teaching english in japan as a parent
October 17, 2016 7:53 PM   Subscribe

In Japan, is teaching english compatible with family life? would I ever see my children if I did that for a living?

Wife is from Japan, so the question of living and working there gets bounced around from time to time. We have a young child. Were we to do this, we would likely live near her folks in Ibaraki prefecture.

I've noticed that there are many different ways to work as a teacher in Japan, but I've noticed a theme that these schools operate after school hours. So, would I mostly miss seeing my son if I were working during those hours?

How does this typically go? What options would one have?
posted by myriad gantry to Work & Money (6 answers total)
I taught for a year, and I worked 35 hrs/wk primarily between 2pm and 9-10pm. Most people taking classes are students or working adults, so most eikaiwa classes are after school, and then after work. Additionally, while this style of teaching pays a great salary for a 22-yr old with a fine arts degree it's not nearly enough for a family (would your wife be working?). Do you speak any Japanese? Most of the teachers who had stayed and started families were working in admin/managerial jobs for the school.

The hours wouldn't really be a problem until he's in school, or unless your wife is also working and he's in daycare.

You would need to teach at a school (thus during school hours), either something like JET, or get a Master's in ESL and teach at university, or get a traditional teaching credential (or go into school admin) and work at an international school (so, a school for expat kids that mirrors a western system and you'd just be "teaching history" or "second grade" or whatever).

It could also be possible to do tutoring, editing, copyediting, proofreading but I have no specific advice and it's something a lot of teachers (myself included) do "on the side".
posted by jrobin276 at 8:39 PM on October 17, 2016

Best answer: There are a couple standard teaching jobs, eikaiwa, or language school teaching, and being an ALT (assistant language teacher) at a junior or senior high school (or, as is becoming more common, elementary schools).

The basic schedule of an eikaiwa job is pretty lousy, as you're expected to be working when students are available, which usually means these jobs start from early afternoon and finish later at nigh (1-9 pm is not unusual), and you're more likely to have to work one or both weekend days. It's also not uncommon for these schools to have schedules with split days off (like Thursday/Monday off) so it can be difficult to get two days in a row off. They also usually have limited vacation time (still ample compared to most Japanese jobs) of one week in May, one week in August, and two weeks in December. They also don't tend to pay well, and teachers are, for the most part, young, and hired on their ability to be bright and cheerful and provide fun lessons.

ALT positions are usually five days a week, usually M-F, but sometimes Tuesday to Saturday. For the most part, they are 8-5 jobs, and you're locked into the school schedule, but you do usually get August off (though some positions either don't pay salary, or reduce your salary). It's very rare to be directly hired at a school, and most of these positions are filled by companies that send teachers to the schools. Some companies send a teacher to one school only, other positions involve going to a set of schools, sometimes a different school every day of the week. One catch is that the school year starts in April, and it is very rare for there to be openings during the year. The hiring period starts essentially now, and is largely finished by the middle to end of January.

On the other hand, if your wife is a Japanese citizen, you would qualify for a spouse visa which would allow you to do other work, outside of teaching, without needing the teaching visa. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions. I've been here for a while, and I've been teaching most of my time here.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:56 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Gotanda's point about learning the language is pretty worthwhile, especially if "something other than English" is a goal. English teaching is one of the only fields in Japan where you can get by with little to no Japanese ability. If non-teaching work is a goal, you're looking at putting some significant effort into language study.

One thing that's good about eikaiwa is that the expectations are usually quite low, and it is a good place to start to learn a bit about teaching. Honestly, I'd be wary of companies that would hire a teacher with no classroom experience to teach in a high school classroom, largely because you're not going to be put in the best situations, and almost literally the only requirement is a warm body.

Tsukuba, from what I've heard, has a pretty large foreign community due to the research park there. If you end up there, it might be a good idea to try to branch out and get to know people in the area to see if they know of any opportunities available.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:18 AM on October 18, 2016

My mom taught English in Japan for awhile when we were stationed over there, but she kind of took the "Need help with English?" index-card-on-a-grocery-store-bulletin-board route, haha. She mostly found students through friends and friends of friends who were looking for an English teacher or who wanted to practice or supplement their more formal lessons with a native English speaker.

But it worked! She had the occasional weekend class, but for the most part she met with folks during the weekday or early afternoon kind of time frame. She did a lot of one-on-one tutoring for kids and adults (a fair amount of retirees, which made sense) and a language group or two. A lot of times, her students would come to our house, or she'd just meet them at Starbucks or something. It was pretty informal, but she had a great time and her students seemed to be learning and enjoying themselves as well.

Not sure if that is something you were interested in or if it'd be feasible for your situation, but I wanted to throw it out there that English lessons are in high enough demand that you could probably get away with freelancing if you wanted a little more control over your schedule. Good luck!
posted by helloimjennsco at 1:24 PM on October 18, 2016

Another teaching option is doing business English classes as a dispatch instructor. You get sent directly to companies, with your students being (mostly) office workers. Usually you are teaching a morning and evening block (8-10 am / 6-8 pm on average). Afternoons are possible, but less likely. Some dispatch companies have arrangements with universities to teach more informal classes (no Masters required).

You can either get on with one company and work a semi-full schedule, or register with several and piece together a freelance schedule. There are plenty of married with family folks doing this kind of work.

Memail me if you have any questions.
posted by brappi at 6:25 PM on October 20, 2016

Response by poster: Great responses, all. Thank you very much. Green delivers once again!
posted by myriad gantry at 4:18 AM on October 21, 2016

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