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Teacher Interviews Japan: Dani

Here at Kids ESL I plan on interviewing many different ESL teachers. Reading about other teachers and their experiences in a great insight into the ESL teaching world. Our first interview is about Dani and her experience teaching English at a cram school in Japan

Please tell us about yourself.

Hi! My name is Dani Hadaway and I’m from Lafayette, Indiana, USA. I studied East Asian Cultures and Languages at Indiana University with a focus in Japanese as well as minoring in Linguistics and Modern Dance. I have always had a passion for languages and love incorporating movement as a teaching technique in class. My senior year of university I taught creative dance to a mentally handicapped second grade class at a low-income school. Afterwards I decided to pursue my teaching career in Japan. Besides teaching, my passions include running, writing, the outdoors, and animal rights.

 1.      How have you enjoyed teaching in Japan?

     Once getting settled and surviving culture shock, teaching in Japan becomes very comfortable. There’s no need for a car since most things are in walking distance or easily attainable through means of a bus or train. If you lose something, such as a cellphone, wallet, or key it is quickly returned to you within the week. Not to mention, the schools pay you enough to live on, sometimes setting you up with a loan to help with startup costs. In my experience, teaching English in Japan is very easy. Most of the lesson plans taught through my previous schools were based on pronunciation in conversational English. The schools I taught at gave me lesson plans focusing on a variety of grammar and vocabulary, which sometimes I used, or created my own games to help teach the grammar points of the day. Working at an Eikaiwa (English Conversational School) also gave me the opportunity to either sleep in, run errands, or tutor more students for extra cash.

2.      What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Japan?

     Starting with the positive aspects of Japan, in my personal experience it is very easy to meet and befriend other expats by joining a club, going to special events, or just by riding the same train as another teacher. There is also so much to do. Coming from the Midwest, where the only thing around you is corn and sports vary on canoeing in dirty creeks and playing basketball next to a farm, Japan really beckons to be explored. There are mountains everywhere to hike, white water rafting and kayaking, snowboarding and skiing, and even canyoning if you speak enough Japanese and are able to find it in a newsletter or magazine. If outdoors aren’t quite your thing Japan has a plethora of history museums, art museums, shrines, temples, shopping arcades, videogames, and, of course, bars that include all-you-can-drink.

     However, the cost of living in Japan can be a huge negative impact on your budget. Want an iPhone 5? It’ll probably cost you about $450 (45,000 yen). Want an apartment close to a train station without a roommate? It may run you a good $700 and that’s not including utilities or internet. Of course, you can always find apartments for cheaper, but you may need to speak Japanese and have a Japanese friend cosign for you. Unfortunately, the Japanese don’t trust foreigners very well due to foreign tenants hosting crazy parties, not paying their rent on time (or at all), or just plain racism. There are many bars, rental companies, and apartment complexes that deny foreign customers as a result of racism, which can always put a damper on your experience. Thankfully, it’s not horribly common!

3.      What advice can you give to new teachers interested in teaching in Japan?

     Make sure you have Dave’s ESL CafĂ© bookmarked on your computer! That website was and still is my go to site for games, lesson planning, and job hunting. Also, if you want to save money make sure you budget, and maybe get a second or third job. It’s what I did and it wasn’t too stressful, not to mention I could go on amazing adventures with the extra cash! When you’re looking for jobs in Japan, apply to many and don’t just go for any job. Make sure you have benefits! Most English teaching jobs in Japan pay 250,000 Yen per month at the lowest, with health insurance, visa, aid in accommodation (but not paid), and working hours of about 30 hours a week (they vary, but at 250,000 Yen I was working about 29.5 hours and at the end of each year I was given a raise). Stay away from Gaba and Nova- I’ve heard horror stories… And it’s always wise to study Japanese before entering the country. Even I did a quick review before coming to Japan. Also, join a club! It’s the fastest and best way to meet other expats and making amazing friends. If you want to study Japanese for free, try to find a foreign exchange partner whose fun to talk to. Make sure to get out of your apartment!

4.      Have you had the opportunity to travel?


     Yes! It took me some time to save up money after paying fees and taking a loan from my company, but after about three months I was able to take an awesome backpacking trip to Mt. Fuji with a good Australian friend of mine. We hiked up the mountain, saw the beautiful sunrise, then made it down in time to have a quick nap before our white water rafting tour in Shizuoka. Afterwards I took the bullet train (shinkansen) to Hiroshima where I went kayaking through the extraordinary Itsukushima Shrine, climbed the Miyajima mountain, and learned about the atomic bomb at the Hiroshima museum. My friends and I thoroughly explored Japan my first year living there. We went to nearly every temple, shrine, and museum in Kyoto, road coasters at Universal Studios Osaka, did a lot of clubbing and shopping in Tokyo and of course I took random hiking adventures through the Chubu Hiking Club.

     I was also able to save sufficient funds for backpacking trips to surrounding countries. Thailand was my first adventure outside of Japan, and soon after I visited Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. All were amazing journeys!


5.      What are your future plans after returning from Japan?

     August 4th, 2014 is the first day of my TEFL schooling through TEFL in Prague, a four week school in which after I will receive my TEFL certificate. I hope afterwards to get a job in either Prague or Austria teaching children. My ultimate goal is to be able to teach English through a university and then teach children in summer school or at a summer camp. If I decide to teach in America I’ll have to go back to school to get my masters and a teaching license, which I have yet to decide on. However, in Japan you can teach English without a TEFL easily. In order to teach at an international school in Japan or at a university you either need two years teaching experience or a TEFL certificate.

6.       Can you tell us more about your blog?

     My blog can be found at http://beingtheuglystepsister.wordpress.com/ and is currently helping me fund my trip to Prague to obtain my TEFL certificate. Right now I am writing a chapter a day of my novel, Dark Horse, and for those who like it and want to continue reading, they donate anywhere from $1 to however much they wish. My donation site can be found at http://adf.ly/1BQTfx Please make sure to check it out! It’s for a good cause!

Thank you

If you are currently teaching English as a second langauge (Or have in the past) and want to be featured in one of our interviews, please email me at contact@kidsesl.net.

Interested in working in Japan? Check out these posts

Work for ECC in Japan

Find a Job in Japan with Gaijinpot

Find a Job in Japan with Ohayo Sensei

Teach abroad through Reach to Teach

Find jobs all over the world with Dave's ESL Cafe


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