Saturday, 27 July 2013

The ESL Job Search Continues – Peppy Kids Club

So Peppy Kids Club has become the fourth interview in my expedition to find work teaching English abroad – and the third for Japan.

If it isn’t obvious by now, it’s an after school club of sorts that caters primarily to children. They say they’re the third largest school of this jurisdiction in Japan but the number one for children. Sounds good to me. Very reputable even.

I will admit, however, that I did have my reservations. I’d read mixed reviews online, but after speaking with a couple of people who had actually worked there, I decided to send in an application. My interview was scheduled for two weeks later and so off I went.

I arrived forty-five minutes early to this one. A downgrade from the ECC interview, but still way too early so I dossed about for thirty of those minutes – found a skirt in Topshop that I think I’ll buy next week – and then eventually went in.

My interview commenced with a grammar and writing test. The grammar test questions were pretty standard – identify the error and insert the correction type stuff. For the written part of the test, I had to pick one question and write a 300 word (or less) essay type response. Halfway through this section, my pen ran out of ink so I had to embarrassingly step out of the room and ask for a pen. Fortunately, the interviewer was really nice about it. She gave me one and told me to keep it.

The second part was a presentation. I knew most of the information already, but there were some handy parts that I didn’t know or had actually intended to ask questions about. The interviewer was really pleasant and made me feel at ease. I was then shown a DVD of a typical Peppy Kids lesson and got some laughs out of it.

The third part was the section I’d been dreading, but interview questions are pretty much the highlight of every interview, aren’t they? Fortunately for me, I’d done some research beforehand and some of the questions that people had mentioned actually came up in the interview so I had some answers ready. There was one question that did catch me out, however, despite the fact that I had looked it up.  I was asked how I’d deal with two disruptive students so I talked about introducing a merit system. I was then asked what I would do if it didn’t work. I actually went quiet for a moment because I hadn’t expected this, but somehow managed to churn out an answer about channelling that energy into something positive. I have no idea how I pulled that one out as in general, I don’t really feel like I interview too well.

The final part was my teaching demo. I’d pre-planned this and I’m glad I did because initially I wasn’t going to and the interviewer seemed very pleased with this. (I think my experiences with ECC might have potentially made me lazy). Overall, however, this went okay as well.

They took my photo and I nearly walked out without the documents that I was supposed to bring.

This included both my original degree certificate and my passport.

What the fuck?

Overall, I thought it went well but the last time I thought something went well, I got rejected, so we’ll have to wait and see.

I was told it would be ten days before I hear anything.

Let the countdown begin.

Monday, 8 July 2013

The ESL Job Search Continues – Teach Away

So I have a really bad habit of jumping the gun.

When things don’t go according to plan, I don’t like it. What can I say? I’m an epic control freak and the sad thing is, is that it’s probably not going to change.

So after facing rejection from ECC, I decided to expand my search to include Hong Kong and China. I don’t really know a lot about these places – not in the way that I do Japan – but I know people in Hong Kong and I’ve spoken to people in China so I thought, why not give it ago.

On the interwebs, there’s a huge debate about using recruiters versus applying to the companies directly, and thinking about it, it probably is within anyone’s best interest to go to the companies directly. However, for someone like me who doesn’t really know where to start in terms of China or Hong Kong, I’m thinking that I’m probably gonna benefit from a recruiter.

And I was pretty desperate too so I jumped the gun without really doing too much research and submitted an application to Teach Away.

A lady named Angela (not her real name) got back to me pretty quickly and scheduled an interview with me for today stating that the school she had in mind was called English First and that the branch they worked with were based in Daqing, China.

Now all I know about Daqing is that it’s definitely not a multicultural hot pot. There are very few foreigners about so it’s an ideal location if one wants to get stuck into the real China, but it’s not the location that concerns me – it’s the company. And low and behold, when I then did my research into them, I came across a whole host of problems based on the experiences of other people and it’s got me biting my nails a bit.

