My daily life as an English teacher in Japan

As I finish my second full week of actual teaching, I figured you might be interested in knowing what a day in the life of an English teacher in Japan is like.

I try to wake up by 9am. It isn’t easy. Wednesday I slept in until 11AM – but then, I was really sick and needed the sleep. Most days I’m up by 10AM.

Depending on how early I get out of bed, I have time to catch up on reading – mainly, the blogs I follow. Yes, despite my lack of posting for the past couple weeks, I was able to skim all the posts you’ve made and I’ve read several. Leaving comments isn’t that easy on an iPhone, though it’s much simpler than on my old Blackberry. I also use my morning time to check email and Facebook.

I take my shower and prep for work starting around 10:30 if I can. I use the full hour of “prep” time to also fold up my futon, open up the curtains (and possibly the balcony door to air out the apartment), and if I prepared, have a bit of breakfast. My latest favorite has been cream-filled pastries from the 100-yen shop – a full, delicious (not really healthy) meal for about a buck. I also enjoy some sandwiches/wraps – some with ham, egg, and cheese, or some other combination. I’ve had bananas on hand and juice as well for the morning.

I leave the house by 11:30. Tuesdays and Fridays, I don’t start until 1pm, so I might fuss around the apartment, cleaning or sorting or working through some other chores. Fridays have been my internet cafĂ© mornings, so I’ve braved the cold for an hour with the rest of the world. Saturdays are early days. I'm at work before 10. If I get out on time, I could pick up something to drink or eat on the way (well, eat at the school – I don’t eat on the train). It’s only a two minute walk to the train station from my apartment. The train ride takes about 7 minutes, and then my school is about five minutes from the train platform. I can get from my door to the school’s door in 15 minutes if the train leaves as soon as I get to the platform and on-board. Otherwise, another train usually departs within the next 5 minutes or so. The longest I’ve ever waited for a train in either direction was 10 minutes – much better than waits of 20 minutes or more at times for the streetcars back in San Francisco.

I usually arrive about 10-15 minutes early, which I need to prepare myself for the day – change into my work shoes, hang up my jacket, put on my nametag, etc. Some days, I teach a lesson as soon as my day begins, so I need to review the lessons before meeting my students and starting the day.

I teach between four and seven lessons per day, with each lesson being 30 minutes (for babies), 45 minutes (pre-schoolers), or 50 minutes (school children and adults) long. Each day has a different schedule, but it’s generally the same from week to week. Wednesdays are my most difficult right now – seven lessons, including four pre-school children’s lessons. Saturdays are my “longest” days – again, seven lessons, but mostly adult. During my nine-hour day I also get a one-hour lunch, so those two days leave me with only one hour of “prep” time.

My day is over about 9pm, though I need to say goodbye to students, put away my materials, and do any cleaning needed (it’s my turn two or three times per week). I get home by 10pm, usually after browsing a convenience store for food or picking something up from a restaurant.

I walk in my door, take off my shoes, and relax. I eat my dinner, watch some Japanese TV, browse the ‘net on my iPhone, and go to bed around midnight.

Trying to stay on a normal schedule while working an afternoon/evening job may be one of the most difficult parts of my life! There isn't much time in the mornings for anything, and there isn't much to do after 9pm other than karaoke, pachinko, and drinking! But I still enjoy my job and it makes the weekends all that much better.

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