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First Time teacher looking for advice on Japan

 
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AMF08D



Joined: 08 Apr 2016
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 7:02 pm    Post subject: First Time teacher looking for advice on Japan Reply with quote

Hello,

I am writing to Dave's community in hopes of finding some answers and starting communications with those who have invaluable knowledge related to the ESL world.

I have been researching teaching over-seas for about a year now and am seriously considering Japan as a destination. My only concerns are the (perceived) lack of low-risk job opportunities and the struggle for financial stability. While my job placement location is flexible within Japan, I will be embarking on this journey with a partner who also will be teaching English.

She and I both have BA's in English and are both TEFL certified from a university ELP with 120 hours (44 in class practicum with students). What can we realistically expect with regards to job opportunities (same city not same school) and how difficult will it be to secure low risk (public school ALT) jobs.

Any and all advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for taking the time to help out.

All the best-
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taikibansei



Joined: 14 Sep 2004
Posts: 726
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 9:57 pm    Post subject: Re: First Time teacher looking for advice on Japan Reply with quote

Not 100% sure what you mean by "low risk." Crime rates are extremely low. Salaries are usually sufficient to break even. Contract terms are typically honored--outside of absolute bottom-feeders like Heart and Gaba, there's little risk of, say, not getting the promised salary. (And if a company does break a contract, you have a variety of options to make them pay....)

Now, getting a salary that will allow you to save money each month is more problematic. With those qualifications, I'd strongly suggest applying to the JET Program first:

https://jetprogramusa.org/

If accepted, you'll get a good salary and a great support system--possibly the best option for newbies in Japan.

My two yen, anyways.
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AMF08D



Joined: 08 Apr 2016
Posts: 23

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2017 10:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for your two yen. Ive heard some horror stories about eikaiwa schools withholding pay and scamming teachers - that's all I meant by low risk. JET is something I've definitely looked into and am very interested in, but the likelihood I would be placed in the same city as my significant other seems to be low, which would be a deal breaker. If you have any more yen to offer Id love to hear more and would really appreciate the advice.
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taikibansei



Joined: 14 Sep 2004
Posts: 726
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thing is, finding an employer that will hire you both together in the same city will be difficult. Chances are that only one of you will get an offer initially--an employer like JET pays enough for one of you to support the other while that person finds a job close by.

While not ideal, the big chain eikaiwas (AEON & ECC) also might be able to accommodate you, so consider applying to them too.
http://www.aeonet.com/
http://www.ecc.co.jp/htm/english/
I have not heard of either running scams or withholding pay illegally.

The better ALT jobs (direct hire) can usually be found only once you're in the country and/or have significant Japan-based connections and experience. Indeed, this is a common theme with the better positions across the board here--they tend to go to those already in the country.

Finally, I would strongly recommend against taking a job with an ALT dispatcher (Interac, Heart, etc.), as they are the source of most of the horror stories floating about.

Good luck!
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kzjohn



Joined: 30 Apr 2014
Posts: 232

PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 2:20 am    Post subject: Re: First Time teacher looking for advice on Japan Reply with quote

AMF08D wrote:
...
She and I both have BA's in English and are both TEFL certified from a university ELP with 120 hours (44 in class practicum with students). What can we realistically expect with regards to job opportunities (same city not same school) and how difficult will it be to secure low risk (public school ALT) jobs.
...


Since you are both qualified, maybe you should both apply to JET (above link). While there is the chance that you both might be accepted, both of you applying may increase the chance that one of you gets accepted.

(If you both get accepted--flip a coin.)

That could then be the anchor job, and then you or your SO would then try for an eikaiwa slot as close by as possible. The one in the "follower" role, would have a 90-day tourist stay to find work, maybe a second 90 days given a visa run to Busan/Taipei & back.

Again, if you both get accepted and are not bothered by abusing/manipulating the system, you could wait to see your assignments before one of you withdraws from the program...
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kkiwi



Joined: 27 Dec 2016
Posts: 8
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Thu Jun 01, 2017 6:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree that JET is probably the best option, if you both apply you double your chances of geting onto the programme.

There is a low chance that you are posted to the same city, but it is possible to be near enough to commute. I knew a couple who got posted to neighbouring towns, lived in one and one of them commuted to their school.
It might help if you both request a particular area, ofcourse that`s no guarantee as the placements can be quite random.

As kzjohn suggested, if you both get accepted and you`re comfortable with working the system, you can just wait and see if the placements will work for you and one of you pulls out if the placements are too far apart.

The starting salary is enough to support 2 people-I supported my family of 4 on it! So one of you could search for a job once you`re there.