I’ve read peoples’ experiences concerning late pay, unhelpful Directors of Studies, unruly students (but that’s a given) and unfriendly Chinese co-workers. I’ve read about people who’ve left the country without so much as a “farewell” or people that have simply left and moved onto other companies – all stating the same thing; avoid, avoid, AVOID!

ECC was the dream because I couldn’t find a bad word against them, but all these other schools I’m coming across seem to be a meagre second and it’s giving me a lot of food for thought. But I figured that I’d already scheduled the interview and it would definitely be an experience so I didn’t cancel and I had my interview not one hour ago.

I also didn’t prepare for it.

Probably a bad move.

Maybe that's telling me something.

Anyway, it lasted about 15-20 minutes and it didn’t go particularly well. Angela asked me some qualification questions which she seemed happy with but her praise-worthy responses soon depleted when I only had one question to ask her about the company. She then went on to ask me interview questions concerning how I’d motivate my students, how I’d introduce a new word and how I’d cope with living in another country.

I’m not the kind of person who can just wing an interview. I have to prepare or I’m guaranteed to flop. The only time I don’t have to prepare for an interview as much is if I already have extensive experience in the industry. Interviewing for my current place of work wasn’t new to me, but teaching English abroad is, so I need all the preparation I can get.

Irrespective, she said that she’d forward my details onto the employer but ultimately, the decision lies with them and considering that they’ve managed to employ people up to November this year, I suspect they’ve probably had a lot of applicants.

But I guess I need to ask myself a real question and that is, should, by some fluke, I get this interview, am I wasting this company’s time? Do I really want to work for them when I know damn well that my heart is still with Japan?

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Call of the Wild - Mating Season

It’s that time of year again folks.

That time of year where the clothes come off and the people can’t help but look and stare and gawk at what she’s got or what he’s carrying in hopes that by chance, they’ll be able to play that infamous game of one on one.

You know what I’m talking about?

And contrary to the abysmal weather we’ve tend to have here in the UK, we have actually managed to have a few sunny spots of late with people royally take advantage of it. Heck, nearby where I live, there’s a huge park so all the singles come out in their shorts and bikinis in hope of catching some sun, knocking back a few beers and playing a casual game of Frisbee. But underneath the furore, the childlike frolicking and happy chappy jumping and jiving, there’s that subtle undertone. Because we don’t wear sunglasses simply to keep the rays out of our eyes – no siree. Sunglasses have another use because we all know that we can’t help but check out that buxom beauty or that handsome devil knowing full well that they can’t see us stealing a glance…

…or several.

Yes, folks. Roll over Valentine’s Day! Because when the summer sun hits our shores, everyone starts looking a little more attractive. And we’re much happier too meaning that we’re a little more accommodating. Who needs alcohol really when the hot rays beaming down upon us raise our serotonin levels making us happier than normal, therefore generally more personable as individuals? So that guy who cracks a lewd joke or two in the winter might have been considered creepy but in the summer, he becomes cheeky, endearing, even possibly hilarious.

In fact, people are so hot on this idea of romance and getting together that our televisions are being graced with an influx of documentaries and reality television all about dating in 21stcentury England. And even though I’m single and loving it, this just happens to be one of my favourite topics so this is gold as far as I’m concerned.

But with the gold comes the silver and what stands up usually must stand down sooner or later because for those of us desperately searching for a mate, it can be a bit of a rough time. And similarly, those of us on the receiving end of those affections might find their experiences likened to swatting away flies.

We can’t all look like Barbie with her ample bosom, narrow waist and round pert rear, nor can we all look like an Adonis with his taut muscles, chiselled features and pronounced package, but that’s life and we have to make do with what we’ve got when we’re on the prowl. For some people, however, this simply will not do and that means going that extra mile to turn themselves into something that they’re not. After all, for men, it’s a competition and for women…it’s a competition. We go out of our way to make ourselves look attractive to the opposite sex – or even the same sex. And what I’ve come to find amongst my male friends and even family members, is that muscles make the man; muscles attract the women. Similarly, for us women – slimmer is better, boobies are bigger and youth will win you the hearts of everyone.



Probably though?


