Oct 8, 2018

Teaching in Japan and YOUR Future: A Reality Check

Teaching in Japan and YOUR Future: A Reality Check photo

Teaching, some people say, is a lifetime job. Now let's put that in the proper perspective.

Being a teacher may last a lifetime. I mean, even long after you retire from your teaching job, you would still have the urge or desire to teach someone anything. Because of that urge, some people venture into one-on-one tutoring or coaching, or some would get a pet dog so they can teach them tricks. Well, that may be a different matter.

However, teaching as a job, especially language teaching in Japan, is not really a job that you can hold on for your entire lifetime - and even if you can, please try not to do so.  

Here's why language teaching cannot be a lifetime job:

1. The demands of the profession have been changing exponentially, and as we get older, our bodies simply could not cope up; and

2. The mandatory retirement age here is 60, and while in most Japanese companies employees continue to work as "consultants" past their retirement age, rarely are language schools and/or dispatch companies willing to accommodate employees over the age of 60. They would rather look for someone younger.

So what does this mean then? Simple.

While you are still working, it is imperative that you start preparing for your future - be it in Japan, back in your home country, or elsewhere. Of course, for some of you reading this, one major consideration you have financially is the money you remit back home to support your loved ones. Yes, it is a valid consideration, but it should not stop you from preparing for your future. I would even dare say that saving for YOUR future should be your priority.

Another important asset that you should take care of in the present is your health, for it will definitely have an impact on you in the future.

I cannot emphasize this enough.

Teaching can be a mentally and physically demanding job. There will be days when you will go home so exhausted, that you just find yourself going straight to bed - only to realize just seconds later that you still cannot sleep yet because of your other obligations. As a result, you end up sleeping late and thereby going to work the next day totally sleep-deprived.

Now, that was just your physical health. Like I said earlier, teaching can be mentally and psychologically draining as well. In language teaching especially here in Japan, one problem that you may encounter is of loneliness.

You may be wondering: how? Let me elaborate.

You are teaching a foreign language. You may be able to teach grammar, vocabulary, semantics, syntax, and all the other components of language and figures of speech. However, nuances and context are rather difficult, if not impossible, to teach. In my experience, nuances and context can only be learned and understood by enough immersion into the language. And because these are difficult to teach, these two actually become your obstacles or blocks to being truly understood. Some of your students might be able to talk back to you in English, but unless you translate your true emotions into their native language, they really won't be able to get where you are at.

In other words, unless you yourself learn Japanese, it'll be extremely difficult to find a true, authentic Japanese friend - one you can be completely yourself with. Having said that, your better recourse would be to have a network of friends that you can really talk to - ideally those who speak the language in which you are most comfortable.

At this point I may have already lost you. You may be wondering: why did she bring up loneliness and lack of sleep in this topic of preparing for the future?

To that, here is my answer:

In as much as you are taking care of your work, making sure that you always deliver good if not excellent results, it is equally important that you look after yourself - for now and in the long term. Taking care of yourself now - in all aspects - will get you better prepared in facing the unknown.



A teacher by profession, yet always a student of life. Currently living in Kanto, but in love with Kyushu.