Today marks approximately two years since I arrived in Japan as somewhat young hopeful looking for her next adventure. I stepped off the plane in Nagoya and gave one year of my life to my ex-employer - Peppy Kids Club (PKC). And I must say it was definitely an experience, but rather than write about my time teaching there immediately after I left them, I decided that I would give it a year and give myself a chance to reflect on everything so that I could give them a fair evaluation as well as answer the typical questions that people generally have when they start applying for teaching work in Japan. But PKC were my window into teaching and I will always be grateful to them for giving me that opportunity.
Unlike most conversational schools, when I was there (and I think it's universally known), PKC working days are shorter. It was not uncommon for me to teach no more than three to four hours. At one point, I taught five hours straight and at another I taught only one hour. Hours will fluctuate and I quite liked that aspect of it. What might be considered a little inconvenient is that dependent on your supervisor, you mightn't receive your schedule until the end of the month. This wasn't really a problem for me as it was never completely last minute but in other places, I'd heard differently so it just depended really.
Pay was pretty good in my opinion. Maybe it was because it was my first year and I didn't have the city tax or inflated health insurance that I'm now paying but I was happy with what I was on. I didn't have to worry about rent because it automatically came out of my salary every month; I kept my bills low and I still had money to travel to different places in Japan, do my shopping and have a good time with friends. I also saved a lot (which came in handy so much towards the end of the year). I have heard it said however that it's not a sufficient salary if you have a family but then I'm not a mother. I reckon single parents would struggle on it but a duel income would quickly sort that out.
The holidays were okay for me. It's no London where everyone's entitled to at least 20 days off but I was given five flexible days and five fixed days off (during the turn of new year). I also got a bit of time off during Golden Week and Obon which meant I could do a bit of travelling. It all depends on the calendar year though but I got six days off during Golden Week and I believe three plus the weekend for Obon. I could not complain.
My co-Japanese teachers were lovely. I never had any problems with them and I even hung out with some on occasion. I met some really nice kids as well; I often loved it when I met those kids who were really keen on English. You could see it in their eyes. But naturally there were also kids that were very bad. Larger classes - especially younger kids - were sometimes difficult for me to control, especially if they were high energy. And some kids were also very rude and because we weren't really allowed to fully discipline them, we had to find creative ways of dealing with difficult behaviour.
I look back and realise that the reason I had so many friends in Hiroshima was because I got friendly with my team members. I'm still friends with some of them to this day and while others have moved on, I'll always remember the times I had with them. Unfortunately, from the get-go, I quickly learned that there was sort of a divide in my team. We were quite a big group so obviously some people are going to prefer some people over others. I guess I went in thinking that as foreigners in Japan, we'd all find some common ground but I also had to remember that as with all people, we are very different.
Training was excellent. It was two weeks long and I learnt so much. I picked up so many games and I even use a couple of them to this day. It was very thorough and I gained some in class experience even before I started teaching on my own. But because it was so intense, I lost a lot of sleep. There will be homework; you will need to prep, and if you're anal and a bit of a perfectionist (like I was), you will lose weight at the same time. But when you conquer it, it'll be worth it believe me. You should feel somewhat prepared (although I was still very nervous) when teaching your first set of lessons.
People often mention that commutes can be a killer. And they can be. You get multiple schools so you're often travelling to different locations but I didn't mind some of the journeys. I got to see different parts of Hiroshima (and I was paid for it). If you have to commute more than two hours, you also got to stay in a hotel but I was unlucky. One of my commutes was just under two hours so this one quickly started to grate on me - especially in the winter when it was biting cold or even snowing. I would get home late and while Japan is relatively safe, who really wants to be commuting home at midnight.
Again, this is all just from my perspective; everything I experienced, but as the JET crowd say - every situation is different. Some people really enjoyed (or might still be enjoying their experiences) while other might have hated it. But I think this is with all jobs everywhere really. Where you're placed might come into play as well. I think I was lucky. I was placed in a city and I absolutely fell in love with Hiroshima. (I would go back in a heartbeat).
Overall, for me however, I think PKC has an even list of pros and cons. They really helped me get started in Japan. I've heard that with some other organisations, you're required to start up on your own and obviously with limited Japanese, this can be difficult; PKC alleviate this burden. I've also heard it said by others however that PKC is a "one-year" thing and I think that somewhat applied to me. I really enjoy teaching and while I don't mind kids, I've also realised in my latest job, that I rather enjoy teaching adults so a role where I teach both is more ideal for me.
I think however that as an entry-level English teaching job however, if you're deciding to teach English in Japan, Peppy Kids Club is a rather decent opportunity. Therefore, if you're thinking of applying, I wish you all the best.