This post comes from one of my friends who is a long time resident of Japan. He was initially working at a Gaba English Conversation School, before moving onto bigger and better things. Here is his insight into teaching English via their schools.
Interested in other options? You can check out our complete post on English Teaching options in Japan.
You can also check out what other English Conversation Schools are out there too.
Why were you interested in coming to Japan?
I’ve always had an interest in visiting Japan. I was particularly fascinated by the juxtaposition of tradition and technology in the country. I also wanted to see what it was like living in a country that was completely different from my own in terms of language, culture, and way of thinking. Tokyo especially represents one of the megacities in the world and I wanted to see what it felt like to live in such a big and bustling metropolis. Although my interest was initially centred on Tokyo, I’ve grown to appreciate the other areas of Japan equally too.
How did you get your job at Gaba?
A friend of mine had been working at Gaba and suggested I apply for a job there. I went to their website and applied, they called me in for an interview and I had to teach a mock face-to-face lesson. After that, they hired me and scheduled my initial training for the job.
Can you describe a typical day at Gaba?
At Gaba, you decide which days and times to open up (this is decided a month in advance). So, you could change your schedule from month to month as your situation changes. A typical day really depends on the studio and the types of students. For me, it was teaching from around 6 pm to about 10 pm from Mondays to Thursdays. However, I occasionally filled it out with lessons in the mornings or afternoons and work at different studios in order to see a larger variety of students. Some days are really tiring when every lesson slot is filled, but sometimes only a few lesson slots are filled so you are just wasting time waiting around (and not getting paid in the meantime).
What other insights can you share about your experience at Gaba?
Gaba can be good if you are focused on a career in teaching and moving up the corporate ladder to a full-time position at HQ. You have to start at the bottom, but once you move up and start getting a commission from sales then the salary is quite reasonable. One big advantage is to be able to set your schedule month to month. It is difficult to cancel lessons during the month but if you want to take time off and you let them know a month in advance then it isn’t a problem to take time off.
The studios are generally quite nice and the support system is pretty good in terms of textbooks and training. The downside is that there is a lot of control in the company. You are expected to follow their system and also you are expected to attend the training sessions semi-regularly (if you want to get paid more). Starting salary is fairly low and new teachers will have trouble getting bookings until they get more established which means a lot of wasted time initially sitting around and not getting paid.
Gaba has locations at most major stations and some residential stations too. It may be possible to find a location that is at your station or very near to it. You have to go into Gaba to teach the classes so location is very important. Also, you have to go for training once every few months which is a whole day training course at the corporate HQ. It’s very possible though that your ideal station may already have a full roster of teachers. In that case, you may have to wait to be relocated to that studio or pick another studio.
Students sign up to Gaba by buying a pack of lessons. They then have to use these lessons within a certain time period. Students can choose to extend their lessons by buying more lesson packs. In some cases, a company may sponsor a student and pay for their lessons.
The students really depend on the area you choose. Business areas attract business students while more local areas or residential areas will have more hobbyists. The advantage of this is that you may be able to pick up students during the afternoon when most working people have to work. Gaba does also have some in-company corporate classes which are during the day and pay slightly more than normal classes. However, you will be stationed at the company itself.
Gaba’s payment is generally quite low especially if you are just starting out. As you gain more experience with their system and take more training (and increase in rank in their system). Then, you can expect to get paid almost as much as a one-to-one café lesson. They do pay for cancelled lessons although you are expected to do “Gaba related tasks” during that time (which could involve checking a student’s homework). However, they don’t pay if you don’t have a booking and just have to spend time waiting for other students. There are incentives for sales (doing a trial lesson with a student and if that student signs up). This can boost the payment quite a bit if you are good at consistently getting students to sign up with the company.
Gaba has a fairly strict hierarchy for its management system. This can feel a bit controlling at times and your lessons will be monitored from time to time to assess the quality of the lesson. Also, if you often break away from their style of teaching or their policies then you may get warned. On the other hand, if you are popular with the students then they tend to leave you alone (client satisfaction and continuation with the school is of the most importance). However, there are good systems in place for management and if you want to progress up the company to management or trainer positions then there are clear opportunities for that.
Gaba has its own system of textbooks which you teach from. These are more of a guideline so you can customize parts of it to you’re your style. Although, there is a certain teaching method that you generally follow. Once you get used to the textbooks and materials then the material is fairly easy to use. However, sometimes the students will have their own requests or prefer to use a higher level or business level textbooks. As a result, these can be a little more challenging for some teachers.