Two questions on time management for ESL teachers-to-be in Japan

Time management for ELS teaching in Japan

Question 1: “Can I be late for work?”

It does seem like a question too simple to answer. Surprisingly in reality, it is an issue that recurs over time. Imagine a student is already at the school waiting for her lesson to start, but the teacher won’t have arrived by the starting time due to an unexpected circumstance.

Doesn’t sound very professional, does it?

Say it is a stormy day and the trains are running late. “Uh, what’s the number to call?” Taking your cell phone out of your bag while trying to figure out what the number is, you quickly realize you forgot to charge your phone last night.
Shortly after the status bar shows only 1% battery juice remaining, your phone switches off unforgivingly, leaving no chance for you to mend this situation.


Train delays due to adverse weather conditions or “person-on-the-track” accidents are beyond our control. What we teachers CAN do, however, is allow ample time for our commute door-to-door. Leaving home even just a few minutes earlier will prepare you for unexpected situations that may arise (consider forgetting your
door key or umbrella, or missing the green traffic signal!).
Experience has also taught me to always have my company’s contact details at hand so I could reach them right away. A fully charged cell phone, or having a portable charger could at least save teachers from feeling panicky in case they are running late.

Question 2: “Isn’t it okay if my lesson overruns just by a few minutes?”

Train system in Japan
Our established timetable allocates 40 minutes for each lesson slot, and 12 slots altogether within the school’s operating hours. There are 5 minutes to spare between two back-to-back lessons, and a teacher might get some non-teaching time if there are a few empty, non-booked slots until their next lesson booking.
As students expect to be greeted on time when the starting bell rings (also consider they may have other plans after their lesson), teachers here follow a pretty strict schedule, which is where time management skills come into play.
During a training session, it isn’t uncommon to see new teachers struggling to finish their lessons before the next – they might be too nervous that they’ve missed theending bell, or they are not able to bring the structured conversation with their student to a close at the right timing. As a result, those 5 minutes between lessons give teachers some leeway to wrap up their lesson and say goodbye, get ready for their next lesson, and occasionally use the bathroom or go get some water at the dispenser before greeting their next student.

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