Interviewing to Teach in Japan: Demo Lessons

Interviewing to Teach in Japan Demo Lessons
For the majority of English teaching jobs in Japan, you will be asked to provide a teaching demonstration of some form. For some schools it’s just an impromptu few minutes inside the interview, while for others it can as involved as a predetermined lesson plan you’re expected to prepare your own materials for. However it’s done, this is perhaps the most crucial part of your interview, and your performance can make or break the job offer.

Evaluation and Criteria in Teaching Demos

One important thing to keep in mind when it comes to your demo lesson is that you’re being evaluated for how your character and presence match with students. Your mock student will be watching how you move and gesture, your voice, your confidence (or nervousness), and anything else from their imagined viewpoint of a student. Their focus is NOT on grammar syntax or obscure vocabulary knowledge, so it makes sense to approach preparing for it more like an acting performance than an academic lecture.
It may be helpful to grab a beginner’s English textbook and try giving really short (<5min) explanations of a few of the different teaching points. Focus on simplifying your explanation and delivering it in a cheerful, relaxed way. What your interviewer is really looking for is someone who will really be able to put their students at ease and provide a good and natural-feeling lesson.  
For the more experienced teacher, make sure you do your research on the company you’re applying to! A business-focused school or one with a particular demographic will really like to see your demo take on a bit of that flavor, even if the demo is ostensibly a generic one.

Choosing a Teaching Point

In many cases, you won’t have much say on exactly WHAT you’re teaching – only how. But in some cases, they may give you a shortlist of lesson topics you can choose from, or even give you open choice to select a teaching point of your own. In this case, it’s always best to choose one that is both (1) fairly fundamental, like a a beginner’s level, and (2) easily used to interact with the student.
In my first interview years back, I chose to teach the prepositions of location. This topic is simple enough – describing the relationship of two targets as “in front of”, “behind”, “next to”, etc. It’s easy enough for you to get some teaching “success” from a low level (even if fake) student, and in a pinch can also be practiced with nothing more than the objects in the classroom. For that interview I was also asked to prepare my own supplementary materials, which was as easy as a simple worksheet. Most importantly, the prepositions are something it’s not easy for the interviewer to bring up a “gotcha!” question on.

Image is Everything

Going into your interview/demo lesson, you’re going to want to pay special attention to your appearance. For this you’ll want to put on show your entire presence in the classroom, from how you dress and stand down to how you speak, react to the student, and gesture. Go through your teaching process by yourself to get used to the content – the less you have to think about what you’re teaching, the more you can focus on how you’re looking and speaking while doing it.
Remember to smile and create an upbeat, encouraging atmosphere while teaching. Show that you’re easily able to go slow and simple for scared beginners and that you can help your student to speak even if they’re tripped up. Also important – the interviewer will make some intentional mistakes and then watch how you react and correct them (and you should) so be prepared!