New Teacher Voices

Editor’s note: John and Sam both started at MY English School in April 2021. They have graciously agreed to share about their first-year experiences at MY.

“Scary…wonderful”

by
John Lin

Joining MY after being an ALT for 3 years was eye-opening. At first, it was a little bit scary, trying to learn a new teaching method. Going from an ALT who usually was taught to give students templates and run a class strictly, watching the MY teachers let students run portions of a class by themselves while they prepared the next activity showed me the way to make English learning more fun and engaging. Every teacher was also more than happy to pass on their game methods to me, and took time to give pointers on how to help children become more independent learners.

The many training days throughout the year also helped me keep track of my progress. It was also possible to not only socialize with colleagues from other schools, but to share ideas on how to improve lessons. After learning about the ball toss activities in the first training session, the second training had other teachers offering suggestions on how to make the activity more interesting for older students. Outside of the lessons and trainings, teachers will also meet up for some games or sports, bringing a sense of friendship to the staff. All of that comes together to make MY a wonderful learning and teaching experience for both the students and staff.

“I have been able to come to work happy”

by
Sam Todd

Joining MY was one of the best choices I have made in my many years in Japan. Having worked for many different places, I have always felt that the focus is misplaced in the majority of schools. MY has a very clear focus on the student and the teacher. I believe that it is easy to see how this is beneficial, not only for them, but for MY. It has been a long time since I have been able to come to work happy because I feel that I am making a dramatic impact on students’ futures and greatly enjoy working with my teammates.

As a new team member, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to be amongst a group of people that already know each other well. Having to experience some growing pains in a new company is to be expected, but the always available aid, support and welcoming nature of my coworkers, has made the transition into something interesting and enjoyable.

We, as teachers, have a very important job to do, and MY understands that there are many different ways to get to that end goal. MY allows teachers (and students) the freedom to use their skills and abilities to reach the goal and always aids in setting up the next one. It must be said that it is also fantastic to be surrounded by like-minded coworkers willing to share their experiences, so that we always have the opportunity to improve. The experience of working in an environment in which everyone works hard and is not content with mediocrity, while maintaining motivation, is truly fulfilling!

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Working at One of the Best English Schools in Japan

Editor’s note: Andy has taught at MY during the past two years. As he relocates with his family back to his home country, he has offered to share his thoughts about the experience of working at MY English School.

In a country like Japan, with hundreds of language schools, eikaiwas, and online teaching platforms, you might find yourself wondering what the best option is. That will of course depend on what you are looking for. However, after more than 11 years of teaching English as a second language, MY English School has been the best in many ways, and here is why. 

Inclusive and Multicultural 

One of my biggest concerns when I started looking for teaching jobs in Japan was that I do not come from an English-speaking country. It is well known that several companies in Japan will not even look at your CV unless you come from England, America, or Australia. They don’t really care about your experience or teaching skills; it’s more about using the ‘native speaker’ card as a way to market their services, even though we know that teaching involves a broad set of abilities and a certain kind of sensibility that not everybody has. In a world where there are more non-native speakers than native speakers, this just feels like a way of perpetuating supremacy, which is exactly the opposite of why I teach English as a second language.  

At MY English School there are people from all over the world, making it a rich environment in which everyone is constantly learning from each other and where students naturally grow more curious about languages. We use multiculturality as a way to create meaningful experiences that help students acquire useful language and skills. Not to mention that we are giving a great example of openness and inclusion by giving everyone a chance, regardless of where they come from.

Location

If you are tired of spending hours commuting in packed trains and the ridiculously fast pace of a big city’s lifestyle, you will love living in peaceful Yamagata prefecture.  

With a wide variety of things to do and places to explore, you will enjoy discovering the beautiful Japanese culture. Great ski areas, hot spring baths, restaurants, shopping malls, hiking trails, and some of the most delicious fruit I’ve ever had are some of the things you will find in Yamagata. Click here to check out some of the highlights that this amazing prefecture has to offer.  

Public transportation is limited here, so you will need a car. However, MY English School is pretty good at supporting teachers when relocating—they’ll often walk the extra mile to help you get a car and a place to live. Most of your commutes will be 30 minutes or less, which results in a better quality of life and more time for yourself. 

Great Training

I had never been in a school that dedicated so much time and effort to improving its teachers’ skills and techniques. At MY English School, we have usually 10 training days and an expo every year, in which managers, advisors, and outside experts collaborate to create a comprehensive agenda to help both new and experienced teachers develop themselves professionally.  

Not only do we get training, but we also have days to observe other teachers at work. The number of activities, techniques, and general understanding of how facilitating works that I can get from it has been priceless. After having worked here for almost 2 years, I can say it’s been one of the greatest experiences I’ve had as a professional ESL instructor.

