Ever wanted to find out what the heck an eikaiwa teacher does in Tokyo? This is the post to find out then 🙂
Disclaimer: I work in Gaba (ranked 2nd in Japan according to this Japanese website https://juken.oricon.co.jp/rank_english/). Experiences in other schools/ companies may not be similar.
In Gaba, all instructors are considered independent contractors. This means we are not considered full time employees, and are not given healthcare, insurance and paid leave. You might say, “Hey, isn’t this illegal?”. Unfortunately, it’s in a grey area and yet all Gaba instructors sign the contract willingly. Why? Gaba is one of the few companies that offer freedom to work in multiple jobs or basically plan your schedule independently. We basically exchange benefits for freedom.
With this in mind, here’s what I do everyday as a Gaba instructor.
The night before: I make it a point to check my schedule for the next day via Gabaweb. We have to submit a work schedule by the 10th of the month before for the current month (ie. We submit the work schedule of April in March). I check the lessons for the next day before so that I can close any open slots (unbooked lesson slots) if I wish to. If I do close them, I don’t get paid for them but I can use the time for rest or to pop by the nearest beef bowl joint (Matsuya, Yoshinoya, Sukiya…) for a quick hit of that delectable beef bowl set.
8-9am: I wake up and get ready for work. I live only 15 mins away door to door, so technically I can wake up even at 9.30am and be ready for a 10am lesson.
9.45am: I arrive at the studio and confirm my lessons for the day. In the system, we can check the students’ name, English level and textbook used. We then use the time to prepare for all the lessons in the day. Experienced instructors familiar with students and the textbook can do this very quickly as we already know the content (I’ve already taught more than 4000 lessons over the years). Newbies tend to spend up to 30 mins to prepare for the lessons.
Lunchtime/ Dinnertime: I have no fixed lunchtime. Remember the empty slots I cancelled at the start of the day? Mealtimes are basically empty slots where I feel hungry. Some instructors have fixed breaks, I don’t usually do that to maximise lesson times.
Lessons: As a senior instructor, I have some additional skill sets (certifications in Gaba terms). I am able to teach First Meetings/ Sales (FMs) lessons, Kids lessons and Corporate off-site lessons. They all have a different dynamic to a normal lesson.
In FMs, I have to prepare more than normal as my goal is to deliver a customised yet engaging lesson suited to the goals of the prospective student and convince him/ her to sign up for the Gaba courses. We partner the Japanese sales staff and quickly devise a strategy to convince the student to join both before and after the lesson. Challenging but very rewarding (Successful FMs are quite well paid)
Kids lessons focus heavily of the use of games to encourage English learning. Kids lessons are fun as we basically play English based games and encourage the natural use of the language as the children enjoy themselves. Usually, I enjoy this greatly as well 🙂
Corporate off site lessons have the instructors travel to various companies within their designated cities (for me, I’m based in Tokyo). I have had the chance to teach in companies ranging from MUFJ to Nikon to JR East. Off site lessons are challenging due to the need for the instructor to plan a lesson using the 1-1 textbooks and adapting them to the needs of the group lessons for each company. These lessons are usually quite fun to teach depending on the rapport between the students and instructor. Each contract (3-6 months of regular lessons in the same company) is quite lengthy, so I sometimes feel quite emotional when I teach my final lesson in the company (but maybe I’m a softy).
9-10pm: I usually finish my lessons latest by 10pm, most of the time I finish earlier and can head home by 9pm. The cycle starts again for 4-6 days a week depending on my plans for the month.
Life was not easy in the first 6 months of my time in Japan due to cash flow issues. Nevertheless, I persevered and from the second year onwards, as I expanded on my income streams as a senior instructor and also after getting contracts from other companies as a consultant, my life became much better (still not cakewalk, but that’s life, eh?).
If you are someone looking to start out in Japan as an English teacher, I do hope that what I have shared here is useful for you to gauge if this is something you wouldn’t mind doing.
If you found this article useful, please consider buying me a coffee here. Thanks for your support! 😀