Archive for March, 2008

In early December of last year, I applied to the JET Programme, a program sponsored by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, a Japanese governmental organization. CLAIR places native speakers of English in private and public schools throughout Japan to promote English language skills and cultural exchange and understanding. Unfortunately, after going through the second longest and most arduous application process of my life (Las Vegas Metro Police being the first), I didn’t get an interview.

I was horribly disappointed but not totally surprised, as each year they get many times the applicants as positions they need to fill. To make it even more competitive, the application deadline was a month or two after Japan’s biggest private English language school, Nova, went bankrupt, so thousands of experienced, native English teachers, already in Japan, found themselves applying for work at about the same time.

I found out in late January they weren’t going to interview me, so I struck out on my own. I started by earning my TEFL certification in early February in one rather intense weekend from i-to-i International, a British firm that offers accredited TEFL courses in six English-speaking countries. With cert in hand, I started applying to private English language schools in Japan. I posted my newly-revamped résumé on job boards, applied for individual positions, and read as many forums and blogs and tips as I could.

One of the things I was looking for was a company that provided a good amount of support for incoming teachers. For instance, I would rather someone who knows the area find an apartment for me, so I paid extra attention to the job postings that spoke a few lines about the assistance they provide to incoming teachers. I found that in the company that ended up hiring me, American Language School. They provide a week of training on their particular way of lesson planning, separating students into grade levels, and how to use and integrate the different textbooks, workbooks, and supporting teaching materials that the school uses. After that, incoming teachers shadow the teacher they’ll be replacing for one more week, then they’re on their own.

I was excited when they offered me a second interview, and absolutely ecstatic when they offered me a job last Thursday, March 27th. The only caveat was that I needed to be in Japan on Tuesday, April 8th. Yes, that’s only a week and a half of notice to move across the Pacific ocean. So now I’m feverishly packing my house.

I’m really not that worried about teaching. I know I’ll do fine once I’m over there. I have a reasonably strong grasp of the English language, and I’ve taught plenty of classes with absolutely no supporting materials, so I think I’ll do fine with whatever they provide.

The position they gave me is the one I requested in my initial application, in Matsuyama. Matsuyama is a city about half the size of Las Vegas, and sits on the northwestern part of Shikoku island just across a channel from Hiroshima (kind of near Bunny Island, actually). My company-subsidized apartment is a five minute walk from the school, and I’ll be taking it over from the outgoing teacher, a New Yorker named Erin. The initial contract is a one year commitment, extensible in six month increments. I’m not sure how long I’ll ultimately be there, but it’ll be at least a year.

I just learned last night that I will be the only teacher at the school. Not the only American teacher or the only foreign teacher even, but the only teacher, period. I’ll have 25 hours of classroom instruction time per week, interspersed with prep time and paperwork time. Erin mentioned that the setup at this school afforded him a remarkable amount of freedom to teach how he saw fit, which is good in that I won’t have someone constantly telling me how they would rather do things, but a little unsettling in that I won’t really have much direction, or the experience to draw on to formulate my own teaching methods in the first place.

At the moment though, I’m more concerned with getting my crap in boxes and getting it to my mom’s house with my dog, car, and grand piano, so I can get my house rented. It’ll be a fun week, I tell you. In fact, I’ll be getting back to it right now. 🙂

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