UPDATE 03/18/16: So apparently not all branches do the pre-lesson thing. You lucky ducks don’t have to worry about this!
When Interac hires you, a few weeks before your departure date they email you a few assignments. Lucky you! I was given a series of videos by their infamous trainer Cedric, some interesting reading about life and logistics in Japan (one came with a quiz), and a lesson that I was supposed to prepare and be ready to teach for training.
The videos all have quizzes you have to take in order to unlock the next one. While they are painfully boring at times it’s easy work and I was so excited about coming I got through them fairly quickly. But now on to the more stressful part of the pre-departure package!
I’ve been getting messages from people asking about the first lesson prep. Did I stick to the Interac plan or do my own thing? Why don’t they include the pictures and momentos from home in their sample lesson? When during the week of training do you teach it and how many people are in your “class”? Is it really that important?
The basic truth and most unsatisfactory answer is that it all depends on your branch.
For the most part, people use the Interac format for the intro lesson to present during training but then many go off and do their own thing when they actually get to their schools–either based on teacher requests or to incorporate something more fun and interactive than a worksheet. That is the lesson you’ll use all those props from home for.
Try to bring only a few, small physical items like a flag or a famous item from your area and then overload a flash drive with pictures of family, your city, your state, famous landmarks near you, pictures of you at the age of your future students, food, etc., etc. You can print what you want to use later, and you didn’t waste paper or space packing photos you later decide you don’t want in your lesson. Pictures also go over really well as flashcards once you’re in the schools–it’s more interesting to see pictures of the foreign teacher’s dog or cat or sister or house or food from their country than the generic images on the flashcards provided to you.
My branch didn’t focus on the lesson much at all. We did practice drills and whatnot with the trainers but we didn’t have to present a formal introduction lesson. I also know of branches that take it extremely seriously and use it to critique your teaching extensively. This is helpful but I saw more than one person driven to anxiety induced tears while prepping it!
Luckily for me I didn’t wind up in one of these branches as I only just started throwing something together really quick on the plane to Narita. I don’t think I even printed the worksheet, but I brought an American flag and some pennies… (Don’t be like me. Be like Bill. He doesn’t procrastinate. Good thinking Bill.)
My best advice to prepare is to read all the materials you’re sent thoroughly and have a rough plan written down. I’m not sure what the format is currently, if it’s changed at all from two years ago, so if you want specific advice or have specific questions please go ahead and email me (findingkendraB[at]gmail[dot]com). The Interac Facebook group is also really fast at responding to questions and has a lot of good stuff already there ready to be searched!
But in general, don’t print out too much stuff. It’s more to pack and if you need to you can go to a 7-11 and print things from a flash drive there. When you start your branch specific training they will give you all the information you need and you can ask questions to get a feel for what they want–more detailed or more general, types of activities to do, etc.
Working on the lessons can even be a bonding experience for all your fellow trainees! Nothing brings people together like a shared impending doom. And don’t worry, most branches use the lesson as a sort of assessment at the end of training and if they do ask for it at the beginning it’s more than likely to assess what they’ll need to focus on throughout the week.
This lesson is just a tool. A very helpful tool to get you comfortable with speaking in front of groups, planning effective lessons, thinking on your feet, and taking constructive criticism (which is the entire life of a teacher!).
Doing a lesson like this with fellow teachers and trainers can be extremely helpful if you can take that constructive criticism and use it. But if you get too stressed, just remember, you have the job already, you’re in Japan (!!!), most of the people training with you have never taught before either (and are just as clueless), and all the trainers really want is to help you succeed. The week will end sooner than you think and no one will even remember the details of that week a month later, not even you.
What are you most nervous/excited about teaching English in Japan? Why are you interested in teaching in Japan? Inquiring minds want to know!
Thanks for reading! Dream big, work hard, live well! ❤