If you`re going to apply you need to look into cut off dates and all the documents you`ll need. Plus you won`t start until August 2018.
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marley'sghost



Joined: 04 Oct 2010
Posts: 238

PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just to echo what everyone else said, JET is the best bet. I hear these days there is much more competition for less jobs than back in the day when I was a JET. So keep your fingers crossed. I also hear that most of the placements are in rural areas these days. Might be an issue for you, it is with some folks. The evil dispatch companies have gobbled up most of the big city contracts.
If you are looking to work as an ALT in the public schools, don't rule out the aforementioned evil dispatch companies (except Heart....). I've worked for Interac for years, and have no horror stories. I've had friends who've worked for Altia and had no complaints. The day-to-day-teaching-kids is great. You get to do all the fun teacher stuff and skip out on the heavy responsibility. The dispatch company leaves me totally alone as long as the school is happy and I file my 15 minutes a month of paperwork. The salary and benefits are less than JET, as basically dispatch companies are in the business of taking the schools' ALT allowance money, skimming off a fat "management" fee and giving the teacher the left over. But they won't do anything illegal to screw you over. They really don't have to. Plenty of legal ways to do it. Dispatch is a lousy way to do business, but it will get you your visa and a roof over your head.
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kkiwi



Joined: 27 Dec 2016
Posts: 8
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 7:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To follow on from Marley`s ghost`s comments about it being more competitive and less placements available through JET...

I think this might be changing, at least in rural areas, because of the new Elementary School curriculum coming into effect in 2020. My BOE (and others in the prefecture) is planning on applying for more JET positions for the city to assist teachers with the increased English classes. For rural areas because there is some partial funding from MEXT it makes it easier to afford more JETs.
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The Transformer



Joined: 03 Mar 2017
Posts: 39

PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you weren't hired by JET, and if you still really want to come to Japan, then those "big" eikaiwa chains like Aeon and ECC are probably survivable for a year or two, if you're just looking to spend some time seeing the country. IIRC ECC give you 7 weeks holiday, which is good (though some of those holidays will be busy and expensive holiday seasons, like Golden Week and Obon).

Beyond that, the only other way I'd recommend coming to Japan would be to get into a career back home first, then with a few years experience under your belt, look for a job in that field in Japan, or with a Japan office/branch. For instance, people get qualified as teachers in their school system back home, then with some experience, and perhaps evidence of an interest in Japan, could get employed by an international school in Japan. Other people do Master's degrees in TESOL for instance, then get jobs in universities.
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taikibansei



Joined: 14 Sep 2004
Posts: 726
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We've discussed this for years--I guess it depends on why you'd want to come to Japan. The reason I mentioned JET was that even if both are not hired, it offers enough salary to support both temporarily while the other looks for a job close by. I mentioned the two big eikaiwas because they do sometimes hire couples--rare but possible. Also, the big eikaiwas pay more than dispatch ALT positions...often much more (when you take into account how places like Interac pay less or even nothing in August and March).

Interac is fine...except (as I've posted before) when they suddenly leave 65 teachers without jobs due to their own incompetence:

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/06/15/national/japans-dispatched-alts-struggle-without-safety-net/#.WTHbmlFxW70

Or if your baby dies:

http://www.debito.org/?p=2993&cpage=2

Or when they send out memos with illegal contents:

http://generalunion.org/index.php/interacx/1234-interac-admits-head-teachers-errors

Or when they try to change salaries on you:

http://generalunion.org/index.php/interacx/712-interac-rumor-has-it

Or if you want a bit more than just cup ramen in hand and a roof over your head:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7G95K0vjB3A

Etc., etc. Keep in mind that your salary will be so low because Interac will be skimming about half of your salary as a management fee. (I have a link if you're interested.) Indeed, it would be cheaper for most BOEs to hire you directly...but the BOEs often won't because of their own "issues" with dealing directly with foreigners.

Can you survive while working at places like Interac, Heart, Gaba, etc.? Sure...and many people do. I've also heard that regional management matters a lot with places like Interac, with some people having much better experiences because of this. For somebody already here in Japan--somebody who has to remain here (for personal or professional reasons)--working for, say, Interac (especially for one of the better regional managers) might be the best option available.

That said...would I recommend that you come to Japan to work there? No way...not unless you have some other reason (Japanese spouse, undying love of the language/culture, etc., etc.) that draws you to this country.
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The Transformer



Joined: 03 Mar 2017
Posts: 39

PostPosted: Sat Jun 03, 2017 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you did come over to work eikaiwa or ALT dispatch, you'd want to be looking at progressing your career in some way after 1-2 years, if you were thinking of staying longer term. Regular instructor jobs for these companies really can be the pits (about a step above bartending and waitering, if that), with poor pay prospects and job insecurity. Some people get promotions to teacher management or other more senior positions in these companies, which provide better stability and pay longer term. Or else they set up as private teachers and maybe open their own school.

The advantages of ALT work are that you work a regular 9-5, Mon-Fri type schedule, with weekends and national holidays off, and longer holidays in spring, summer and winter. You also have few job duties, beyond standing at the front of class and smiling while the Japanese English teacher does the teaching and organizing, and spending long hours with nothing to do, trying to find something to occupy your time with. With eikaiwa, you'll almost certainly start off having to work weekends and evenings, and there's a lot more work involved, with a high volume of lessons, perhaps up to 5-6 hours in a day even, kids classes and so on. ALT jobs are "cruisier" than eikaiwa, but that's offset by the even poorer pay and conditions than eikaiwa, though people may do private lessons in their free time to top up their pay.

I posted on another thread that, if you're just looking to do a year in Japan, then eikaiwa and ALT jobs on the whole "do the trick" as it were, and you're unlikely to run into any major issues. Any longer than that, and you really want to be thinking about moving your career on.
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