You see, the other day I met the girlfriend of a friend of mine for the first time. Based on his own boyish good looks, I was expecting his girlfriend to look like a model, but the girl in actually looked relatively ordinary and surprisingly, this shocked me. I brought this to his attention because I’ve seen the kind of women who he often checks out and they look nothing like his girlfriend. His response was interesting though as he stated that while he might check out the standard “beautiful woman” once in a while, the type of girl he’d decided he’d take for his girlfriend had to have something…more.

And so while we’re all busy taking in the sun and gazing longingly at the people who’ve been dealt a better card in the physical department, we need to remember that looks look good…real good, but with time, they’ll fade and it’s what underneath that really counts.

Unfortunately though, some of us are just ugly inside and out. Some of us have no qualms with letting our arrogance shine through and these people really need to check themselves. Remember this post? I mentioned that companionship was one of the things that people were desperate for and that as humans who are social beings, this is relatively normal. Some of us, nonetheless, have no tact in terms of the methods we use to acquire that companion nonetheless, and there is no better example I could give you than yesterday when I attended my aunt’s birthday party.

The party took place in a bar and some of our party had gone outside. A group of men from a stag party a couple of doors down heard the music and thought that a group of young women standing outside having a drink was an open invitation; they soon invited themselves inside and when they saw a second group of women – these ones dancing - they couldn’t help but give us some ‘company’. Now, I’ll admit it. I’ve become a bit of a snob over the years. I don’t go to bars and clubs to get jiggy with men; I’ll go for my friends, for the music and the party atmosphere. I don’t really like talking to strangers and I certainly don’t like being touched by them. I find it very difficult to let my hair down when I can feel someone gawking at me and I can’t help it – I’m blessed; I have lumps and bumps in all the right places.

When the gatecrashers came, I wanted nothing more than to disappear, but it was difficult because I didn’t want to leave my mum on her own. (You know us women; we stick together). I will respond to questions but I can become very cold, I’ll make my excuses and then make a swift exit. Fortunately, they didn’t stay long, but it is this kind of blatant disregard that I do not like.

I saw this image of a friend’s facebook page:

Therefore, I’d like to say that just because a group of women are having a dance, does not mean they wish to have their space invaded. If a woman is alone waiting for a bus, does not mean she wants to talk to you. And even after you talk to her and she says “I have a boyfriend”, take the hint. She either genuinely has a boyfriend or she just isn’t interested and no, it does not mean she wouldn’t mind being your friend.

And ladies. Don’t think you’re off the hook either. Chasing a man who doesn’t want to be chased is not cute. He might take it as a compliment and toot his own horn with his friends, but that is about it. You will not wear him down. He has already made up his mind. And I don’t say this in judgement either because I have been there too.

So to everyone this summer, try not to lose your tongue as you salivate over all that potential. And try not to lose your mind either because intense heat can certainly play tricks on you.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

The ESL Job Search Really Begins - Interview with ECC

Degree. Check.

CertTESOL. Check.

Money saved. Check.

Sheer desire to teach overseas and get get the hell out of the UK. Double check.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I attended my first English Language Teacher interview outside of the JET Programme.  

ECC are quite a well-known company both inside Japan and amongst the ESL community. In terms of negative press, there is very little on the internet and their benefits package, teaching schedule, locations...etc, is pretty darn good in my opinion so if you're looking to teach English in Japan,  definitely check them out.

As it's a Japanese company, we were instructed to come in formal dress. I don’t really own a suit, but I do have a blazer and a pair of trousers that happen to be the exact same colour. I also, had a shirt. So fundamentally, I wore a trouser suit – the exact same one I wore for my JET Programme interview…and parts of which I wore to my graduation.

Regurgitation for the win.

Money spent.


As I wasn’t banking on London transport into the city, I decided to leave 90 minutes before I was scheduled to be there. I donned make-up, perfume, acquired a “handbag” – albeit, it’s actually more a practical bag that I take to the club sometimes (don’t worry; there were no sparkles) – and made my way down there.

I got there over one hour early.

Keen much?

