Back From the Sarcophagus– Where To Next

Image taken from visitkochijapan.com

I’ve been gone for a week on here, but after combatting some writer’s block and travel withdrawal I’m finally back from the sarcophagus. Its been 5 days since I’ve been home after being in Europe the last 6 weeks. I initially had hoped to stay in Barcelona through the summer as an evaluation period while traveling through other parts of Europe when possible, but have found out for those outside of the E.U. its extremely hard to get a work visa because most language schools automatically turn away non E.U. passport holders.

My original plan was to stay somewhere in Europe, gain experience, and then get to the end goal of teaching in Japan. I really am not sure what will happen once that actually happens. I’m not trying to be some magical crystal ball that can foresee my future after an initial year, and think doing so or trying to plan out every little detail took away slightly from while in Europe in the beginning. As much as I’ve loved Japanese culture for as long as I can remember and have wanted to live there I’d like to think that I’ll likely stay at least a few years. I’d like to hope that this was a blessing in disguise and that I was just stalling the inevitable of getting over to Japan and hopefully staying.

A couple of weeks ago I had an interview with a Japanese recruiter and the thought of teaching 40 hours/week with kids to start out was somewhat unnerving. I only have experience teaching adults, but the two groups of adults I taught were completely different and showed me my own chameleon like ability to adjust transferred from poker.

I had A1 elementary students at first. This was a bit difficult for me because if you haven’t noticed I overcomplicate things instead of simplifying them out. By the end of my 5th lesson with them I was heartbroken to be switching groups because after getting used to the grade of language I needed to use as I had started to get to know them more. Although it was a bit saddening, by the time we were switching groups I feel that I had achieved two of my main goals as a teacher; to build rapport and enjoy my time with my students, and to teach less and facilitate their language speaking more while being available to guide or correct with respects to meaning, form, and pronunciation when they struggled.

My experience with my upper-intermediate B2 students, although completely different, left me with the same result. I genuinely thought that the majority of them were fluent. If my Japanese was as good as their English I’d be thrilled. They may have made a small grammar blunder here or there, but a few of them were very strong in conveying what they tried as well as receiving what they heard from others. I was able to personalize anecdotes more which helped make my lead-ins more effective and got them wanting to share their own thoughts and experiences prior to whichever pair task there was afterwards.

The classroom truly is a mellow environment where everyone can share their experiences and thoughts, and I like the feeling I get when I help them do so more fluently or with new vocabulary they didn’t know previously. One of the best feelings I’ve experienced during my CELTA was seeing students engaged with each other and having to constantly say “guys”, “guys”, “guys”, or “alright everyone repeatedly” to get them back on topic because they’re in-joy talking from your lesson! In the moment it can be slightly frustrating, but looking back on it afterwards its such a rewarding feeling.

Ok, back to the part with teaching kids. I haven’t had any experience teaching kids, or any real interaction with kids for as long as I can remember, so at the time I declined the offer because I wasn’t available to the idea of it.

Tonight I have a 2nd interview with a different school in Japan. This school is in a small seaside city called Kochi in southern Japan. Its in the country side and is supposed to be very close to mountains for hiking and also a good place to see the more spiritual side of Japan. The idea of being out in a small seaside city away from the masses is extremely seductive to me. In terms of landscape it sounds exactly like the drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Towering mountains on one side and coast on the other.

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In Kochi, I imagine their expat community isn’t as big and would put me in a situation where I would immerse myself in the Japanese community. I would have to practice Japanese constantly and would improve so much faster over the year than if I were to live in Tokyo. I want to connect with the Japanese people while at the same time disconnecting partially from the rest of the world. In a way I’m hoping for a similar experience to that of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.

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In Kochi I still will be teaching kids, as I’ve seen for almost all the ads in Asia on TEFL world. One thing I will say about myself, is that I’m extremely goofy and that miming was probably my favorite thing to do when conveying and checking meaning of certain adjectives; astonished, petrified, infatuated, uplifted, etc.

Prior to the interview while e-mailing back and forth the interviewer asked me if I would feel comfortable singing and dancing in front of the parents of toddlers. I actually thought about it, and why wouldn’t I? I go to karaoke bars, raves, and clubs by myself and sing and dance in front of crowds of people, so why wouldn’t I be able to sing to some parents and toddlers? In fact I think it would be loads of fun and potentially exactly what I need right now. Kids are always so happy and energetic and they might be a perfect mesh with me as a highly extroverted introvert. I’d like to think that they can bring out the kid in me thats hiding underneath the poker face.

If my bosses seem as warm and welcoming via skype as they do via e-mail I think I’m going to snap any offer off. Speaking with the head of a language school opposed to a recruiter also feels more personal, so I’m really looking forward to this interview. If they can sponsor my via I’m out of here as soon as possible and can’t wait to start teaching again. I’ll also finally be living in a culture I’ve been enamored in for so long.

If not there are other options. I have a couple interviews with Thai recruiters as well. If they can get me into Krabi or Phuket I don’t think I’d be able to resist, but my top choice is still somewhere either suburban or in the country side in Japan. I’m really glad that this CELTA certificate is my ticket back to Asia.

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Although my fingers are crossed that this school in Japan doesn’t fall through, I’m not in a rush to get there and am still open towards starting my teaching career starting elsewhere prior to getting to Japan long term. All I know is that I hope to be gone from Vegas by early or mid-may by the latest, and I want to get back out there again like I was in Europe. Will keep you updated 🙂

-Pharaoh

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