Monday, May 14, 2012

Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Teaching English in Japan

Gone Seoul Searching is teaching at an all girls university in Tokyo Japan during the summer 2012.

A peek inside of my classroom on class day number 2 teaching ESL in Tokyo Japan.
  Gone Seoul Searching is finally back in the classroom teaching in Japan during the summer of 2012. Because I have a break in my Master's program, I needed a full time job during the summer that would put me back in the classroom and on literally on the map. Finding a short term job abroad for 3-4 months with great pay was virtually impossible until I heard about a company (I won't name it right now because of liability reasons) in Japan from old coworkers of mine. The 3 month contract came complete with a great salary, housing, utilities, and a job at a Japanese University.  All of my criteria were met, so I asked my graduate school professors if I could miss the last 2-3 weeks of class. They all supported me in my teaching and I worked my behind off the entire month of April to get my work submitted early. I was able to complete everything for my graduate school coursework and I just emailed over my graduate thesis proposal a few days ago.

My weekly teaching schedule from 9:10am-5:15pm.
     I was not initially planning on spending the summer abroad. After a rough transition from Korea back to California with my parents in my latest update, I really wanted to dedicate myself to working things out at home. There are plenty of language academies in California that I could have worked at  during the summer, but what I really wanted was to be in a university setting. Since working on my Master's Degree in TESOL at The University Of San Diego I have wanted to apply my skills in university language programs. Any long term ESL professional that wants to make a career out of teaching English should consider the vast benefits of getting a Master's which will allow you to teach at the community college level and above. The pay checks with teaching at a university are not even comparable to that of what you might make getting paid hourly at a language academy that does not require higher level coursework such as a Master's.
On campus at the University.
More shots of the university.
     Another thing that I really enjoy about teaching at the community college level, is the diversity among the students. While doing my practicum at a local community college in San Diego I was able to interact with a class of about 35 students from all over the world. The students came from Russia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Vietnam, Korea, China, Philippines, Morocco, and many other countries. Having such diversity in the classroom makes for an exciting and challenging environment in which your students can do a ton of cross cultural comparison.

Inside the cafeteria.
     Having the opportunity to teach at an all women's University in Tokyo, Japan for the summer has given me added experience upon entering the ESL job market in America. So far, the experience has been more rewarding than I can explain, and I would strongly recommend this short term contract to anyone looking for a more professional ESL environment. The Japanese are very accommodating and hung around my classroom the entire first day of lessons just to make sure that everything went well. The office staff is constantly checking in to see if the other teachers and myself need anything and kindly showed us the teacher's lounge and tea machine.
     There are many differences from my experience teaching in Korea in comparison to Japan. First off, the students are very different. Korean's seem to be more open than the Japanese as I have noticed many of my Japanese students are very shy and reluctant. This shyness is a direct correlation with Japan's formal culture. While Korea did have such formalities, Japan's formalities are on a much deeper level. There is a place, time, action, and word for every situation in Japan, and thus many students are hesitant when first adjusting to Western style teaching and conversation styles. My girls are all extremely polite and want to make sure that they are on their best behavior at all times. They are literally like little robots that will do anything that you tell them too. As an English teacher, this is good and bad. I love when my students are respectful and try their hardest in class, but I also like when my students ask questions and tell me if they can't understand something or are uncomfortable with something. My Korean students seemed naturally curious about Western culture and my own personal life, while my current Japaneses students seem to respect my privacy and allow me to take the lead in the classroom.
     Keeping a student centered classroom with 50 Japanese women university students can be quite challenging. A majority of the girls are in their very first semester of college and have never been exposed to communicative learning or teaching. They enjoy when the professor speaks the entire class, and want you to provide them with a lot of assistance. Because of such strong differences in culture, my company actually recommends drilling and accuracy production as parts of the lesson plan. I was extremely hesitant when I first came across this as I have never drilled before and the companies teaching philosophy seemed grounded on behaviorism with very Skinnerian viewpoints. However, after the first lesson teaching high-Basic I understood why drilling was necessary. As the students get more confident and comfortable speaking English, I will try to drill less and less, but for now such rote methods seem to be a good strategy in the beginning of the class periods. Later in the lesson more free activities are allotted so that the students can practice fluency.
    This is just a short glimpse of life in my Japanese university classroom. More about living in Japan, travel, and teaching will come throughout the summer. So far I have been here 14 days and everything has been more amazing than I ever could have pictured.

If you have any questions or comments about "Gone Seoul Searching in Japan: Teaching English in Japan"  please leave them in the comment box below or email them to
Creative Commons License  Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at

8 개의 댓글:

Anonymous said...

It might be hard to distinguish Korean face which undertook plastic surgery and Japanese face and so both look same at appearance.
But a Korean professor who naturalized to Japan said, "Korea is the closest for Japan geographically but can be the furthest mentally."
Actually, what Koreans want to do is sometimes bad manner in Japan beginning with whether lifting up bowl or not at meal and there are even opposite maxim starting with same words.
So you will understand soon why both people hate each other.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your Japanese reports.

Illaura said...

Just ran across your blog thanks to japan-guide, the school you're teaching at, that wouldn't happen to be 日本女子大学 would it? I only ask because it looks familiar and I'm preparing to study at their Meijiro campus.

Marie W said...

I believe they have 2 campuses one is in Meijiro! : )

Unknown said...

I just found your blog and enjoy your detailed, rosy explanations of life as an ESL teacher. I am getting my masters in ESL and teaching in Taiwan... ever thought about visiting?

Marie W said...

I've been to Taiwan. I loved it!! Such a tropical and friendly place!

Tracy said...

Thank you so much for your thoughtful posts. I am transitioning from a life in corporate communications and starting an MA TESOL program next month at Cal State. I am so excited. The stories you tell and the life you describe is just what my husband and I have dreamt about. Many have told me that I'm wasting my time getting a Master's. They say I should just go somewhere and teach without credentials. But teaching without the training behind it didn't seem to be an honest way to proceed and what you've written here has strengthened my resolve that a Master's is the correct path for me. Thank you so much for keeping me jazzed. Now, if I can only be so fortunate to find great teaching assignments, as you have done. Best of luck!

Marie W said...

Thank you Tracy! Take the time to really invest every second into your MA TESOL program! Also, start teaching ASAP. I know a ton of people that have done an MA TESOL program without even setting foot in a classroom before, only to find out that they hate teaching and end up changing their careers completely after a year or so. Make sure you find out if you like teaching children or adults because they require different qualifications. Talk to as many people as you can within the field. It is a HUGE FIELD and there are so many different ways you can go with it, but first you have to learn what you enjoy doing within it and what you feel comfortable with! Also realize the realities of the job market in California for adult ESL teachers and how competitive it is to find a job in higher education in general. Expect to be very poor while starting out this career and working at several schools part time with no benefits. This is not something that public school teachers in the K-12 sector do not have to worry about as they are given full time positions with benefits. Our scenario is often different while starting out, if teaching adults. With that said, I LOVE going to work and often times do not even consider it work as much as I consider it giving back and sharing the joy of learning!

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Creative Commons License
Gone Seoul Searching by Marie Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at
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