Getting started English teaching in Okinawa

By David Higgins

Teaching at a juku can be less stressing than being an ALT.

When you hear about teaching English in Japan, you may hear differing opinions regarding how much money can be made.  Some may say you can make a lot, and some may say you would make very little.  Both opinions are valid, but it just depends on which route you take in order to teach English.

Rieko Kitabayashi is the owner of Juku Max21.

In Japan there is a large campaign created by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to increase the English proficiency of Japanese students.  Currently, Japan ranks somewhere in the middle for ESL in the worldwide ESL programs proficiency. Each city, town or village has a Board of Education office. This is where one can apply for the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) positions to teach English in the Japanese public school system.  To become an ALT in an Elementary or Junior high school you must possess a Bachelor’s Degree, however, the Degree can be of any subject and doesn’t have to necessarily be a Bachelor’s of Education.

In a typical ALT position, the day begins at 8:15 am

ALT English teacher Bryan Edgar advises patience.

and finishes as late as 5:15 pm and the salary can range from ¥8,000 to ¥13,000 per day (the equivalent of $80-130 US dollars). In some cases, English teaching experience or Japanese language skills are not necessary to be the successful applicant for the job, but they are very helpful while working in the public school system as one will find themselves fully immersed in Japanese culture.  ALT teachers will hear Japanese only spoken for weeks on end and rarely any English. Bryan Edgar is an ALT teacher in the Okinawa he has this advice for anyone teaching junior high school students, he says, “It’s important for Junior High School English ALTs to remember that the children they are teaching are going through some of the biggest physical changes they’ll experience in their lives so be patient, understanding and compassionate.”

If teaching in the public school is a little too much to handle, English can be taught in an English Juku. An

Field trips are part of public school ALT’s everyday life.

English Juku is an after-school, privately-run school where parents enroll their children to either give them a head start on their English skills or specifically for the preparations of the English Proficiency Tests.  These English Proficiency Tests enable students to apply to more prestigious private schools.

Working at a Juku may be a little less stressful than the public school system due to English being spoken more frequently.  It can be a great starting point for new English teachers as class sizes are small and the salary can be quite similar to what the Japanese Board of Education offers.  Max 21 English Language School is a Juku school located in Ginowan City.  The owner, Rieko Kitabayashi, has this advice for native English speakers searching for English teaching jobs.  She says, “If you want to be a great English Conversation teacher you need to come up with topics that students are interested in or else your class will be boring and the students will not pay attention”. If you want to contact Rieko Kitabayashi you can email her at max21kitabayashi@yahoo.co.jp

This is a common mistake that one encounters in Japan all the time and any ALT can help with.

If you would like to try part-time work as either an introduction to teaching English or to pick up extra hours, you can consider private one-on-one lessons.  As an English teacher, there are two ways in which to find interested students for private lessons; word of mouth or posting your profile on the internet teaching sites such as findateacher.net.  Posting your profile on the net is a great way ensure a continuous stream of new students.  You can even narrow the scope of students you would like to teach.  For example, if you would rather instruct adult students, you can gear your profile to be directed at adult students only. The usual charge per hour for private English lessons ranges from ¥1,500 to ¥2,500 per hour (the equivalent of $15-25 US dollars).

Teaching English to Japanese students is a very rewarding job and a great way to develop your communication skills and your knowledge of Japanese culture.  If you are looking to improve your public speaking skills, the public school system requires their teachers to speak in front of large groups of students on a daily basis.

Whether you are interested in starting your English teaching career or simply looking to increase the level your teaching experience, Okinawa is a great place to begin as there are many eager students ready to learn.

  • Brent

    Do you have a local site with ALT job postings?