and registering at city hall. On the same day, I was shown my furnished apartment and presented with a hanko, a stamp required to sign documents both at work and in one’s personal life. The apartment was chosen by AEON, with the rent automatically subtracted from my monthly paycheck. In addition, a hefty box containing a futon and basic toiletries curtesy of AEON quickly arrived at my doorstep.
A stable environment
Each Eikaiwa operates differently, with variation coming in the form of working conditions, teaching materials available, and how teachers gain students.
AEON is a national chain that is under KDDI, a Japanese tech-giant. Considered to be one of the higher-end Eikaiwas, AEON classrooms are typically in easy-to-access areas within well-maintained buildings with each teacher typically assigned to a single branch location.
Interacting with students and being able to share culture is highly rewarding, but some schools lack a wide range of materials that suit each students’ needs. Walk into any teacher’s room at an AEON school and it’s abundantly clear that as an AEON teacher, you will never want for class materials. When the need to create custom materials arose, I had the time during one of class-free, paid hours to do so. At many English teaching jobs, being paid for preparation time is not a given.
When choosing a job, compensation is certainly at the top of the list of considerations. English teaching jobs at AEON pays a consistent, hourly wage that is not impacted by daily student load. Some seasons are busier than others, but unlike schools that only pay for teaching time, an AEON teacher’s salary will not fluctuate. Additionally, both the teaching and management staff work to ensure that there’s a consistent flow of students and maintain a teaching/preparation time balance. Many other English teaching jobs put the responsibility to find and keep students solely on the teachers’ shoulders, which can significantly impact one’s paycheck.
What’s an AEON lesson like?
In one word: simple. Because AEON is partnered with KDDI, televisions project the school provided iPad screen. All of the slides and media used in nearly the all lessons one would ever teach is contained on the iPad. Through initial and follow-up trainings, teachers not only learn about the art of teaching, but also how to use AEON’s materials efficiently. Within a few weeks, the rhythm and timing of the lessons becomes second nature, leaving you – the new star teacher – bandwidth to interact with your students on a personable level while providing quality teaching. Homework, too, is assigned based off an intuitive system that is consistent throughout all materials.
AEON is not only a school, but a business. Therefore, staff meetings will include supplementary material sales figures and student registration numbers. Teachers are often required to pitch extra courses and materials to students. Sales may not appeal to every teacher, but many students at AEON are very serious about their English studies and appreciate the customized service as well as the additional opportunities to improve.
There are also numerous daily life perks that come with being an AEON teacher, including annual health checks, accompaniment to doctor’s appointments if Japanese is not your forte, as well as thorough guidance on paying taxes while in Japan. No matter what the trouble, I knew I could rely on my manager or co-workers for assistance. For example, where is the closest 避難場所 (hinan-basho, evacuation site in the case of a natural disaster)? Or, what do I do if I lose my key (AEON has a spare!)? The comfort that comes from having a supportive work environment with management trained to assist newcomers, even for those with Japanese language skills, cannot be overstated.
Leaving a cohort of co-workers and students is always difficult, but at least AEON makes the process straightforward and transparent. With the signing of a few documents, the handing over of a cash-stuffed envelope containing the final paycheck, and a final apartment inspection, it is off to the next adventure. AEON even has a detailed package detailing how to withdraw money from the Japanese pension fund.
Moving abroad can be a daunting task. AEON truly went above and beyond what other Eikaiwas offer to set up a comfortable life for their teachers. AEON provides both comprehensive support for the essentials, such as setting teachers up with an apartment, and therefore reduces many of the headaches commonly associated with moving abroad. For me, that meant I could spend my off time traveling throughout Japan, hiking, exploring with friends, stress-free. Knowing what I know now, if I had to do it all over again, I would absolutely choose AEON as my first teaching job in Japan.