Category Archives: TEACHING

5 Soft Skills ALTs Acquire that Are Resume Builders

Source: Gaijin Pot
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If you’re like me, looking for a job after being an assistant language teacher (ALT) without a technical degree or much other working experience, then you’re probably wondering the same thing about the future: What transferable skills have I gained from teaching English abroad?

It can be quite daunting to go out there without hard skills specific to a particular job. Hard skills are those quantifiable ones obtained in the classroom, through special training and study materials and on the job. I can assure you, though, that being an ALT has equipped you with numerous soft, or “people” skills — those subjective abilities you have in dealing with others.

Here are five soft skills learned in the classroom that you can bring to the next chapter of your career. Your “post Japan possibilities.”

1) Emotional intelligence

The biggest skill that I’ve taken home from teaching English abroad is being able to regulate my emotions when things at work and in life go south, giving me a little time and space to breathe.

At school, one of the biggest challenges ALTs have to face is classroom management. It can be quite difficult to control a class in a language they don’t fully understand. A lot of the time it feels like no one is listening to us in class and we have to learn to grab our students’ attention through the use of gestures, tools or easier language. In my case, I learned that playing with my students at lunch breaks and talking about things other than English have really helped them feel more familiar with me.

In life, we have to remember that unexpected challenges can happen at any time when we’re away from home. When we first relocate to Japan, at first, even mundane daily tasks are big challenges. For example, having to separate …continue reading


Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you’re single

Source: Gaijin Pot
Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you're single

Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. As the songs say, it is a time for joy, a time for family, a time for presents and various other forms of merriment.
In Japan however, Christmas is very much about families and in particular couples.

Perhaps even more so than Valentine’s Day, Christmas is the time of year in Japan when couples fully express their love for each other, usually in the form of elaborate, extravagant dinners and over the top gifts.

However, for some, it can be a very depressing time. If you’re single, Christmas can be a pretty depressing time. It can often seem like you are the only man or woman in the entire universe who doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

And even for those of us lucky enough to be in a relationship, Christmas can often be a solitary experience in Japan, as our Japanese partner, and sometimes even us too, are forced to work on Christmas Day, since Christmas is not a recognized holiday here.

It would be very easy to go all Ebenezer Scrooge on the whole thing, just say “Bah! Humbug!” and try to forget Christmas even exists. It doesn’t have to …continue reading


It Snowed in Hamamatsu!

prints on snow

*Originally intended for posting on Dec. 18

It snowed in Hamamatsu! Yay!

I’ve lived here for almost 3 years and this is the first time I saw a considerable amount of snow. It snowed enough to cover the grounds in thin white blanket. When I walked to school this morning, the looked winter-picture perfect. Soooo lovely and a little slippery.
Snow Surprise
Hamamatsu is on the coast of the Pacific so it rarely snow like this. It doesn’t snow in Shizuoka prefecture actually. Most cars in Hama are not equipped to deal with slippery roads. The result? Heavier traffic than usual. Even the buses are slower than their usual turtle pace so they are late. Because the bus was late, I was late in going to school too. Just for 5 minutes though so the vice principal didn’t mind it. Other teachers were late too.
This is the snowfall data from Current Results. See, it doesn’t snow in Shizuoka where Hamamatsu is.


Average annual snowfall
Days Place Inches Centimetres
25 Aikawa, Sado Island 46.9 119
13 Gifu 18.5 47
50 Kanazawa 110.6 281
63 Nagano 103.5 263
6 Nagoya 6.3

…continue reading


Pregnant in Japan: Prenatal Care

Source: Gaijin Pot

In my last article, I outlined some important questions to ask yourself as you decide to give birth in Japan or back in your home country. Even if you decide to move, you don’t need to leave immediately; you can receive prenatal care in Japan while you work on your plans.

The usual procedure for pregnant women in Japan is to see an OBGYN at a Ladies Clinic, where she will then be referred to recommended hospitals to give birth. Finding the right English speaking OBGYN in Tokyo can be daunting because many offices are extremely busy (despite Japan’s low birth rate) and you have to find a doctor who you feel comfortable with.

It’s true that Japanese doctors have a reputation of being a bit cold and not open to questioning. I certainly found this to be the case with my first OBGYN. I felt nervous every time I saw her, and when I asked her questions, she was very short and impatient. She especially did not like my husband being with me for the check ups. Finally, I had enough and decided that I needed a doctor who would be excited with me.

After some searching, I found Dr. …continue reading