Posts Tagged Teaching English in Japan

August 29, 2006 – Bike ride in humidity

The main themes running through my summer are teacher shortages at my branch and the insane humidity. Today I got to experience both of those things! Hooray!

Tuesday is usually a less busy day at NOVA, but today we only had 3 teachers on the evening shift, which is about 3-4 people short of fully staffed. This meant that during our dinner breaks only 2 teachers were available to teach lessons. I ended up doing Voice (the open conversation room) 4 times! Fortunately I had some chatty students, so the 160 minutes I spent in the room were not just an extended staring contest.

The humidity was so bad today that the 4km round trip bike ride to and from work actually made me feel crappy. Japanese summer humidity is NOT for Canadians.

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August 28, 2006 – Bad form

Today is one of my scheduled days off. This morning I was woken up by my phone. I got a call from NOVA asking me to work an overtime shift in Fujinomiya.

Numazu to Fujinomiya (thanks Google Maps)

I was totally caught off guard by the overtime request and still half asleep so I almost said yes. Somewhere in the back of my brain an alarm bell started ringing, reminding me that Fujinomiya was about a 40 minute train ride away and that the school was full of group kids classes. I like extra money, but I needed the day off more so I declined and went back to sleep for a few more hours. I found out later that the overtime shift came available due to a teacher calling in sick the day after a party.

One of the annoying things about being a conversational English teacher is that everyone has different days off. This allows the branch to be open 7 days a week, but guarantees that no matter which night of the week there is a party, someone is going to have to work the next day.

Drinking is part of the English teacher culture – many of the fun events after work involve alcohol in some way. In time you either learn how to moderate your intake on work nights or how to work through a hangover. Calling in sick the next day is universally considered to be bad form among teachers, and will make you very unpopular with managers and branch staff (as I learned first hand).

It should be noted that “not drinking” is always an option, but then you risk truly hearing how bad everyone is at karaoke. I don’t recommend this at all.

If you are teaching English overseas, always make sure you can get into the office the next day!

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August 26, 2006 – Cool biz where are you?

In case I haven’t mentioned it a few hundred times already, I really dislike summer in Japan.

Realizing that Japan is hot and humid in the summer, the government introduced a new business dress code called “cool biz” this year. The idea is to reduce electricity use by setting air conditioners to 28 degrees C (that’s 82 F for my metrically challenged friends) and allowing people to not wear ties.

The private sector is slowly adopting the idea, but NOVA is still insisting that all male teachers must continue to wear ties in the office, even thought the air conditioner is now set to 28. Ironically we are now less comfortable than we were before.

Today, like other summer days, I got out of a cool shower, put on my shirt and tie, and then rode my bike to my branch through scorching sunlight and sauna-like humidity. My ride to work, combined with reduced air conditioning in the office and 3 group kids classes left me as a sweaty mess for much of the day. Hopefully my very professional looking tie distracted my students from the sweat stains on my shirt. Urgh.

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August 21, 2006 – Working overtime

A few days ago, my area manager came to my branch and asked very nicely for me and another teacher to work overtime today.

When I first started at NOVA, there were overtime shifts available regularly, especially in the bigger cities. In the past year, overtime has become rare in an effort to cut costs, resulting in cancelled lessons for students. I was asked to pick up an extra shift because there were only 2 teachers available, which wouldn’t cover the schedule at all.

I don’t like giving up my days off, but I do like making some extra money. Not only that, but my OT shift was an early shift which made for an easy day of teaching English. After work I got some food and played Mario Party with The Penpal. Best overtime day ever!

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August 6, 2006 – Moonlighting as a children’s entertainer

A few months ago I had a lot of fun being gaijin Santa Claus for Yamaha English School’s Christmas party. The teachers at Yamaha liked my work enough that they asked me to be a part of their summer party. When I moved to Japan I had no thoughts about being a children’s entertainer for hire, but I am trying to pay off student loans and save for a wedding so I happily accepted.

All of the English teachers at Yamaha are Japanese, so having an actual foreign English speaker show up is a rare treat for the students. The Penpal (a former Yamaha teacher) picked me up early and drove me to the small town of Izu Nagaoka, located in beautiful Izu Peninsula. In the morning I helped the Yamaha teachers entertain 47 children aged 2-3. In the afternoon I was the center of attention for 20 kids aged 5-9. I got to help the kids play games organized by the Yamaha teachers, and I got to act out “summer words” like campfire, jellyfish, and beach.

The kids all seemed to have fun, and unlike when I was Santa, nobody cried. I had some fun too, but being a fun, enthusiastic person for a room full of kids is hard work and very tiring. I have nothing but respect for full time children’s entertainers, and have no desire to attempt this as a full time job.

After everything was done, the Penpal and I returned to Numazu where we celebrated a successful day by watching The Blues Brothers, one of my all time favourite movies filled with very non-kid friendly language.

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July 23, 2006 – Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell

Teaching English overseas is a fun way to make some money and have some life experiences. Finding the right balance of experiences and saving money can be a challenge. When you are away in a fun, exciting, foreign country like Japan for a year or less, you want to get out and do everything that is available. It’s easy to end up spending as much or more than you earn.

The teachers who hang around longer than a year all find different ways to balance experience vs. savings. I have been doing my best to send some money home to pay off student loans while still getting out and experiencing the country occasionally. One of the best ways I have learned to save money is to find something fun to do at home instead of going out to the izakaya or karaoke for the 900th time.

Tonight, in the interest of being fiscally responsible, I invited some people over to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 presenting the classic film “Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell”. Please note: the term “classic” is not an indication of quality in this case.

DSatWfH is actually the third movie in the Deathstalker series. It’s the kind of movie you would get if a group of rich teenagers decided to act out their latest D&D session using only props and costumes they had around the house.

Although I did save money by staying in, I ended up spending more than expected on all of the beer I needed to survive this movie.

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July 19, 2006 – So tired

So tired. Very nauseous. No fun.

I was considering calling in sick, but there is a big shortage of teachers in the area at the moment and I am worried that lessons would be cancelled. I didn’t give any award winning English lessons, but I did teach some English.

 

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