Teaching in Japan: Part 1

My first week in Japan

by Rachael Hornsby

After months of saving for flights, researching jobs, and attempting pretty unsuccessfully to learn some basic greetings in Japanese, I was eager to get over to Japan and find out for myself what it was like. I packed up all 25kg of my life in my snazzy new Tesco suitcase, said goodbye to all my friends and family, and left my lovely England once again so see what the homeland of sushi and sumo was to have in store for me.

Having caught the travel bug teaching in Thailand for a year, I had decided to set my sights on a new Asian adventure, and since everyone I’d met who’d been to Japan had loved it, and there are such great TEFL opportunities there, it seemed like an ideal place for the next step of my journey. Rather than choosing one of the many jobs I perused online, I decided to play it safe and follow a friend to a job and location I knew she had loved, and took a position teaching kindergarten in Kurume, a small city on the island of Kyushu in South West Japan.

After a long flight from Heathrow, and a short stopover in Seoul, I finally landed on Kyushu in Fukuoka, a city closer to North Korea than it is Tokyo. It was evening when I arrived, so my first sights of the island were just of big city lights on the drive from the airport with my colleague, with my main impressions being ‘why is everyone driving around in tiny white toy cars?’. My hotel on for the first night was pretty much like any other hotel, apart from the shower that only reached as high as my chest (the first of many ‘tall girl Japan problems’), and of course the infamous Japanese toilet, with its innumerous temperature, direction and pressure settings for your post-business ‘shower’- even more impressive than my beloved ‘bum gun’ in Thailand.

After a little tour of the not-too-exciting Wednesday night down town Kurume, my friend took me for my first Japanese meal to a gorgeous little yakitori restaurant. We sat at the bar eating sticks of meat and fresh salmon sashimi (my first ever!), surrounded by a strong aroma of tasty barbecuing and annoying cigarette smoke (it’s still legal to smoke inside here).

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Salmon sashimi, part of my first meal in Japan

I moved into my adorable little apartment the next day, which made me feel yet more like a giant (I get through my door ways with about an inch to spare above my head). The flat has all traditional Japanese sliding doors separating the rooms. The bedroom floor is all tatami (Japanese straw mats fitted together). The furniture is low to the ground, and the bath is deep, almost cube-shaped (my first few bath times were a bit of a floating somersault act!). It was one of the most stereotypically Japanese buildings I’d see yet, and I half felt as if I was moving into museum exhibit of what a period Japanese house should look like! I was also given a little moving in guide, complete with an ‘earthquake preparedness’ check list, which told you about how to get ready for an earthquake- it sounded just like the stuff we were learnt about in geography at school, so felt weirdly unreal, like I’d jumped into a textbook. Little did I actually know how soon this information would actually become relevant!

Other new essentials handed to me by my school included my inkan, which is a little bamboo stamp with my name on the end that I use instead of a signature for all my important documents (they could only fit the Japanese kana for my first name on- レイチェル, ‘Reicheru’), and my company car (woop!). I got off to a slightly awkward start driving. Having never driven an automatic car before, my foot tried to find the clutch and slammed the break down on my first drive, with a truck behind somehow avoiding crashing into us. But luckily Japan drive on the same side of the road as the UK, so after getting to grips with their road rules I was soon buzzing around town with ease down the city’s tiny roads the width of driveways. (Although I still sometimes set off my wipers instead of the indicators, as they’re on are the opposite side to my car at home. Some habits are hard to shake!)

My little automatic car ❤

The timing of the school year in Japan means that new teachers are lucky enough to experience the infamous ‘sakura’ season (the blooming of the cherry trees) almost as soon as they land. In my first week the blossom seemed to suddenly appear everywhere at once, making, for example the carp-filled canal below our building look even more picturesque. The way the blossom it is anticipated and celebrated in this country, helps you really make the most of it and appreciate the beauty. It’s a great example of the stunning nature of Japan that drew me here, and the people’s special relationship with nature that I think we should all try to emulate. As wishy washy as that is, they still know how to celebrate like any country here- with a good helping of friends and alcohol, specifically, in my experience, day drinking their way through cool boxes full of beer and sake under the blossom!

