New Teacher Tales – Becky
In our New Teacher Tales series, we interview people teaching English abroad, about how, why and where they started out, about their experiences teaching abroad, and what advice they have for new teachers.
In this post, fellow blogger Becky who is now teaching in Moscow, tells us about why she loves teaching little kids and how teaching in Japan allowed her to see the Japanese singer she loves multiple times.
Where do you work now?
I’m currently working at a privately owned ESL school in Moscow, Russia. I’m a full-time teacher. I teach mostly adult general English classes, but I also teach children and IELTS prep.
What’s the best thing about living in Russia?
That’s a hard one, but I have to say that it’s the mystery. It gets to you because of the alluring charm that comes with it.
Find out more about jobs teaching English in Russia and the pros and cons of different jobs.
Why did you become an English teacher?
When I was finishing university, where I was working on my MA in history and teaching first year history students, I knew that I wanted to see more of the world. Being half-Japanese, choosing Japan was a no-brainer. It was the perfect time to do it, but I knew that I needed to work. As a long professed grammar nut and with a lot of teaching experience under my belt, becoming an English teacher felt right.
Teaching English overseas was supposed to be temporary, but I enjoy it immensely. I can’t believe I’m in my seventh year living abroad as an ESL teacher.
How did you start teaching English?
I took a TESL course, and I continued with an advanced course in TOEFL. It was an excellent window into the life of an ESL teacher overseas since the instructor was a former ESL teacher in South Korea. Of course, it also helps to have this certification on your resume.
Read more on TOEFL, ESL, TESL and the various acronyms in English teaching.
What was your first teaching job?
My first teaching job was teaching children swimming when I was in high school, which is when I discovered how much I love teaching because of how natural it feels and how rewarding it is.
My first ESL teaching job was teaching at a children’s conversation school in Japan. Most of the kids were pre-schoolers or in elementary school.
It was a BLAST. Children are such a joy, and I usually have more fun than they do! Teaching adults is great, but there’s nothing like the rewards of teaching a room full of young children. Here are a few reasons why I prefer teaching kids over adults – 🙂
Where have you taught?
In Russia, I’ve only taught in Moscow, but in Japan, I’ve taught in Okayama, Kurashiki (where I lived), Marugame, Imabari, and in a few small towns in the countryside.
What was your favourite place to work?
I have to say Kurashiki because the best job I’ve had was there. I worked for a preschool with after school classes for elementary school children, and it was only about 10 minutes away from my apartment by bike.
The bosses were the most reasonable, down-to-each people, which made all the difference. I didn’t have to deal with the parents, and I just got to do my work, which with such young children often doesn’t feel like work.
Related post: What are the best places to teach abroad?
What is the best thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?
I managed to see my lifetime favourite Japanese singer in the flesh 9 times, and I got to meet her each time. I also got personal thank-you postcards from her for gifts I gave her; I’m the luckiest girl in the world, and I can die happy. 😀
I knew that I would eventually see her in person while in Japan, but it didn’t dawn on me that I would be able to see 9 additional Asian countries and so much of Japan.
Here are more details about that and other incredible things that I have happened since becoming an English teacher –
What is the worst thing that has happened to you since you became an English teacher?
The worst thing that happened also happens to be the worst thing about being an English teacher, and that is not being respected as a teacher who knows what she’s talking about.
I can’t tell you how many students did not take my teaching advice and actually question or even outright argue with you about what you’re teaching. It drives you insane, and that also comes with having students, parents, or colleagues who barely speak English tell you what to teach and how to teach. It is all incredibly maddening.
Tell us a bizarre story about something that has happened to you since you became a teacher
During my first lesson (ever) in Moscow, the subject of Lenin somehow came up. One student, a man who was probably in his late-30s or early-40s, piped up deeply in the most stereotypical Russian accent, “Lenin’s not dead.”
I was stunned. I was lost for words.
I waited for him to elaborate…to say something about his legacy or something along the lines of how his spirit will always be alive, or maybe even say that he was just kidding but nope.
All I could muster with a forced smile was, “You know you can see what’s left of him in Red Square, right?”
I told one of my co-workers about it afterwards, to which she asked with the biggest smile, “Like Elvis?!”
Aaaaaaaaaaah! Why didn’t I think of that?!
Is there anything you would change about your time as an English teacher?
I would definitely have put my foot down much harder and every single time students and non-native English speaking colleagues who didn’t trust my knowledge and experience. I was way too nice to the point that they didn’t get it.
Toward the end of my time in Japan, I became more assertive. I’m still nice, of course, but I don’t put up with it anymore.
Find out more about teaching in Russia from James’ post – an English ‘nanny’ in Moscow.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an English teacher?
If teaching feels natural to you and if you’re a language enthusiast, go for it!
If you’re not sure but interested for the right reasons, go for it!
Teaching, like every other profession, isn’t for everyone. Keep that in mind, because although you’re in a new country with countless things to see and do, you will still be working most of the time.
You can find Becky, more stories of her life as an English teacher and some fantastic photos of both Russia (the study of Moscow’s metro stations is fascinating) and Japan on her blog Trekking with Becky, on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
The photos on this blog are Becky’s own.