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Bob Long, a consultant with Yokosuka Naval Base's Fleet and Family Support Center, gives instruction in the first of a two-part program on teaching English as a second in Japan. Part one covers the basics as well as touches on paying taxes and applicable rules and regulations.
Bob Long, a consultant with Yokosuka Naval Base's Fleet and Family Support Center, gives instruction in the first of a two-part program on teaching English as a second in Japan. Part one covers the basics as well as touches on paying taxes and applicable rules and regulations. (Chris Fowler / S&S)

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — People thinking about teaching English in Japan might want to consider doing a little homework first.

“Each base sets its own policy on teaching English,” said Air Force Capt. Jason Medina, a U.S. Forces Japan spokesman.

A common thread in the base-to-base instructions is that no supplies may be bought from commissaries or exchanges to support the enterprise. Also, in most cases, Morale, Welfare and Recreation facilities may not be used to host the classes.

For prospective teachers living in and around Yokosuka Naval Base, the Fleet and Family Support Center offers free guidance designed to quickly get teachers teaching.

FFSC consultant Bob Long teaches the program in two stages. The first, “Getting Started Teaching English,” describes some of the organizations and groups looking for teachers. It also explains military instructions and guidelines and discusses local payment and taxes.

The second part of the program involves getting wired into the English Teachers Networking Group. The group of both current and prospective teachers meet to discuss employment opportunities.

Jobs generally fall into two categories: schools and small groups.

“I started out teaching a small group of three women,” said one teacher, who asked not to be named due to contractual obligations at the school at which she currently teaches. “We would meet once a week for tea and discuss various ideas. Afterward, they would hand me an envelope with the equivalent of about 80 U.S. dollars.”

Both options offer their own set challenges, and success depends on what you put into it, teachers say.

“You have to have a passion for the job, otherwise you might find that it’s a lot more work than you bargained for,” said English teacher Aletta Hizer. “Depending on where you work, the schedule is very demanding. The classes are often back-to-back with little or no time in between.”

Hizer said teachers need to make themselves inviting and must to be very attentive to needs of their students.

“You also need to know that in the Japanese culture, it is very important to be punctual and fully prepared for every class,” she said.

To acquire students, networking is key.

“In my opinion, if you want to be successful, the networking group is the place to be,” said Denise T. Ward, a former English teacher now with Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka’s public affairs office.

“In some cases, Japanese schools allow their teachers to find their own replacements,” Ward said. “Many of those teachers look for their replacements at the networking group.”

Networking is key

Yokosuka’s Fleet and Family Service Center says most teachers acquire students by using the informal base network system. The center offers the following tips for landing a job:

n Tell everyone you know you’re interested in teaching English and enlist your spouse and friends’ support. n Attend monthly Yokosuka English Teacher Networking Group meetings. Contact the group at DSN 243-9631. n Be active in your community. n Expand your network by meeting as many people as possible.n Volunteer.n Join local spouse’s organizations.n Participate in church activities.

— Chris Fowler

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