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Blossom at a park on my drive to school

At the Hanami (the picnic held under the cherry blossom trees) I had my first experience of a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. This is done at different events throughout the year in Japan, and put simply it is someone serving you a cup of tea, but it involves a precise process carried out by professionally trained tea ‘makers’ (no idea what the term is for that!). Ours took a quarter of an hour or so, and I could write a whole blog post on all the elaborate steps, but basically we knelt beside a lady in a kimono who was preparing the tea with a little traditional stove, were given a sort of swan-shaped sweet to prepare out palette, and after its long preparation, were each served a bowl of bitter green matcha tea, before watching whilst everything was methodically cleaned and put away. (I have since found out there are many different ‘schools’ of tea, with their own unique ceremonies, and this is just one specific style). The whole thing was so slow and delicate it made you feel quite peaceful, giving a nice contrast to the noise and energy of the party, but afterwards I still had a bit too much sake (not wanting to be rude and turn down drinks from my new acquaintances of course!) and ended up cycling home along a slightly wonky line…

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My first week here was crammed with many more episodes, including starting my job at school, taking a trip to a stunning nearby temple town, and trying my first 100 yen sushi. And my first month here was even more eventful when the island was rocked by its strongest earthquake in on record…

Work from your mobile phone?

I know the title of this post may seem a bit ‘scammy’ , but it really isn’t!

If you’re a native English speaker from the USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or Canada, you could teach English from your mobile phone and make up to 22USD per hour plus bonuses. 

This is my main form of income. 

It funds my international travels and gives me the freedom to work from anywhere I want (with wifi). 

Teach English online

Im not going to sugar coat online teaching.  It’s convenient, pays well and rewarding…. but it is hard work.  You need to be high energy, passionate and dedicated.

If you’re looking for easy money or passive income, then stop reading.

However, if you feel like you’re a good candidate, then you’re in the right place. I am more than happy to talk you through the steps and help get you past the Palfish interview stage and increase bookings :)

I’ve helped several teachers in the past, so I know what it takes.

Interested? then….

  1. Private message me on Instagram and I’ll take you through the steps.

@tefltravelling


OR

2. Download the Palfish App and insert my invitation code – 45012005

You can then get in contact with me via the teaching app.  It has fantastic messaging facilities.

This is 100% free.  Just like any other job, there are no fees etc.  You pass the interview, you get the job!

Simple. 

I’ll look forward you to helping you get started and welcoming you to our community.

The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

TEFL TIPS #7 – Sticker Charts

Using a sticker chart when teaching TEFL is by no means an original idea! In fact, most ESL teachers probably don’t need me to tell them how to use a sticker chart effectively—but I am going to list some of the benefits associated with using this handy classroom tool. I think it’s important to note that studies suggest sticker charts are used most effectively when teaching ages 3 – 8 years old.

Sticker charts actually divide opinion among the teachers I know. Many (myself included) find them to be a useful instrument in the classroom, and would be lost without them.

However, others say that they use fear to control and motivate . They argue that a child would be afraid of failing, and not receiving a sticker would cause them to feel ashamed in front of their classmates.

This may also be true, but unfortunately, in an ESL classroom with younger learners, the language barrier is a problematic issue and not all instructions are fully understood. There needs to be a method in place to translate to the students that bad behavior won’t be tolerated and good behavior is to be rewarded.

So, with that said, I think the benefits of using sticker charts outweigh the negatives. Here’s why –

– Discipline

I would say that a lot of the good behavior in my classroom is because the students understand that if they don’t behave they won’t receive a sticker at the end of the day. I can combat any naughty behavior with the simple question: “Do you want a sticker?” Ideally, it would never get to this point, but it happens.

– Encouraging English

Encouraging English is very important in any ESL classroom! Students may be more motivated to talk in English if they were to receive a reward at the end of class.

– Minimizing the use of Native Language

Unsurprisingly, stickers can also be used to minimize the amount of talking the students do in their native tongue.

Teaches about goals/working toward something long-term

Children often count down the days until they finish their chart and receive their reward.  This is great at helping them understand the concept of long term goals.


