Goodbye, ESL!

With some of my students in Japan (and the NOVA Usagi)

I first started teaching English as a Second Language in Japan, for the now-defunct NOVA Corporation.  New recruits were given three days of instruction, and then placed in a branch (or two).  Over the two years that I taught there, I received some additional training, as well, especially when numerous students began complaining about my classes.  Pursuing a desire to experience and work in Japanese public schools, I was pushed along by the knowledge that I may not get a third year with NOVA.  It turned out to be a good move for other reasons: five months after I got hired by a company as an assistant language teacher, NOVA was no more.

I moved to Seattle a little over a year after returning from Japan.  Not knowing what kind of job I wanted to pursue here, and finding ESL work to be more lucrative than bagging groceries, I worked at a small language school last year, until my lack of training and experience caught up with me, and I was fired let go, despite being popular with many students and teachers.

Out of work for seven months, and feeling a bitter aftertaste after being let go from a job for the first time in my life, I got another chance to teach ESL in April. Though my first session there was difficult (to put it mildly), I slowly became more and more comfortable teaching my classes.  The teachers certainly helped with this, as did the fact that the more time I spent there, the more I got to know the students.

Then, the spectre of NOVA and my previous ESL job appeared this session, when I was informed that I would be teaching no regular classes, which I found out later was due to low student evaluation numbers.  After subbing for two days, I was told that, since I wasn’t on the schedule for teaching, it didn’t make sense for me to be on the schedule for subbing.  And so, once again, I was let go.

I hold no bitterness toward my employers, nor my students.  Unlike NOVA (and, I suspect, some other overseas programs), ESL teaching in America requires experience planning lessons, understanding classroom dynamics, and relearning (and solidifying) knowledge about grammar and vocabulary that was last learned in high school, before being quickly forgotten (in other words, you need certification to be competitive with everyone else).  At NOVA, the teachers learned how to, as one of my friends aptly put it, “teach by numbers.”  You have a book; the book tells you what to do.  Though, of course, one still has to adapt the lessons to the students.  When one is unable to, as happened to me on several occasions, complaints ensue.

That is not to say that I cannot teach, or that all students didn’t have good lessons with me.  What it means is that my lack of training, relevant experience, and temperament, makes me an average teacher.  Sometimes I can teach a great lesson, but more often than not, my lessons are average.  In my case, as I learned while working in the Japanese public school system, I need much time and resources in order to create effective lessons, and even then, were I to have come up with a lesson plan for every class of every day of the week that I taught, the results would have been similar to what happened here.  Luckily, I got to assist classes in the junior high schools, and the elementary schools gave me much free time, plus guidelines and resources, on what to plan for their classes.  Also, I worked hard, appreciated the culture, and joined in after school activities with the students, which is why my final year in Japan could have easily turned into two.

So now that I once again have much free time, I am working on my novel, which is why I haven’t posted much on this blog (also, I’m hesitant to write my next entry on SIFF, seeing how much time the last two took up).  I also must start job hunting again, once I figure out what it is that I want to pursue (necessity may dictate what I take at first, but I’ve found that, when it does, the results last for a very short period of time, and often translate into little financial gain.  Much better, I think, to go after what you love, and get something that you at least enjoy parts of).  Networking will be key.  Applying for unemployment benefits again will be key, if only to give me more time to find another job.  I also will gladly take any donations to this blog, though I never started writing online to make money, but because this format forces me to set aside time each week for writing.

Right now, my financial future looks like a flock of flying cows just took a shit all over everything, but since cow manure makes excellent fertilizer, I can only hope that something healthy and strong will sprout amid the crap.  But, on the off-chance that this is my final month in Seattle, I have cashed in a previously purchased Amazon Local deal for four swing dance lessons this month, starting on Labor Day.  After all, when life looks bleakest is when we should dance and laugh the most.


Author: Greg Salvatore

Writer. Voice Actor. Humanist. Feminist.

6 thoughts on “Goodbye, ESL!”

  1. Teaching is REALLY hard and a lot of people don’t appreciate it. I was told in my teaching classes that the first few years you just…well kinda stink. You aren’t the best teacher you can be for a while because there is SUCH a learning curve and SO MUCH to learn. If you love teaching ESL perhaps you can look into going to school for ESL teaching? Not sure if it’s your “thing,” though. Part of the benefit of this is that they teach you HOW to teach- which is a skill that sometimes takes time and is not natural to everyone.

  2. Oh my goodness, your “cow manure” metaphor made me laugh! 😀 But yes, I hope something good comes from this rich and *cough* natural fertilizer.

    Ahh, Fantasia! I remember that scene so well though it’s been years since I last saw it! In fact, I’m wondering why I wasn’t disturbed by it as a child…

    ESL is a great thing! But terribly time-consuming. My mother used to do informal ESL with refugees from the Middle East, but she had to stop because the commitment went much further than the classroom; we were beginning to forget what she looked like.

    1. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? I don’t think people realize how much of their time teachers give to their professions, whether it’s ESL or a public school. Then again, I’m giving up teaching to write, so perhaps people will start forgetting what I look like, too. 😉

  3. Teaching ESL in Japan sounds like it was a good experience. I have some fondness for Japanese culture, and I find it interesting (and endearing) that you were able to participate in some of the after-school activities with your students. That said, I’m sorry that your employment situation is no good right now. Hopefully the fertilizer analogy will follow through ^^

    1. It was a great experience. Participating in after-school activities (and special events like Sports Day) were the best things about the job. And yeah, hopefully I’ll get a good, full-time job soon. Thanks for the comment.

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