Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
Teach or work with international students at a camp first!
Teaching English in Japan (and a lot of countries) requires a one year commitment. Does this scare you? It scared me. If you’ve never taught English or worked with international students, that might be the only thing holding you back. If you don’t do Something, all you’re doing is thinking about possibilities. Try it and see how it suits you.
I was sorta interested in teaching in Japan for years and went so far as to interview for a couple companies, without being really sure if it was something I’d even like. I even visited Japan and loved it, but still wasn’t sold on teaching for a year. I got an opportunity to go to S. Korea as part of a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) course practicum, so I jumped on that chance to travel and see if I liked teaching English in Asia.
Once I was in Korea, in the classroom with my students and my hilarious Korean co-teacher (a college student), it was so obvious. DUH. I LOVE this!
I made the decision to get a job in Japan after that. Once it was something I was sure I wanted to do, it happened super fast.
Many countries have winter and summer camps for students while they are on break from school. Who wants to spend school vacation in an academic camp studying more!? Asians do (or at least their parents want them to, haha)!
Winter camps in Asia tend to be between late December and early February. Summer camps are usually between late July and the end of August. I’ve seen two-three week long camps, and sometimes longer.
At camps, you will usually work more than five days a week and sometimes not get any days off during the camp. If an introvert (me) can handle maybe 30 minutes of alone time a day for ten days, and still have (so much!) fun, you might surprise yourself as well. Not a vacation, but a nice chance to stay in the country after the camp is finished and get in some sightseeing/recovery time.
There are Day Camps – meaning students go to the school during the day and go home to sleep. They will usually eat only lunch and snacks at the school. With this type of camp, your day is shorter (probably six hours in the classroom and at least two more having lunch with your class, doing paperwork, lesson planning, or in meetings. It’s great because if you aren’t too tired, you can explore on your own after you’re done for the day.
Then there are sort of intense Overnight Camps. As a teacher, it’s much like the day camps, but usually you’ll also be responsible for eating three (probably super tasty) meals a day with your homeroom class and being with them for afternoon and evening activities. These can be sixteen hour days, but the nice part is you have all your meals taken care of and just show up at the cafeteria, plus you get to know your students really well.
Usually you are Not going to share a room with your students like a camp counselor in American camps would. Having your own room (or sharing with another teacher) is really nice after a long day. If you have ever gone to camp or worked at a camp in your country, you’ll know a little about what to expect, although English camps are at least 25% academic.
There are a lot of private English schools in America which host summer and winter camps. They are similar to the camps described above, but there will be students from several countries attending. These camps are an exciting opportunity for students to visit an English speaking country and do some sightseeing and activities.
International camps are generally students from well off families and there is an expectation that there will be shopping trips and fun activities along with studying. They are either overnight camps or day camps where students are in a homestay at night. Usually there are classes in the morning, then in the afternoon, evening, and on weekends there will be (sometimes slightly academic) activities to keep the students busy. You will usually get to join/be in charge of the activities, but your focus will be making sure students are safe and having fun.
There is usually a bigger age range with international camps, sometimes from age five to 18. (The youngest students are often the most fluent, surprisingly.) These are a great opportunity for experience working with students learning English as a second language. You can find out what age groups you enjoy the most and which nationalities are more interesting for you. You don’t even have to leave the country to work at international camps. That being said, they are quite different from working in a public school every day.
Before camp starts you will have at least a little training to know what to expect at your camp. A lot of overseas camps provide materials and a textbook with lesson plans, so they make it fairly easy to jump in and use English with your students. You can have students with no conversational English ability and students who are basically fluent in the same class. It’s an immersion type situation for them where they will be expected to only use English while they are at camp.
Awesome About Camp: You are provided with housing and meals (usually lunch only with day camps). You get to help adorable children have fun using English. You will probably learn some phrases in another language by accident.
Not so Awesome: You are in a temporary housing situation, not at home. You might have a difficult time eating the food provided in overseas camps as it’s different from what you eat at home. (This is a good test of how you’ll handle living abroad, and I think most people who teach in Asia LOVE the food there. I would work at a camp in Korea, Just Because I really love the food. Way better than Korean food in America.)
You can check local job searches for International camps in your area. Midwest Education Group has lots of short term practicum, volunteer, and beginner positions for their TESOL Certificate students here. (If you register for their TESOL course, tell them ‘hello alissa’ sent you.) For camps in Korea, I recommend Camp Korea, although I don’t think they hire teachers without experience. Camp positions will also be listed on the same sites that list year long English teaching positions.
Have fun at camp!