Apparently 16 Year Old Japanese Boys Love Me

Today I had my first experience with a Japanese school. I went to Teisei Gakuen Junior and Senior High School in Tokyo. When I first arrived, we were ushered to a room to wait for the principal. He arrived with a few other teachers, and after a lot of bowing and a great deal of business card exchanging, we were on our way for a tour of the school. We walked the halls and they opened the classroom doors for me to peak in the rooms. I caused quite the distraction, I discovered, as students waved at me and one student stood up while the teacher was teaching so he could get a better look at me and then got smacked on the head with a stack of papers! Haha.

Next, we went to the lecture hall where I would speak. 80 students attended my class along with about 10 teachers (no pressure at all). I had no idea what level of English these students would have. Well, does it tell you anything that the English teacher at the school had to translate everything I said sentence by sentence? It’s so hard to do an interactive English lesson when no one can understand you! We made it through though and even had time to do a few tongue twisters. (Why did I choose one with an r-l combination?! Whoops!)  There was someone there to take pictures during my lesson, so I felt a bit  like I was at a press conference or that the paparazzi was stalking me.

After I was finished, we had a short question and answer period. Several students simply asked, “How can I improve my English?” Yes, I have a master’s degree in teaching ESL, but how in the world can I answer that question in a one minute answer?! There were also some general questions about how many siblings I have, what was my favorite subject in school, etc. Then it was asked if I had a boyfriend. Then the following conversation took place between me and a brave and bold 16 year old student:

Boy- “What is your ideal man?”

Me- “Someone who is kind and funny.”

Boy- “Um, is height a factor for you?”

I almost died!

When I finished the lesson (and also before I started), the entire group stood up, said something in unison and bowed to me. How interesting! And also, they presented me with a gift to thank me for my lesson. They were all too sweet! I got to spend a little time with some of them afterwards chatting and taking a few pictures.

After leaving the school, we went to eat with one of the teachers. He’s the one that gave us the tour of the school. I like that I never know the plan and never know what’s going on, because it’s all said in Japanese. We were just walking (to what I assumed was the subway station) when all of a sudden we are in a restaurant. I’m just like a little duck following her mommy sometimes while I’m here. I guess the teacher had asked Mr. M ahead of time what food I like, because all the dishes had been pre-ordered and arrived as soon as we sat down. There were probably 7 courses, and at the end, the head chef brought us out ice cream and shook my hand. It was SUCH a good meal!

So I had a pretty good day over here in Nihon. (That’s Japan in Japanese in case you didn’t know!) Tomorrow I’ll teach my 2 conversation classes again. In one class, we will be traveling to the Imperial Palace!

Japanese High School Students

ESLTeaching in JapanESL Teaching in Japan

Starting Your ESL Adventure Abroad

I’ve had several people ask me recently about how to find an ESL (English as a Second Language, in case you didn’t know) teaching  job overseas, so I thought I might share my wisdom, if it can indeed be considered wisdom. :]

I think the first step is to narrow down where you want to be. You’re not going to find a job by simply saying, “I want to teach ESL abroad.” Narrow it down to a part of the world- Asia, South America, etc. Do a little research and decide on your country. If you already know that, you’re doing well! Then on to the city. Consider things such as cost of living, average ESL teacher salary, weather, etc. Would you enjoy living and working in that city? Ok, you’ve got it narrowed down to a city. Some people can skip this step, because when they think of teaching overseas, they already picture themselves in a certain place.

Let’s take Shanghai, China as an example. As you probably know, Shanghai is huge (a mere 23 million people live there!), so think about what area of town you would like to be in.You don’t want to accept a job that you think is in the city-center of Shanghai, and it turns out to be on the outskirts 2 hours away from downtown.  After you narrow that down to one or two areas, research what schools are located there.  Are you wanting to teach at a university? An elementary school? A private language center?  Most schools advertise their foreign teacher positions on their website, and you can go from there. It’s difficult to just do an internet search for “ESL jobs” or even a search for “ESL jobs in China”; the results will be overwhelming!  So the more specific you can be, the more success you will have.

Finding a credible job can also be done through some organizations. Are you a member of LinkedIn? LinkedIn is a social networking site that is used for professional purposes. People post and look for jobs and just make connections with people in their field of study or field of work. Both professionals and students have accounts. LinkedIn also has groups that you can join. Groups such as TESOL International, ESL International, and even ESL Teaching Jobs would be perfect for you to look at. It could also connect you with others who have either already taught abroad or are planning to. Here is the link to their homepage.

Have you heard of the organization TESOL International? I am a member, and it is such a great resource! They give practical teaching information but also open ESL job positions around the world, everywhere from Saudi Arabia to Thailand to Costa Rica. And the best part is, they only post jobs from trusted employers.  You can become a student member at a cheaper rate, so if you’re a student, look into that. Check out their site:

Once you are seriously considering a job at a specific school, TALK TO SOMEONE who worked there. This is by far the best thing you can do. The school will talk itself up to the high heavens, but someone like you, a person leaving their home country to teach in a foreign land, will be able to tell you the truths and the myths, the pros and the cons, and answer any questions you have. Ask them all the important questions- did the school always pay them and pay them on time, did they provide a place to stay, did they give any travel stipends, did they give paid holidays, if so how many, did they treat their teachers well, etc. Ask anything and everything. Your potential school should be willing to give you the e-mail address of  a former teacher. If they are unwilling, there’s your first sign!

I think that if you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to finding an ESL job. I can see you now…teaching ESL during the week in a Thai university and relaxing on a sunny beach on the weekends. Ah, that’s the life! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask! I’d love to help. Or are you currently or have you been an expat teaching abroad and have some tips on finding an ESL job? Please share with us!


Your resident ESL expert :]

What Gives Girls Their Magical Powers?!

At the beginning of each English class, I have my students journal for 5 minutes. I always give them a topic, and some of the topics are ones they have suggested. Recently we did the following topic: “If you could be the opposite sex for the day, what would you do.” Oh, the answers! To the people walking by office today hearing me cackle to myself with tears rolling down my cheeks, I apologize for disrupting your day. The girls’ answers about being guys were mostly about not having to shower or put on make-up or do their hair. The guys were a little more creative…..
If I were a girl I would:
  •  probably just sit around and watch depressing movies all day like girls do. I’ve never really understood why they do that.
  •  do my hair. I could put on some make-up. I think I would try and go tanning. I’ve never went tanning before.
  • try to get free stuff from guys, because men will do anything for a pretty girl!
  • not do that, because it would be really weird.
  •  find out what gives girls their magical powers!
  •  name myself Destiny. (This dude must have previously put some thought into this!)
  •  dot my i’s with little hearts and not be judged for it.
  • learn how to make a sandwich. (There were actually a lot of sandwich jokes!)
  •  figure out the correct answer to “Does this outfit make me look fat?”
  • figure out how chicks are always right. 
I hope you got a kick out of these like I did! Oh, college freshmen!