Interviewing to Teach in Japan: Demo Lesson Tips

One big part of the interview process for teaching jobs in Japan is the “demo lesson”. The company generally asks you to prepare and deliver an abbreviated teaching demo to highlight your classroom skills (or potential, for first-time teachers). Being prepared and impressing your interviewers with your demo is absolutely crucial to closing the deal that your resume credentials and interview responses brought to the table.
Below are three tips to get an edge on your demo lesson, coming from a long-time English teacher and veteran of both the applicant and interviewer sides of this process.

Tip #1: Choose a Simple Teaching Point

For some interviews, the choice of what content will be ‘taught’ in the lesson is left to you, the applicant. Whether you’re given total freedom of choice or a few options to choose from, it pays to choose one of the more simple topics. Your ideal demo lesson is one that you’ll be able to respond easily to any question arising from it, and can easily use off the cuff . Some good options for a basic teaching demo lesson include:
Prepositions of Location, which is simple to understand and lends itself easily to both props and in-lesson games.
Should & Shouldn’t, good for encouraging student interaction through mock advice.
Simple Existence with IS/ARE, a really good simple topic that can be adapted to practice in many different situations or uses.
While it’s easy to teach somewhat basic concepts and then add extra complexity to it as the student progresses or requires, it’s MUCH harder to start with a complex topic effectively dumb it down if the interviewer feigns confusion. If possible avoid ‘can-of-worms’ topics like Relative Clauses or Phonics.

Tip #2: Focus on Your Presentation, Not the Content

If you think about it, it should be pretty obvious: your mock student (usually the interviewer) is there to judge your teaching potential and rapport with a student, NOT to learn English. With this in mind, make sure you’re confident with whatever your topic will be and then focus on how you’re going to deliver it.
For new teachers, you’ll need to work your nerves. Practice giving some of your explanation or walkthrough to a mirror or supportive friend, get used to speaking and answering questions. For experienced teachers, you can focus on adapting your teaching style to best match the style/clients of the eikaiwa you’re applying at. In both cases, remember that appearing confident, friendly, and encouraging is always key.

Tip #3: Don’t Try to Innovate

Your job interview is NOT the time to try and demonstrate any kind of new or innovative teaching method you’ve devised. Virtually all eikaiwa in Japan have a specific teaching model which their business is based around, and adherence to that model is usually strongly enforced. Trying to do the demo lesson in some wild new style will only make most interviewers see you as a bit of a loose cannon at best. If the school has provided you with teaching material, not even attempting to follow it will probably make you look like a management headache and liability. For those applying from outside Japan, this generally negative view of nonconformism is engrained in Japanese culture.
Instead, focus on your basics: how to convey the teaching point in simple terms, how to prompt examples from your student, how to praise and encourage. Giving a solid basic lesson may sound boring, but it’s your skill at making it interesting is what will win you the job.
I hope these tips will help you as you get ready for your big interview. See you in Japan!