Teaching Style

Our teaching system is based on a method called the Questioning Approach, which encourages students to find out what things are by asking questions and then playing with the language. The way teachers engage students here is different to many other places. We are expected to create a sense of adventure and excitement that naturally draws kids into the lesson. On the other hand, our lessons intend to be as student-centered as possible, which means you will have to find ways of setting up an activity to then pull yourself out of the equation.  

For some teachers adapting to this way of teaching can be quite challenging and even confusing at times. However, once you start feeling more comfortable you will find endless ways of expanding what you do with your students in the lesson. It is a job that can be as creative as you want it to be. You will be encouraged to explore new possibilities and to keep building on what you have previously done. You can take a look at part of the curriculum and some of the materials we use by clicking here

Managers and staff care

I’ve been surprised more than once by how much support I’ve been given by everyone around me, something you don’t see everywhere. Just to give you an example, last year someone in my family was sick back home and travelling was quite complicated due to Covid restrictions. When I told my boss that I needed to take some weeks off his first reaction was to find a way to make it possible, even if it meant covering the lessons himself. Advisors are also wonderful people who will not hesitate to give you a hand, whether it’s doing paperwork or dealing with classroom issues, in fact, I know it’s not uncommon for them to drive new teachers around until they can buy their own car. This is a company that truly feels like a team pulling together in the same direction. You will never be left on your own. 

Money Matters

The base salary at MY is ¥270,000-¥290,000 a month. You might get more or less, depending on your qualifications and experience. There are also opportunities to increase your income doing work in other areas, such as marketing, professional development, and management. You will also receive reimbursement according to law in case you have to drive to a distant location.  

Whether this salary is good or not, that is totally subjective; however, here are some facts to put it into perspective. Eikaiwa teachers and ALT’s usually get an average of ¥250,000 a month, and often even less than that. You can read some more about average teacher salaries here. The cost of living in Yamagata is also one of the lowest in Japan, with an average of ¥179,000 for personal expenses per month. This of course implies that you will be able to save or spend more on what matters the most to you.

Relaxed Environment

I’ve (almost) never had a bad day at MY. Sure, sometimes you are sick or tired, but I can always go to bed with my head clear, no anxiety about things going on at work. We have a culture of talking through issues and finding solutions together. This is priceless and extremely important for your mental health. We have a casual dress code and we can even wear shorts and flip-flops at some training events. Don’t get me wrong—we’re not just fooling around. Everyone at MY is super professional and dedicated to their jobs. We just understand that wearing a tie doesn’t make you a better human being. In fact, it is when we are relaxed that we can perform at our peak.  

Working at MY is not just teaching 

Do you think teaching English can be tedious and repetitive? Well, it can be. The good news is you will be doing way more than that. You will be learning, sharing, laughing, playing, and getting immersed in the Japanese culture. You will make great friends and probably even go out and have some drinks at times. You will be living life at its fullest while touching the lives of hundreds of children in the utmost positive way. If that sounds like something you would like to do, please get in touch with us

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Training the Teachers (Who Train Teachers)

Teachers who have been at MY for three, five, ten years or more and teachers who are in their first year at MY have very different training needs. The gap in knowledge and experience is significant, and many of MY’s training efforts are aimed at helping newer teachers close this gap with experienced teachers as quickly as possible.

Experienced teachers become teacher trainers, which offers many new challenges and room to grow. However, experienced teachers need training, too, and usually this training needs to follow a different format from what may best help newer teachers. Planning training sessions to meet the needs of both experienced and new teachers is a challenge.

The most effective way to eliminate the experience gap between new teachers and experienced teachers is to fire all the experienced teachers.

MY’s owner, Ryan, has sometimes joked that the most effective way to eliminate the experience gap between new teachers and experienced teachers is to fire all the experienced teachers. (MY isn’t going to do this.) MY typically adds at least two or three new teachers ever year, and so the experience gap is always with us.

At our August training day, experienced teachers enjoyed an opportunity to step back from training others and focus on our own professional development. What are we doing to develop ourselves professionally? What more can we (or should we) be doing? I invited the teachers to complete this survey of their professional development during the past year.

What stood out to me from our training session is how diverse the experiences of MY’s teachers are. As we discussed what activities we have done in the past year that we think we will still regard as memorable and significant to our professional development five years from now, every teacher listed a different activity.

MY gives so many out-of-classroom opportunities to our teachers that this is not surprising. A teacher involved in developing curriculum grows in different ways from a teacher involved in hiring, software development, leadership, or management. What impressed me from this training session is that there is no one-size-fits-all training for experienced teachers. The more we pursue diverse interests and opportunities, the more diverse our professional development needs to be.

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