So I took a walk around the area, bought a bottle of water because it was surprisingly warm that day. I showed a lost woman where a university was – my good deed for the day – and then rounded back to my interview location. I was the first to arrive and literally about thirty seconds after I entered the room, the door opened and more people walked in.

Sixteen of us arrived and the day began.

We spent the first couple of hours undergoing a presentation of the company. I think I made myself known from the beginning without even realising it and I wonder if my enthusiasm to answer questions or put my hand in the air might have annoyed people in the room – including the interview coordinators. It got to a point where one of them even looked at me expectantly for the answer when no one else sprang up to give a response. So yes, I felt like I came off like this:

while everybody else was like this:

Okay...not quite...but you get my drift.

What followed was a grammar test. We had been told that if we failed this test, we would not be able to progress onto the subsequent sections of the interview. A lot of us were bricking it and even though I had brushed up on my grammar a couple of weeks prior, when it was set in front of me, the nerves kicked in.

From what I can remember, a great bulk of the test was about indicating which words or phrases were incorrect in some way. There was a section on inserting the correct word into a sentence. There was a spelling section – I thank my lucky stars that I’d looked up some spelling a couple of days before. (The word “occasion” came up and I’ve spelt that word incorrectly for most of my life so I couldn’t help but smile when it was in there). There was a definitions section. There was a paragraph where we had to identify which word or phrase matched up with which particular term e.g. preposition…etc and right at the end, there was a matching task where we had to match a statement with a teaching method. I tore through the questions that I knew in 30 minutes and then went back and filled in the many blanks that I’d left behind. I then went over any one’s that I was unsure of, made some corrections, moved things around, panicked and spent the last five minutes checking my answers a second time. By the end of the test, I didn’t know what to think, but it was reassuring to know that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what “obloquy” meant.

We broke for lunch and I went to one of the branches of my place of work to get a soup. As I already work for them, I was entitled to a discount – but I didn’t have my ID card so no discount for me.


We came back and almost immediately, we were cut down.

Sixteen became ten.

Initially, I sat myself at a table with two guys. I looked down and the middle button of my shirt had come undone exposing the pretty blue bra underneath. I look back and think to myself – no wonder those boys looked incredibly uncomfortable.

Irrespective however, one of those guys wasn’t supposed to be there so we became nine. And then we were split into different groups and asked to generate a teaching demo of which we would each have three minutes to demonstrate.

I virtually improvised my insert and was told that my facial expressions were good.

I hadn’t even realised that I was making facial expressions.

There was feedback after every group and then we were cut again.

Nine became five.

This was the section of the day that I hadn’t prepared for in the slightest as I was too panicked about the grammar test more than anything else. So I was a little concerned. My interviewer asked me the standard “why us?” question and then decided to challenge me with questions pertaining to why I’d left it so long to apply for teaching work overseas considering that I’d done my CertTESOL back in September 2012. I answered that money was an issue and then he further countered it by implying that I could have gone somewhere else for much cheaper had I wanted. I answered that Japan had always been option number one.

I was asked about preferences of location and flexibility and whether I’d want to go back into psychology considering that it was my degree. I think I waffled a bit at this point and I look back and realise that I said things that maybe I shouldn’t have.

I didn’t get the job. I was devastated for the entire weekend as I realise that I wanted it pretty badly…even moreso than JET. I keep thinking to myself that maybe they thought I was false or maybe it was just highly competitive. My group was the last group to be interviewed in London and then the interviewers went on to Dublin as well. Maybe there were some really good specimens or maybe spaces were limited. Or maybe I just sucked and came off all wrong.

My advice to all the prospective teachers out there. Be yourself. Or at least, be the person you’d want to be in a classroom. I probably wasn’t perfect but I don’t think I could have done anymore…except maybe prepare a bit more for that one on one interview...or bought an actual suit.

Ultimately, nonetheless, I’ve picked myself up again. I’m still determined to find work overseas. I’ve actually expanded my search from Japan now so we’ll see what happens there. Who knows? Maybe I might end up in Hong Kong…or the Phillipines…or South America instead.

The world is my oyster, right?