Update: ALT Life 

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Well, it is finally starting to cool off a little out here and so are my warm fuzzy feelings about teaching.

Maybe it was a bunch of little things piling up that have been bothering me, but it ended in silent tears in the bathroom at work, which at 27, I feel should definitely not be happening.

My students are fine. I don’t really talk to my teachers much because of the language barrier and them being busy, but that’s okay too. However, my issue is constantly feeling as though I have no clue what I am doing or if I am doing things right. I understand there is a learning curve, but I’m a work perfectionist. I always want to be so good at what I do so people ask me for help/my opinion. But every time I have to create a lesson plan for certain grades, I just feel helpless, clueless, and stuck.

The jump between working in a bank and working as a teacher was huge. Honestly, I don’t know how they have kids right out of college doing this unless they were education majors. In fact, I’m willing to say it is a terrible idea and that is why teacher quality is so shotty. However, with companies that skirt around the hours they give you so you aren’t really full time, even though it is full-time work and you’re at your locations full time, so that you don’t get full benefits, I can see mostly people are young, need a way over here to do something else, or are just desperate to go to Japan getting caught up. I’m sure there are people who don’t care about things like pension, but I know that for me if I’m working full-time, I want everything I’m supposed to have as a full-time employee.

Anyway, back to that Bank and Education gap. If I had to do it all over again, I would wait to take some classes on teaching before jumping into this head first. It is a very sink or swim environment and while I don’t plan on giving up, sometimes it can feel like a struggle to stay afloat. My lack of experience with kids in my life in general often leaves me wondering what the hell am I going to do with sometimes up to 40 kids staring at me wanting to be entertained somehow. My creativity is normally limited to making things that aren’t kid games.

Recently, I’ve also felt frustrated with my language skills. All of the teachers around my are busy, busy, busy so I never have time to speak to anyone because I am painfully slow in Japanese. That means most of my days are spent in silence unless I’m talking to the kids. Can get kind of lonely. I don’t know why these jobs prefer you to have no Japanese because if you are in an elementary school and no one really speaks English, you are isolated and screwed. I can see why if you end up a situation like that, a person would break their contract and leave Japan, especially if they’re living in the countryside. Isolation is no joke especially when you are already dealing with different customs, adjusting, and potentially not knowing how to do your job. Having people you can talk to is so very important. It also makes communicating with your teachers about classes easier (when it actually does happen).

Despite those two negative points, I do have plenty of teachers who make an effort to make me feel included when they can and I appreciate them for it. Also, I wasn’t expecting to like kids (because that’s how I’ve been rolling my whole life), but I absolutely love them when I’m not in class. They love to talk to me and play outside with me. They introduce me to their parents in the stores when I look like a bum trying to buy ice cream. It really is sweet. I wouldn’t change that for anything, which is why I sucked up my tears and went straight to class to teach.

Every day won’t be a high day, but if I keep trying, I can get past the low ones.

(I’m still going to try to ace this JLPT in December and pick up some new skills as a backup plan for next year though)

4 thoughts on “Update: ALT Life 

  1. Oh no…I’m sorry to read that things aren’t working so well for you. What area in Japan do you work? I’ve been here for 7 months and can absolutely relate to what you’re saying about the hours and language barriers and isolation.

    Because I’m a bit of a loner and introvert, I’ve learned to embrace the isolation and that has helped me in terms of self care and figuring out what my next steps are. However, if you’re looking for more interactions, you should join and other Facebook groups so that you can meet people in your area. I think it’s more likely you’ll make foreign friends than Japanese friends because of their shy nature and the language barrier.

    I moved here a year after graduating Undergrad and I realize how flawed the teaching system is here and I’ve learned to just accept it for what it is. Because I don’t wish to be a full time teacher as a career, I have no interest in furthering my plans and looking for better teaching opportunities in Japan, but maybe if it’s not working out at this company, you can try to find work through the actual schools. I’m sure then you’ll be eligible to receive a much better salary with benefits.

    I hope things work out for you! If you want to message me to talk, I’m happy to chat more!

    1. You hit the nail on the head with the part about just accepting the system for what it is. I’m trying to get used to accepting that all I can do is my best! Some days are just better than others.

  2. I agree with everything you said here! Great post. I work in elementary schools too, and I had a hard time coming up with lesson plans at first. You’ll get better! After a while, you’ll know what the kids like and just do the same things over and over again. And I totally feel you on feeling lonely and isolated, especially at work. Sometimes I’m just sitting at my desk and no one talks to me. It can be a real bummer. 🙁 But keep pushing! Ganbare! 🙂

    1. I don’t have to talk all day, but I get so happy just to have little conversations about the weather sometimes it’s almost pitiful lol. Sometimes I just feel invisible and I hate that!

      I hope the lesson planning gets better, holding out hope because I have so much unfinished business in Japan!

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