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Teaching English in Japan: 5 Essential Stories from Foreign Instructors

Embarking on a journey as an English teacher in Japan offers a life-changing experience. Whether you’re just here for a short-term stay, or consider making Japan your forever home, English teachers must immerse themselves in the culture and traditions of Japan while managing a classroom—which isn’t always easy!

Thus, it’s essential to get a good idea of what to expect when becoming an English teacher in Japan. And who else to learn from than actual English teachers already living here. From bustling cities to the serene countryside and even on faraway islands, Japan presents a unique backdrop for educators seeking a fulfilling and culturally immersive adventure.

Teaching English in Japan

Here are five of our favorite articles about life as an English teacher in Japan.

Teaching in The Countryside
Teaching on a Seto Inland Sea Island
When Students Bring Up Controversial Topics
Different Types of Students
Classroom Discipline

1. Teaching in the Countryside

Photo: iStock/ kanonskyAmazing scenery and a tight-knit community.

Life as an English teacher in rural areas (inaka in Japanese) is often characterized by a close-knit community, picturesque landscapes and a slower pace of living. Here, you can truly immerse yourself in Japanese culture and build deep connections with local residents. Our article, Surviving the Inaka: Teaching in a Countryside Classroom shares a real-life experience.

In rural schools, class sizes are generally smaller, allowing for a more intimate teaching environment. The community’s warm hospitality and genuine interest in foreign cultures can also be endearing. However, if you don’t love nature, you might find yourself really bored on the weekends!

2. Teaching on a Seto Inland Sea Island

Photo: iStock/ Sean PavoneThe Akashi Kaikyo Ohashi Bridge spans the Seto Inland Sea to Kobe.

Teaching in rural Japan is an opportunity to make an impact on the community while enjoying the beauty of nature and the richness of local culture. However, you can also enjoy the best of both worlds. If you teach somewhere like Awaji Island, you can travel to nearby Kobe during your free time! In this story, Life as an English Teacher on Awaji Island, a teacher shares their life on the island and what they really love about the journey.

3. When Students Bring Up Controversial Topics

Sometimes students ask uncomfortable questions.

When English students bring up controversial topics or ask personal questions, teachers must handle the situation thoughtfully. It’s important to create a respectful and inclusive learning environment. Some questions, such as about stereotypes or politics can be rough. In Navigating Controversial Topics During English Lessons in Japan, we go over how to carefully discuss or avoid these topics with students. Remember that you could be a student’s first exposure to someone from outside of Japan.

4. Different Types of Students

Who will you be teaching?

In Japan, you’ll likely teach different kinds of students with different backgrounds, motivations and learning styles. From elementary school students developing language skills through interactive games, songs and activities to high schoolers preparing for university entrance exams with more mature personalities. In this article, you’ll learn about 6 Types of Eikaiwa Students and How to Handle Them. Remember that everyone is different, and it’s vital to adapt your methods and materials to cater to their specific needs, interests and level.

5. Classroom Discipline

Photo: iStock/ Recep-bgEnglish class at an elementary school in Japan.

Classroom discipline in Japan has a strong emphasis on respect, order and cooperation, but everything will vary depending on the school and grade level. Learn some common expectations and strategies in 5 Positive Classroom Discipline Tips for Teaching in Japan.

Are you an English teacher in Japan? What is something every hopeful teacher should know?

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