Teaching English in Tokyo


For about three weeks now I’ve been doing a sweet job helping Japanese high school students with their English.  It’s not exactly teaching, and it’s not tutoring.  It’s more like I go in for about half an hour and play games or just speak in English to different classes.  I got this job through one of my host sisters who attends this particular high school.  The program is called English Shower and there are many other young English speaking people working there.  I have the benefit of being a native English speaker, whereas many of the other helpers are from Europe somewhere.  But anyway, it pays really well, is for a short period of time, and is only one to two times per week.  The only bad things are the school doesn’t cover my train expenses, and on days when I have English Shower I have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to get to the school by 7:55 and get into class by 8 am.  So that kind of blows.  An early train like that is also usually pretty cramped.  But after I do my job, I have a few hours free time to sit in a cafe and do homework or whatever before class, so there are some benefits to having to wake up so early…

There are also many benefits to doing the actual job.  Every time I go, I’m assigned a different class, years 1 through 6, which in American grades translates to 7th through 12th grade I think.  I’m not exactly sure, actually.  But the youngest kids I teach are 12 years old.  On a usual day, I wait in an empty classroom with the other English Shower people and student representatives from the class will come get me and take me to whatever class I have that day.  It’s really fun because they call me “Abi-sensei” (a title I don’t deserve at all but it makes me feel so cool).  When I get into the classroom, I usually just introduce myself briefly and then play a game with everyone.  When I first started doing this, I was so nervous.  I had never taught anything before, and some of the classes I had to teach had 40 kids.  It was so intimidating!  My smallest classes only have 6 students, though.  The night before my first class, I thought up a bunch of different games I could play with the students.  It was challenging because I had to take into consideration different levels of English skills ranging from 1st year through 6th year, and the size of the classes.  Some games only work with small classes.  I think generally good games to play are Pictionary or some type of guessing game.  I feel that something where they have to write or speak English is the best.

After my first three classes, I began to feel more comfortable.  The students at the school are really well behaved for the most part.  I hardly ever have to ask people to stop talking.  They also follow directions really well, which impresses me because I only give directions in English.  The most difficult part is how shy the students can be.  Sometimes they feel too shy to speak or write something on the board.  But I think most students are trying hard to participate.  For one game, I had students write three facts about themselves and then give the paper to me.  Then I read them aloud and we guessed who wrote them.  I got to learn a lot about different students that way and I found they had some really interesting hobbies or unique interests.  One guy just drew a rubix cube on the paper and gave it to me.  I was so confused, but it turned out he was a rubix cube master and just didn’t know how to write rubix cube in English.  After one of my classes, some of the girls came up to me and were really interested in my hair, fashion, piercings, etc.  Again, I felt really cool!  They were all so nice to me.  I’m really enjoying helping out at the school.  It’s a very unique experience and a lot of fun.  I recommend trying to help out at a school or do some English teaching if you go abroad to Japan.

Me with some students from the school


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