Finding a Meaningful Job

About two months ago, I started a new job! I quit teaching kindergarten and was really looking for a gig that would let me teach adults, and that’s what I found, thankfully.

When I moved to Japan as a teacher through the JET program back in 2013, I wasn’t too excited about the teaching part. I had applied to be a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) but that year my departing group was made up solely of teachers. A few of us had applied to be CIRs only to find out that they didn’t think we were qualified enough (specifically at Japanese, which was my major in college).

I had studied for a year at a prestigious private university in Kyoto, taking advanced Japanese classes (which I soon ran out of) and then classes IN Japanese (film theory, Japanese literature/ancient text, etc.) I also joined a theater group where I sat, every night for about 5 hours, with Japanese students. I was the only foreigner in the entire group and though I lived in a dorm full of international students, I mostly stuck around the Japanese students in order to practice.

However, I took the JLPT N1 and failed it by about 10 points. I was so disappointed. I had taken a similar exam to test out of Japanese language classes, which my teachers had told me was about the same level as the N1, and I had passed that, so I was hoping to do well on the JLPT. I took it again when I was on JET and also failed it by about 15 points (I was less obliged to study after the first time, sadly).

This all meant that I was not qualified, by the standards of my interview panel, to be a CIR (even though my speaking and listening is advanced, I can’t be bothered to sit around memorizing kanji that I never use, so my abilities slipped significantly in reading between the time I got back from my year abroad and my interview). I was mad at myself for being overly cocky thinking that I was a shoo-in, but I was still excited when I got my email that I had been accepted and that I would soon be moving to Fukuoka.

My excitement soon faded as I realized that many of my students were rowdy middle school boys who think it’s funny to cuss at their English teacher. I usually had about one or two good students in each class that I liked well enough to converse with after class, but other than that, I felt really bummed that my “working in Japan” adventure had become a nightmare.

I enjoyed some parts of my job – teaching is really rewarding when you know you are helping someone or when you can see your skills making a difference. However, most of the job was not like that. I sat at my desk a lot and stressed about what my students and the other teachers thought of me. I developed health problems and I went home every night feeling miserable.

When I met Junkyu, I was so excited to have the opportunity to leave and start over. I would live in Korea – a place I’d always wanted to work – and I’d find a new job. Kindergarten sounds fun! Teaching cute little kids how to read? What could be better than that? I would try it out while I was still finishing up my master’s (in ADULT Education) and move on to a university job, or so I thought.

Well, kindergarten is not my forte, either, it seems. I loved the kids, but the parents and the administration and the coworkers got to me hard and fast. I knew it wasn’t for me. However, I gave it another shot and when my first contract was up, I moved to a different school and taught kindergarten part-time. It was less work but the stress was the same. The kids were rowdy and badly behaved, and everything was always my fault. I stuck it out for a year and left.

After that, I started looking for ways to teach adults – you know, the thing I actually went to school to learn how to do? I found a guy who wanted a tutor through my husband, so I met him once a week over coffee (hot chocolate for me) and we just discussed different topics. It was actually stimulating conversation and it felt a lot more comfortable.

Eventually, that fizzled out and I started Korean classes, so I wanted to find something that was part-time but would pay well and was adult-focused. And then I found it. The perfect job. I still can’t believe I found it, but as I was searching Facebook for tutoring jobs, I found an ad for a twice-a-week job near my house. I inquired about it and the recruiter tried to set me up as the potential client’s tutor. A few weeks went by, and she kept telling me that the guy who made the ad wasn’t responding, but that she knew about a company that wanted at full- or part-time English tutor. I told her I was interested.

She sent me the details as they came out, and until the day I actually met with the company staff, I was in total disbelief. The job I now have is at an engineering company that wants to expand abroad, so the CEO decided to hire an English teacher for some of the staff that go on a lot of business trips (to America, Germany, China, Japan, etc.) I work for 4 hours a day teaching about 10 students. The recruitment agency gave me all the textbooks I needed for the students and for myself and I have a coordinator at the agency who makes my schedule for me.

I really enjoy teaching adults, and this job actually makes me feel important and competent. Weirdly, when teaching kids, I felt unqualified, but when teaching top-notch engineers, I feel completely at ease. I can see how what I do is directly impacting my students, and they actually say, “Thank you!” – something I almost never heard when teaching kids. I am also able to take what I learn as a student of Korean and apply it as a teacher of English. I find that helpful and challenging at the same time.

This is the first job I’ve ever had where I didn’t feel completely stressed out of my mind every day before walking in the doors. It’s also giving me a lot of confidence and experience and I finally get to come home every day feeling as though I actually did something. I hope it continues like this for a long time!

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