Teaching English in Japan: Meet Saoirse

Hi Saoirse! Tell us about you.

Hi everyone, My name is Saoirse! I’m from Ireland and I’m currently a kindergarten teacher in Hiroshima, Japan. I’m also an actor and a singer. On my days off, I like to travel, go for walks and buy bagels.

What did you do before your TEFL adventure?

Before coming to Japan I did my Bachelors degree in Theatre and Drama Studies at University. After that, I spent some time working as a disability assistant in third level education and then when COVID happened, there wasn’t much that I could do! I spent a lot of my time during COVID baking and doing a lot of yoga.

How did you find the course? Do you feel it prepared you for your teaching experience in 

I loved the course! I felt it was really easy to follow and kept me engaged. During COVID I also got the chance to complete the 30 Hour Teaching English Online, 30 Hour Teaching Young Learners and 30 Hour IELTS Preparation Specialist Course all with TEFL Institute Ireland. So, by the time I got to Japan I felt really prepared!

Your path to teaching abroad, was it something you always wanted to do?

It was definitely something I always wanted to do. My parents had gotten their TEFL qualifications when they were younger and had recommended I do the same so I always felt that if I was going to live abroad I would make it happen by teaching English.

TEFL teacher in Japan
Was Japan your top destination to teach? When did you move over there?

Japan was the reason I did my TEFL course in the first place! I came here on holiday in 2018 and immediately felt like I wanted to live and experience life here so I went and did the course. I moved here to teach in 2021.

How did you find your position to teach in Japan?

I found the job on a website called Gaijinpot! I would really recommend it if you’re looking for jobs in Japan.

Any tips for future teachers on the interview preparation?

Be yourself! Funnily enough, a lot of the questions they asked me in the interview were personality questions like my favourite book, did I prefer day or night, cats or dogs, etc. I would say read up on the school you’re interviewing for, do your bit of research and then just relax.

How do you finding teaching in Japan? Whats your favourite group/class to teach?

Working in Japan can be challenging. Work days can often be long, especially when we’re preparing for an event. But the teaching itself is really fun and even on tough days I usually get to laugh and sing and play. Unlike a lot of other teaching jobs in Japan, I only work with one class as I work in a kindergarten. So, I teach 2-3 year olds everyday and its interesting for sure!

One thing you never expected about teaching

The diapers… and how much I would love the children.

Most rewarding experience?

Seeing children who couldn’t speak any English and were really shy at the beginning of the year become confident and suddenly have an explosion of English ability.

Plans for the future?

To take each day as it comes!

Tips for other teachers thinking about move to Japan

Don’t buy into what you hear online. I read a lot of negative opinions about teaching in Japan before I came here and it really scared me. Be prepared to work a lot and know that it can be hard but it is so worth it and the good really outweighs the bad.

In general, you don’t need a degree to teach English abroad or online. Our certification stands alone and you can get employment without pairing it with a degree. However, some TEFL employers do prefer their teachers to have a degree. More importantly, for some countries, it’s a visa requirement. This means you can’t obtain a work permit without a bachelor’s degree or higher. Some of these countries include China, Japan, UAE and Vietnam. 

Our advice is if you have your sights set on a certain country, look into the visa requirements first before putting time and effort into finding a job there. This will save you time and disappointment. If it’s a school preferability, and not a visa requirement, there’s sometimes some leeway. 

You do not need any prior teaching degrees or experience to teach abroad. Once you have your TEFL certificate, you can secure work as a TEFL teacher. A BA in Education would enhance your CV, but it’s not a necessity. Completing a TEFL course that includes teaching practice, like our Hybrid TEFL Courses, will also help your CV.

If you want to experience different cultures and see the world, teaching English abroad is for you. Not only will you get to explore new places, you’ll also meet new people and get the chance to make a difference to the lives of language learners. A TEFL certification lasts a lifetime. So, you can dip in and out of teaching abroad whenever you feel like it. 

It is not necessary to speak any other languages. You’ll be able to find a job and work comfortably without knowing the language spoken in your chosen country. Of course, it is always an advantage, even if it’s just the basics. We recommend learning a few phrases before you move abroad like hi, thank you, goodbye and sorry.

You’re never too old to gain new qualifications! Some TEFL employers do have age restrictions, but there are ample opportunities for more mature teachers. There are also the options to teach English from home as a private tutor or online tutor.

The accredited courses are the quickest way to get TEFL certified, and are accepted by schools and institutes worldwide. Choose from a 120, 180 or 240 hour accredited TEFL course depending on the level of training you require. 

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