Friday, January 22, 2010

resume (check), job (check), apartment.... now looking

And so the job search draws to a close. Finally and with much relief. I started sending out resumes mid October. I signed a contract for the 2010 school year (April - March 2011) Jan 19th. Many things about this job search came as a surprise, including that it took 3 months, but I suppose this is my first real adult job search. Compared to anything else I've done, it resembled applying to graduate school more than anything.

Stats: I sent out dozens and dozens of resumes. I got replies on less than half. Some jobs I was under-qualified. Some I was over-qualified. Ratios of positive verses negative responses didn't seem to change based on qualifications. Some replies were generic, "We'll put you in our database..." only one clearly stated that I was not qualified for any positions at their school at the moment (but after I finished my teaching degree please feel free to contact us again...).

If I didn't hear back from employers after about 3 days, I never heard from them. The first cut goes by quickly. One popular company claimed they had about 13,000 applications for 10 spots. I made it to their second interview before dropping out and signing with a different company (too much like what I'm doing at Ye Ol'Eikaiwa, though much less evil), but one thing is clear: resume first impressions must be sharp to even get your foot in the door.

Most of the schools or recruiting companies interested in me required at two interviews or an extensive pre-interview task. Many of the schools seems to have already made up their mind before I arrived (some in my favor, some not).

A question I never answered: How do you dress for an interview at a pre-school. The staff will be wearing jeans and smocks, be covered in finger paint and/or snot. Business formal hardly seems appropriate. I chose slacks with an ironed crease, a crisp white collared shirt, and a sweater, or just my red, trendy, winter coat. Subtle make up and heels, as those are signs of adulthood here, and if wearing stockings don't forget to touch up your toenail polish. After all, you'll have to take your shoes off to come in.... These were not job offers I got. The question remains unanswered.

Of the 15 interviews (with 10 different schools) I did over two months, (on weekends and mornings while working fulltime...) the most formal included a nearly 2 hour train ride out to their school and then sitting in front of panel of 5 teachers/staff. They hand me a photocopy from an English communications text and tell me the situation is a coworkers has called in sick. They want me to teacher his/her class. You have 5 minutes to prepare.

I raise my eyebrows, nod, and get to work. Luckily, subbing for Ye Ol'Eikaiwa has given me more experience than I should perhaps have with this sort of situation. Then, before the model lesson, they interview me first in English and then in Japanese.

The Japanese portion of the interview includes:
This may be a private question but are you single/unmarried.
Er. Yes, I'm single.
So, do you have any plans to get married.
Ah.... Um.... Well, not really. Maybe I guess. Uh... I mean, I don't know what will happen in the future, right?

(How do you respond to that? How do you respond to that in your rusty second language? damn.)

Ok, now teach your model lesson about "What are you going to do on your winter break?"

(right, ok brain, focus. foooocuuuusssss.)

The Japanese staff was enthusiastic about me joining the school but the Native staff (i.e. the Native English speakers teaching English Communication) were luke warm. This discrepancy was enough for me to turn them down. Who wants to work in a place where the boss likes you but the coworkers would have preferred someone else?

The most casual interview was for an after school program school. The owner met me, twenty minutes late, at the station and immediately asked if she could buy me lunch. Um, sure... (says the girl who is working immensely hard to save money and was just worrying about the cost of train fare in to meet her. yeah, I'll take lunch!)

We talk a little about teaching but she also tells me about her ex-husband who wants to give it another try with her but she's not sure, a teacher who she got drunk in a similar sort of interview situation, and enumerates the reasons she wants to quit her day job to make her dream of this school come true.

By the end of the "interview," including visiting her school which is a converted apartment, I wonder if she is a con-artist and not a very good one either. Naturally, I don't sign up. I do feel a little bad about her buying me lunch but so it goes...

In the end, I am left with two very good offers from two private high schools. For a little while both are sending me emails defaming the other. It's a bit like school yard name calling. It feels like when I was interviewing at Emory and they started bad mouthing Stanford to try and convince me to join their program. (They missed the key point that I learned later: The reason Stanford has so many young untenured professors leading research labs is that many never intend on getting tenure and are there to get the Stanford stamp on their resume. Therefore, why not work grad students to death?)

In the end I chose the school in central Tokyo, teaching near native speaker kids only math and science. I will no longer be an English teacher come April. The class sizes are between 7 and 15, almost all the kids have been schooled/lived abroad for a number of years but have always spoken Japanese at home (with their Japanese parents). Though Japanese seems to be their language of choice, among each other and to teachers, English seems to be their stronger language in terms of grammar, vocabulary, syntax, ability to express complicated ideas. I find this split fascinating. The school gives an accredited Japanese high school diploma but is not International Baccalaureate. The kids have their core subjects in English and their PE, music etc classes in Japanese. They do have both English and Japanese classes to try to make them truly bilingual speakers/readers/people.

I will most likely be teaching 10th grade Chemistry, 8th grade Life Science and 8th grade math (interestingly, the math follows the Japanese curriculum as much as possible and includes much more algebra and geometry early on but less on number theory, sequences....)

I will be working really hard on something new, interesting, challenging, rewarding... I'm endlessly excited (and more than a little nervous too). I will learn a lot this year.

For now, I'm still subbing at Ye Ol'Eikaiwa. There are days when I remember how I loved this job. I meet a lot of cool people and see a lot of interesting things. There are days when I remember why I've already quit 3 times... Yesterday, I spent over four and a half hours commuting to and from the school. I'm reading a lot. I suppose I should be studying but it's hard unless I can get a seat. Next week, I'll visit my 50th school. Luckily, I'll be teaching there for a while AND it's close to where I live. For at least a week...

Many weeks are just a blur of new faces and names every day. It's both exhausting and invigorating. I'm living alone in a company apartment far from central Tokyo but with a nice kitchen. It's both a fantastic respite after a year of hostels and shared everything, but also lonely some days.

I take immense pleasure in simple domestic things, a cupboard full of food that will not be eaten by rats or cockroaches in the jungle night, a kitchen that is mine to leave as clean or dirty as I like. Going to the store and picking out vegetables that will be made into lunches that I bring to work. Curling up with tea and a Japanese study book or a book of poetry. A whole corner of my apartment dedicated to my bike and it's ever growing paraphernalia. My New Year's Resolution is 6000 miles on my bike, or about 200 km a week. Currently, not being able to commute and not being in good enough shape (yet!) to easily go out on a century ride (i.e. a hundred mile ride/ 160 km) every weekend, I'm averaging a little less that 100 km a week. So I'm on track to get in better shape and up the odds. I feel and see the tone returning to the muscles in my calves and feel it in my shoulders. It will be a good year on my bike.

I will be back in the Northwest the first three weeks of August. I think I used to like the distance that Japan is from the NorthWest more. I liked the separation of this life versus that life. But now, trying to wrap my head around living alone again, reading books that many of you would love, I often wish I could pop back for just a weekend here or there. Or better yet, bring some of you here to enjoy the beautiful winter weather (chilly but sunny and clear).

all my love to you.
the adventures continue...