Eikaiwa is arguably the most lucrative type of baito (part-time job) a foreigner can do in Japan. It’s also easy and convenient for everyone – most of the time you’re not even required to speak Japanese. Hoverer, even though most of my gaijin friends engage in English conversation classes not everyone has enjoyed the benefits Eikaiwa can bring about. I decided to list 5 tips for doing Eikaiwa I always find myself discussing when I talk with them.
- Do it on your own
Back in the days, I did a mistake of working for an Eikaiwa cafe and I can’t count how many times I regretted waisting my time and energy there. Eikaiwa cafes have long shifts, you don’t get paid half-decently, and are a really exhausting business – often you have to deal with multiple customers at a time, with varied level of English (try making a conversation happen between people who lived in the U.S. for past ten years and who cannot introduce themselves. Yaha, gambatte). Also, these cafes allow anyone to join so you’re much more likely to meet some creepy people without being able to run away. Don’t do this to yourself.
If you ask me, the best method to find students is to let them find you through one of the Eikaiwa websites – I recommend http://hello-sensei.com/en/sensei and http://findstudents.net (the latter one is far more effective). Then you’re able to fix your schedule by yourself, be selective with who you want to teach and run away if your students makes you feel uncomfortable.
2. Stay safe
Don’t give out personal information and contact information that you don’t have to list. Always meet in cafes. Don’t become too friendly with the students – these are English classes after all. Follow your instinct and don’t feel bad for turning down students who gave you a weird vibe. This should be pleasant and beneficial for both parties.
3. Be gaijin
It’s an open secret that Eikaiwa industry in extremely sexist and racist. Once you get over this fact you also realize that it’s mutually exploitative – students want foreignness in a form they had it sold to by regular English teaching business – ideally in a white, blond, blue eyed form but in general non-Asian looking teachers are scoring high in the foreignness level. An exception would be Singaporean teachers, but from what I’ve heard, they are often chosen by students who do business in Singapore. Also, most of the time your native tongue does not matter.
You should also be prepared to market your cultural difference. I was never a fan of Polish food, but suddenly I can talk about pierogis for a good hours and I also became a Chopin connoisseur. So if you get over the fact that you’re reduced to a gaijin figure, you realize you can ask for really good money for not that much work. See, mutual exploitation.
4. Remember about the classroom etiquette and communication
Developing good communication with your students even before the trial lesson can really help make a positive first impression and smoothen out the path to future classes. In the introductory e-mail introduce yourself properly, propose a few places for the first class (so that student can pick the most convenient one), mention the cost of the trial class, regular classes and any additional costs (coffee, train ride etc.). I also ask about the general level of English and student’s expectations from the class – it helps you better prepare for the trial lesson.
5. Decide on your style
In rare cases students are easy going and making an hour-long conversation does not amount into nervously checking your watch every five minutes. Most of the time you’ll find it hard to find good topics to keep the conversation happening and inevitably talk about food, more food, food in your country, Japanese food, other food, and maybe traveling.
My advise is to decide on your style and have a tentative schedule that to adjust to students’ levels and needs. Some want to practice writing and grammar, some only want to talk. It’s your responsibility to be flexible enough to accommodate for expectations of your students. If not, see point 6.
6. Know when to quit
I teach my students on average for a couple of months only. It’s good both for me and them to have a change after this period.
When you start Eikaiwa, it seems like the easiest money on earth. Especially if you’re in Japan for a work and study program or if you’re an international student – you’re unlikely to find a better additional source of income.
However, beware of the moment when you’re done with what was your main anchor in Japan and Eikaiwa becomes your life. I’ve never experienced it personally, but I know some frustrates who got stuck in the business and try to persuade themselves and the environment that teaching English is what they wanted to do. If it’s not your calling, do know when to let go.