Learning to be excited for others’ accomplishments

Students always find it fun to see a classmate pick their prize and find out what it is.  This may be because they can see what potential prize they could get, or because they are genuinely excited for their friend.

A sticker chart is by no means a perfect system, but it is easily understood by younger learners and can be used in a variety of ways.

Check out these fantastic sticker chart resources:

Websites

Teachers pay teachers

Pinterest

Twinkl

On Amazon

Click here!

Click here!

Click here!

Teaching on the road

I’t’s been about 18 months since I made the transition from teaching English in classrooms around the world to teaching English online from airbnb’s around the world.

It has granted me a freedom that I could of only dreamed of a few years ago.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making different cities my home for a few weeks. I prefer taking the time to explore slowly and not rushing my experiences. From Budapest to Marrakesh, from Bangkok to London, I’ve been lucky enough to travel to multiple parts of the globe.

How? All because I make money from my mobile phone.

But, the lifestyle isn’t all travelling and late starts. It’s hard work that requires planning and discipline.

However, in my opinion, the rewards are well worth it.

If you’re willing to put in the hard work, teaching online doesn’t only provide you with a flexible schedule, but it can help you achieve a healthy bank balance.

I’m going to cover travel and teaching online topics such as: portable classrooms, internet backups , devices and much more in future posts. But for now, I want to help you to get on your own way.

So, firstly, you’ll need a job!

Online education is on the rise. There is no shortage of online companies to choose from. Do your research and find out which one is best for you!

I work for Palfish and I LOVE IT!

Palfish

There are many reasons why working for Palfish is great. Good pay, flexible bookings and a social network of teachers and mentors are just a few.

I’ve helped several teachers get started on Palfish. If you’d like to join the team, download the Palfish app and insert my invitation code – 45012005.

Alternatively, you can drop me a message and I can answer any questions you have.

Palfish only hires native English speakers with a degree. There is no leeway.

Airbnb

When you teach and travel, it is important to ensure you have a quiet space and some privacy.

I’ve found using airbnbs not only the cheapest option, but the least risky. You can message the host in advance to enquire about the wifi and ask any other questions that may effect your teaching experience.

Chances are you already have an airbnb account, but if you don’t, sign up here and help a brother out –

https://www.airbnb.com/c/lhaddock4?currency=GBP

If you have any questions about teaching online or teaching and travelling, please get in touch!

Have a fantastic day!

#TRAVEL – Cambodia: Angkor What?

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The majority of people who travel to Cambodia take the time to visit the worlds largest religious monument: Angkor Wat.

Nursing a colossal hangover, I did just that.

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Angkor Wat is located close to the town of Siem Reap (the infamous ‘Pub Street’ is also situated there, hence the hangover) and can be entered for a variety of prices depending on the type of tour you choose. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century, using the famous Khmer style architecture. Over the years, Angkor Wat has had its fair share of historic moments, but since 1953 it has been controlled by Cambodia. Now, it draws tourists like a moth to a flame and is overrun with cheeky little monkeys.

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Many choose to make the trip at sunrise, which is highly recommended. Unsurprisingly to anyone that knows me, I didn’t make it.

However, visiting in the afternoon was nothing less than breathtaking.

I’ve seen a vast range of temples and monuments travelling throughout Asia, but I can safely say that nothing has trumped Angkor Wat. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It’s gigantic and you can’t help but feel a bit like Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider whilst you’re strolling around its neverending architecturally brilliant superstructure.

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I think I paid around 30 US Dollars for the day pass, but I would suggest the 2-day option if you have the time.

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I’d love to go back sometime.

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If you’re heading to Cambodia ,don’t forget your travel guide –

TEFL TIPS #4 – Verb of the Day

Verbs are the skeleton of any language. Most ESL learners know the basics:. ‘eat,’ ‘go’, ‘play‘ etc., but expanding this list is vital to those working towards achieving a higher level of both spoken and written English.

verb of the day

In my classroom, I introduced a method I call ‘verb of the day’. It’s pretty simple but effective.

