#NotAboutThatLife Part Deux
The move from jumping around and working in various public junior high schools throughout the years as a dispatch ALT, to being directly hired by a private high school as an NET (Native English Teacher) was certainly a significant step up from working at Interac. The job offered slightly more stability and I was finally being provided a means to live much more reasonably. But I was not completely out from under the bus just yet — my sights were still set on making a career change, so I wasn’t going to get too comfy here.
The work as an NET was nearly the same as an ALT, but the main difference was that I had my own classes and everything was conducted on my own. I had complete control over what I could do with my classes, which was a big thing for me. And also now that I was teaching high school students, I had more opportunities to teach things outside the realm of just English grammar, reading, and speaking — I was now teaching writing.
The thing about teaching writing is that in order to effectively engage students in learning in this area, I would have to explore interesting topics that would appeal to them. This certainly led to many delightful discussions. I often challenged students’ views and mindsets with ideas and global issues that I felt weren’t usually touched upon in English classes in Japan: racism/discrimination, LGBT rights, environmental problems, child soldiers, war in Africa. Some of the media I chose to craft a curriculum around included: Remember the Titans, Zootopia, Moana, Blood Diamond, Hafu: The Mixed-Race Experience in Japan, and perhaps one too many TED clips. We also touched upon personal development and even had a few lessons on personality types with MBTI.
My lessons were bordering very close to what could have been considered university lessons now that I look back on how much critical-thinking and analyzing I made my students do while watching these films. If I had never mentioned that Zootopia was a direct commentary on the current state of racial affairs in the US, my students most likely would have thought it was just another cute disney flick. At any rate, exploring ideas like these with my students was something I realized I enjoyed much more than actually teaching English as a second language.
Salary-wise, although not a massive leap from an ALT salary, I was getting 50,000 yen more a month, and quite possibly the best part in addition to my monthly salary was twice in a year (once in the summer and once in winter), there was a bonus salary.
That’s basically two extra full months salary in a year, the exact opposite of what I was getting (or should I say not getting) when I was working as an ALT.
Additionally, unlike working under Interac where I didn’t get subsidized health insurance and had to pay for my own city taxes and pension after I got my salary, the school I worked at took care of all that for me. My net income was a lot more clear now that these things were automatically pulled before I even received my salary, and for me having that convenience was nice. It was always a chore to have to go out of my way to a convenience store to have to pay my city taxes, pension and health insurance separately.
The salary did also increase every year but by a very minuscule sum of 3000 yen, which was better than no raise at all I suppose. And even though I was on a one-year-contract, there was no limit to how long I could work there, or so I was told by the management.
Some schools have a clear 5 year work limit, which is also common among university teaching contracts. Basically, there’s this employment policy in Japan where after 5 years of working at a certain place, the employer is obligated to allow the employee to request for a non-fixed-term contract. While the ideal employer should kindly offer a permanent position to the employee, it’s been more common to see quite the opposite as highlighted in cases like this: ‘Five-year rule’ triggers ‘Tohoku college massacre’ of jobs.
I was not planning on waiting around to be placed on a chopping block.