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Substitute Teacher Tips and Advice

For most, the initial honeymoon period — when Japan can do no wrong and everyday life seems a joyful blur of partying, traveling and learning Japanese — seems to last about two years. Once you reach this point, the cracks in the facade become impossible to ignore.

Of course, in the endless hyperbole of social media, where everything has to be either wonderful or catastrophic, there is a third way that is often ignored. You can do what I have done: stay in Japan, but work to better yourself here. So, what practical steps can teachers take to set themselves up to teach long term here?

Here are three ways to move up the career ladder in Japan. These district and regional managers are, in almost all cases, people who started out just like you, as classroom teachers. The ALT dispatch companies often employ management that is a mix of Japanese and foreign employees. Again, many of these foreigners were regular ALTs who gained promotion into their current roles. So, in short, not everyone will make it as a manager.

In fact, statistically speaking, given the sheer number of teachers who pass through these companies every year and the small number of management positions that are created, your chances would seem slim. First, acquiring some Japanese language certification will go a long way in this regard. Most of these foreign managers will, for the most part, act as a conduit between the rank and file teachers and Japanese senior management.

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Work every shift that is asked of you. Help out on outside projects such as promotional events and marketing pushes when you can. Also: be patient. I believe that critique, self-reflection and asking questions of each other is the key to improving efficiency and performance in staff.

This does not mesh well with the Japanese approach to corporate management, which remains heavily top-down and focused on obedience rather than inquiry. You should think carefully about whether or not this is the right path for you depending on the type of organization you work for. This is an area where a few of my friends have enjoyed reasonable success. After working for a company for a few years and gaining the necessary experience, teaching skills and network, you may want to consider setting up your own school.

Most — but not all — of my friends who have their own schools, set them up after they got married to their Japanese partner. The main point to consider here is that not only will you be teaching all of the classes, but in a country like Japan, where image is very important in business, you will also be the face of your company both in marketing and in a customer facing capacity. Presentation, professionalism and a solid commitment to getting your name out there are everything. One of the reasons that ALT and eikaiwa teaching work seems to offer limited potential for career expansion is that the job itself can be something of a difficult sell on your resume.


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ALTs are as the name suggests assistants to full-time, certified local teachers. The eikaiwa route, too, has its limitations. You are usually a solo teacher. At many schools, especially the big chains, your classes are shackled to a particular textbook or set lesson plan and materials, making it hard to demonstrate that you actually have any real lesson planning skills yourself.

So, to prepare yourself for a future career in management, training or as a senior teacher, you need to seek out greater autonomy as early in your teaching career as you can. Autonomy, in this regard, functions on two levels. There is the obvious freedom of preparing and performing more lessons by yourself with as little support from either your manager or your colleagues as possible. Try to move away from pre-set lesson plans and develop your own style where possible.


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  8. Use the provided texts and materials around a lesson plan you have created rather than creating a plan to suit the materials you are given. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. I have to confess that I am pretty horrified at this post. It is absolutely unacceptable for a teacher in a public school to proselytize his or her own beliefs to students. It is equally unacceptable to teach Bible stories or to pray in a public school. Your students may come from any number of different faith backgrounds, and to promote your own faith to them is profoundly disrespectful of the traditions of their families.

    If it is important as a teacher to be able to share your faith with your students, then perhaps you are called to teach in a private religious school. Thanks for your comment. You have no problem proselytizing your students into your doctrine of militant, atheistic, secular humanism. You contradict the specific claims of each by rendering them all equally false. These are religious beliefs. There is no neutrality. It seems to me that a lot of assumptions are being made about who I am, what I believe, and what I communicate to my students.

    I am not taking a stance about the validity of any or all religions, but simply saying that: The Golden Rule treating others as we want to be treated is one example of a Christian truth whose value and benefits many non-believers acknowledge. So if a fight or mistreatment among students arises, for example, a Christian teacher could use that principle to advise the students.

    No need to be horrified.

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    Religious beliefs all have value systems. You can live by and teach value systems without teaching or proselytizing a religious point of view. Value systems exist for a reason. I may have a student who is taught to get revenge as an appropriate response. This is anti-social and destructive behavior according to my faith. I would teach to treat the offender nicer than they treated you.

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    I do teach this and explain that it becomes increasingly difficult to harm someone who is nice to you. I have a problem with horrified? We are not robots. I am new to your blog and have loved what I read here. Being in the process of receiving my education degree, I am already feeling the conflict of the anti-Christian perspective of the public school system. Basically, I walk the walk AND talk the talk. I teach them to treat others the way they want to be treated. I have inspirational quotes up around the room, but nothing directly from the Bible.

    This is how I try to live as a Christian in an Australian public school. My class is extremely difficult but our motto is Treat others how you like to be treated. I have to agree with Miss Night. There is no way I would agree to this This is wrong. It is very right and easy to teach morality and good values without labeling it as christian, hindu or any religion,I Think Ms, night above hit the nail on the head.

    I believe everyone above would be offended highly if that happened, Yet, they think it is ok for them to do it. I want my children to learn that people are different and to learn to respect others beliefs. In 7th grade there are actual lessons on religion and beliefs.

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    Knowing about other religions is critical knowledge. It is the ignorance of religions that breeds evil, such as kicking out all Muslims from the US. You have to be very insecure about your own beliefs to worry about this. Also, what values will they teach that will harm my child? There is nothing wrong with me teaching and expecting high standards.


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    Tell me a Christian standard that would harm a child? While I agree that Christians should not use their position in the school to evangelize students, if specific questions come up, it seems that honest answers should be acceptable. We should be able to teach our children to respect other points of views without challenging them to give up their own. As a public school employee, I do not believe that faith belongs in the classroom.

    I must say that I am not a Christian, nor any other religion, and yet I find ways to treat my students with grace and dignity that have nothing to do with faith and everything to do with treating my fellow human being the way I want to be treated. If you want religion and God in the lives of children, then you ought to go to their parents with your message.