Every day I spend a few minutes introducing a new verb and ask my students to use that verb in a sentence. In a few weeks, my students progress from using standard verbs: ‘I eat‘ ‘I go’ & ‘I like‘ to the more advanced: ‘I climbed’, ‘I jump’, ‘I travelled‘.

The more creative you are at introducing the verb (you could use a song, dance and games), naturally the more the class will learn. For the smaller kids, acting out the words can be very effective.

A list of verbs I use to teach in kindergartens – elementary school are as followings:

– stretch
– push
– pull
– visit
– bend
– think
– cry
– rush
– throw
– move
-chase
– bite

The older or more advanced the students the further you can go:

– quit
– shake
– whisper
– scare

I find these Verb Flashcards from Amazon super helpful in my online and brick and mortar classroom:

5 Reasons to Teach English in Vietnam

I first moved to Vietnam to teach English in 2016. I fell in love with the country during a backpacking trip 2 years prior….. I had to return.

I moved to the capital city Hanoi. It was an incredible experience that I will always cherish.

Here I am again, in 2020, back in Vietnam (now in Ho Chi Minh) as an online ESL teacher.

Falling in love with Vietnam once more, I am inspired to tell you some reasons why you should relocate to this amazing country.

So…Here are 5 reasons why you should be an English teacher in Vietnam!

Save Money

The cost of living in Vietnam is very low & the salary is quite high. Not only can you live very comfortably, but saving is achievable with little effort.

Travel Vietnam & beyond

Vietnam is a beautiful and diverse country. Whether you spend your time in Sapa, Hoi An, or the southern island of Phu Quoc , you won’t be disappointed!

Also,it’s important to note that flights and buses to neighboring countries like Laos, Thailand and Cambodia are easy to find for less than $50, so spread your wings!


Food

Vietnamese food is famous around the globe. Pho, Bun Cha, Banh Beo, Bun Bo Hue… the list goes on.

Most Vietnamese dishes are incredibly cheap and easily accessible (durr you’re in Vietnam).

Social!

It is very likely that your time in Vietnam will leave you with ever-lasting memories and hopefully an expanded social circle.

Weather!

If you’re seeking some sun & a warmer climate, then Vietnam could work for you.

If you have any questions regarding teaching or travelling in Vietnam, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’ll be more than happy to help!

Buy your Vietnam Travel Guides here!

Also, if you’re interesting in teaching online, drop me a message.

I’ll help you get started, ensure you pass the interview stage and maximize your bookings.

Have a fantastic day!

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Don’t teach in Thailand if…

Every year hundreds of people fly to the “Land of Smiles” to teach English. The list of benefits this choice offers is so large that instead of focusing on them, I have compiled a list of reasons it may not be the best option for everyone. You may want to reconsider if…

You Want to Make A Lot of Money

If you’re reading this, then you probably already know the teaching salary in Thailand isn’t the best. In comparison to the cost of living, you can live very well—but when it comes to making those international bank transfers every month, it can be a bit painful. That said, jobs at international schools tend to offer more money and there is no shortage of private tutoring opportunities throughout the country. Many teachers, myself included, survive from their tutoring money and transfer their salaries home each month. You can save, but it definitely takes commitment.

You Want to Party 24/7

The Full Moon Party, Khaosan Road – YES, Thailand is a fun place to party. Alcohol is cheap and there is never a shortage of events to attend. However, if this is your primary reason for visiting Thailand, I think backpacking or a holiday would be a better option. Don’t get me wrong, over the course of my 18 months there I had an endless amount of raging weekends all over the country, but the focus during the week should be the job.

You Aren’t Willing to Embrace a New Culture

This is similar to the previous. Many people assume life in Thailand is like the travel brochures and the backpacking blogs. Of course, it can be, but the reality is that the majority of schools are positioned away from the ‘tourist hot spots’ of the country and in my opinion allow for a more authentic cultural experience. I think it’s important to note that in many locations you could be the only English speaker for miles and find it impossible to buy those branded goods you love so much back home. Personally, I see this one as a positive, a chance to challenge myself and grow—but many are not prepared for the cultural shift and start to feel isolated.

