And suddenly it’s all becoming real

I just got a job offer!

Allow me to tell the story from the beginning.

Last weekend I drove up to Chicago to attend a recruiting session for a major English “conversation school” with branches located throughout Japan.  (To respect the privacy of the company and its students, I will refrain from naming it here, but feel free to email me if you’d like to know which one it is).   According to the recruiters, there are more than 6,000 different companies operating these conversation schools in the country, but this particular school is the largest with over 300 branches. These privately run conversation schools exist because the Japanese school system teaches English much the way we would learn History in school – a lot of lecturing and note taking, but very little actual speaking of English, which has caused these “conversation schools” to develop into a huge market.  Japanese people supplement their language learning by taking classes there that focus more on speaking English and practicing how it is used in actual conversation.

Having native English speakers on your teaching staff is advantageous to a conversation school, who wants to be able to market the quality and authenticity of their lessons, so a couple of the larger, better funded schools invest the money to recruit around the US.

The recruiting session I attended in Chicago began with a 3 hour presentation portion in which the 25 of us in attendance learned about the company’s structure, locations, teaching methodology and materials, and saw a video about a typical teacher’s day.  We participated in a demonstration of a couple of their proprietary lessons, which follow a specific structure involving a lot of visuals and partner work supported by enthusiastic encouragement from the teacher.  We learned that their typical teacher works 38 hours a week, which includes about 25 hours of actual teaching (5 to 7 classes a day of varying lengths and including 1 to approximately 7 students).  The rest of that time is spent chatting with students in the lobby, interviewing prospective students, discussing current student progress, and handling some administrative tasks.   Lesson planning is not terribly time consuming due to the fact that the company provides you with its own highly structured proprietary materials, but you are expected to do that planning outside your already full 38 hour schedule.  Needless to say, I will be busy, but I’m certainly not afraid of hard work.

After the presentation, the attendees were divided into small groups of about 6 people, where we each gave a 5 minute teaching demonstration with our fellow candidates acting as students.   The teaching demo was by far the most nerve-wracking part, and what I practiced and worried most about in preparing for the event.  This was followed by a short grammar quiz, including some spelling words that were incredibly common, but still surprisingly difficult!  At the conclusion, we were notified via sealed envelope of whether or not we were invited to interview one-on-one with the recruiters the following day.

The one-on-one portion included – surprise! – another teaching demonstration!  This time I was given a page out of one of the company’s texts and a few minutes of time and asked to do my best to create a lesson out of it mimicking their preferred style.  I did not do this terribly well.  I made the lesson way too easy, and wasted a lot of time on explanation that wasn’t needed. However, I did really well at being warm, approachable, and enthusiastic, which are things that I believe the company values in its teachers.  I was given a second chance to watch the interviewer demonstrate the lesson and then attempt to replicate it.  I did slightly better, but got confused midway through.  However, I think I still came across as a friendly teacher and all-around nice lady.  I guess I did well enough at it that I seemed like I could pick up their methods, which is apparently the most important thing – not being experienced so much as being trainable.

The rest of the interview was much of the standard stuff – why do you want to teach?  Why this country?  Why with us?  Do you really understand what you are getting yourself into?  Are your affairs in order and ready for your departure if we should offer you a job?

I left feeling pretty good about how I presented myself overall, though as I said, not having given a perfect presentation.  Then this weekend I learned they were checking my references, which is always a good sign that you are being seriously considered for a job.  Then today, a phone call with an offer!

Part of me wants to be cautious – I don’t have a contract yet, and may not have one for up to 3 weeks while they try to match me with the best branch location based on my preferences and the branch school’s needs.  I recall being told by an EPIK interviewer last summer that I was being offered a position with them, but it never materialized because their slots had all filled up.   I wonder if I should keep applying for other Japan jobs just in case.    Although this position is exactly what I’m looking for – lots of support in terms of structure, training, housing, and visa sponsorship;  small classes, a late-day schedule, urban locations, etc. – part of me thinks I should have a back-up plan in motion until the ink is dry on the contract.  But, another, bigger part of me has known all along that I will work for this school, and still feels confident that this will work out as planned.  I have just believed in it ever since my application was accepted for the Chicago recruitment event.  Again, it’s one of those situations where you set yourself on the right path and the universe will conspire to help you get where you are trying to go.

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