Your job isn’t any more important than mine, asshole.
“When are you going to get a real job?” is something that has been said to me a few times in the past. Last night I was in a bar and I got talking to a guy who was a TEFL university lecturer. When I told him I was a kindergarten teacher he replied “oh well.” This kind of response really pisses me off, especially since he had just spent the last fifteen minutes telling me how much he hated his job. In his eyes though, he has a ‘real job’ – which is all that counts. He can tell people that he is a TEFL university lecturer and he can write it on his shitty little CV.
I had a ‘real job’. I had a ‘career’. I had the stress, the deadlines, the bullshit. I worked in the advertising industry for seven years as a writer, and towards the end hated my job and hated myself. As a creative person, having to put your creativity on the line day-in day-out is exhausting. I still freelance now and again but I have to say I don’t miss the full-time agency lifestyle – and I’ve told myself if I go back into the field again it’ll be writing about stuff I care about.
I’ve said many times before that taking a break from the creative industry was the best thing I ever did for my own creativity. I write more, I draw more, I do more of everything. But as well as that, I actually like my job now. I enjoy getting up and going to work. Yes it’s tiring and yes the kids are essentially just 3ft walking germs, but I 100% smile more in this job than I have done in any other job in my whole life.
Holy shit, a job that’s fun. That’s a rarity. Not many of them about these days. The enthusiasm, energy and happiness that you find in a Japanese kindergarten is contagious. Teaching at this level is as fun and rewarding as you want it to be. Put the effort in and the kids and teachers will love having you around and vice versa.
You learn a lot about Japan
Kids start Japanese kindergarten at three years old. They arrive at nine in the morning and stay until two in the afternoon, five days a week. It’s not just playing with toys, in fact there’s very little of that (virtually none at my school apart from on special days). As well as learning English and hiragana, the kids have an opportunity to improve motor skills and creativity through crafts, sport and music. One main other thing they learn about is Japanese culture, and as a kindergarten teacher you get to learn about all these cool things too. In this sense I’m often at the same level as the kids: we are all experiencing these things for the first time together, throwing beans for setsubun, pounding mochi for mochitsuki, or tying a wish to a tree for tanabata.
You learn a lot about yourself
I’m an only child with no cousins. That’s pretty rare I reckon. Growing up it was just me. I was never surrounded by babies, or brothers of sisters or any of that. I never knew if I wanted kids because I had no basis to form an opinion. It wasn’t until I became a kindergarten teacher that I realised kids aren’t simply screaming bundles of misery. They are actually cool little people.
Long story short, there’s nothing to be ashamed of at being a kindergarten teacher. In fact it takes a certain type of person to be able to do it well.
If you are thinking of becoming one in Japan I say go for it. Might just be the most rewarding thing you ever do.