You Don’t Like Kids/Want to Teach

The heading of this may make you think ‘OBVIOUSLY DUR’ but unfortunately there are a few too many teachers in Thailand who not only hate teaching but dislike children. I understand a lot of people choose to teach in Thailand to see the country or for a gap year etc., but I think a little interest in teaching and not a dislike of the age group you’re going to teach should be a minimal requirement. You’re going to be in the classroom the majority of the week—taking a job you don’t care about just so you can party and see the sites will only make the kids miserable and the workweek seem like a chore. Care about what you do.

You Don’t Like Spicy Food

Ok, this one is a bit of a joke. Of course, you don’t need to like spicy food to teach in Thailand, but be warned – it’s everywhere. The words ‘mai pet’ (Thai for not spicy) can save your life!

This list is basically a compilation of the various complaints I would hear from fellow teachers around the country. Maybe if people knew what they were getting themselves in for before going, there would be a lot less critical and negative stuff written about teaching in Thailand online. Do your research, and try to find a place that is not only suited to your interests and strengths, but also consider your weaknesses.

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong

Top 5 Things To Do In Hong Kong


Hong Kong is one of the most famous places in the world. In February 2016, I was lucky enough to visit for a few days, and experience some of what ‘Asia’s World City’ had to offer.

Here is a list of my TOP 5 Things to do in Hong Kong –

The Peak

The Hong Kong Peak is normally described as “Hong Kong’s #1 Thing To Do”. I can see why. The Peak provides visitors with a panoramic viewing point looking down at Hong Kong City and the ocean. I don’t think I’ve drunk a coffee with a view like it before!
The best way to get to The Peak is by using the infamous ‘tram’ service. At some points during the journey, you will fear for your life – I am not exaggerating when I say that the tram will travel almost vertically, but just hold on tight & you’ll be fine!

The Cable Car & The Tian Tan Buddha

The cable car ride to the top of the mountains is optional, but really, unless you are down to your last dollar or have an extreme fear of heights – there is no option. This was my favorite part of my trip to Hong Kong and I would recommend anyone visiting to do it. The price is HK$130 for standard & HK$180 glass bottom (roughly $16/$23 USD).
The cable car to the Tian Tan Buddha is a steady, but fantastic experience. The higher you get, the more of the unusual landscape of ocean, buildings, and mountains will be revealed.
Soon enough, the outline of a giant Buddha will begin appearing and the buildings in the background will fade away.
At the Tian Tan Buddha itself, you can explore the immediate area of historical monuments, temples, and stores… just be careful of the cows. You could also choose to walk the 268 steps up to the Buddha itself.
The photos really speak for themselves…

Markets

I’m not a “shopper”, but damn, the street markets in Hong Kong made me want to buy a lot of shit I didn’t need. “Temple Street” and “Ladies Market” (not just for ladies) are just two of the night market areas in Hong Kong that boast everything from food to clothes to even wild stock.
It is easy to spend hours meandering around the bright colorful stalls, browsing the wide (and I mean wide) variety of products on sale. The hunger-creating smells of nearby street food and restaurants are the only thing strong enough to entice you away.

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Not just a city

The most surprising element of Hong Kong to me was it’s natural beauty. It really is more than just a city. Hong Kong has no shortage of mountains, islands, and beaches. Most of these can be accessed by public transport for little cost. If you’re in Hong Kong for more than a couple of days, I’d highly recommend venturing out of the city and seeing some of this spectacular terrain. It’s worth mentioning that 2 of the most popular islands to visit in HK are Lantau and Lamma.

Promenade

The most stereotypical selfie taken in Hong Kong is taken at the promenade. The promenade is a spectacular area at both night and day. I can see why many joggers choose to run along the waterfront and I can see why tourists flock to get a photo of the stunning electronic landscape across the water. It’s completely free, so it’s worth walking along it if you get the chance!

I hope this gave you some ideas of what to do in Hong Kong or provided you with some nice flashbacks of your time there. Is there anything you think should have made my list?


Feel free to comment below!

If you’re going to Hong Kong, buy your travel guide below. It has everything you need and more!