Notes after the comments
A: Total number of terms the instructor has taught with Westgate.
B: Name of the programs/positions the instructor has taught.
(As of June, 2019)
Q1. What do you like about Westgate?
I really appreciated how welcoming Westgate staff were when I first arrived – they made it very easy for me to settle in. As a new Westgate teacher, I also appreciated having a structured course with clear goals to follow, while having the flexibility to adapt suggested lesson activities to suit my students' needs and interests. Teaching the same students five days a week enabled me to get to know them well and it was really rewarding to see their confidence in their English-speaking abilities grow throughout the term.(A: 9 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, Young Learners, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
I like that you are met at the airport and someone escorts you from the station to the apartment and checks that the water and electricity are working.
I like that the semesters are four months long. I get to teach for four months and then can spend some time in the UK between the contracts.
Westgate has been rewarding for me in that I have inspired my students, assisted colleagues in adapting to the Westgate method of teaching, and developed as an EFL teacher.(A: 13 terms, B: University-Accredited, E-Learning, Senior Instructor)
Initially I signed up with Westgate for one semester, but ended up staying for six semesters. My relationship with Westgate has been very professional from the beginning, and I had no doubt that their professionalism would continue while I worked on this program. The office staff, from HR to Personal Contacts, have always been very thorough, organized and efficient, and I enjoy working with them. Therefore, I couldn't think of any reason not to extend my time with Westgate and continue working for them.(A: 6 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
One of the great things about Westgate is that you can leave after the end of your semester contract and return (as long as they are happy with your performance). Another thing about Westgate is that they are happy to employ mature teachers. In my case, I spent more than 20 years as a librarian and made the career change relatively late in life. To their credit this was no problem for Westgate.(A: 16 terms, B: University-Accredited)
What I appreciate most about the Westgate program is that the teacher is given a detailed framework in which to teach each particular lesson, but is also allowed freedom in terms of how these individual goals are achieved. Due to the high number of schools using the Westgate program, I've also been able to teach at a variety of campuses, and at a wide range of student-levels, which has improved my teaching immeasurably.
(A: 30 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor)
What I like most about working for Westgate is the people. My co-workers at the office are friendly and professional and are the main reason I've stayed with the company for so long.
The most rewarding on-campus experience has been teaching in the accredited program. While it is more challenging, it also feels like you've accomplished more by the end of a semester. Helping freshman and sophomore students gain the communicative skills they need to pass the course and get their degree feels like you've really contributed to the students' lives.(A: 38 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor, Assistant to Curriculum Development and Training)
I frequently return to Westgate because I love to spend time in Japan, and I like the well-organized system of flights, accommodation and background support which Westgate offers. I usually work as a freelance teacher and trainer on different projects and so Westgate's short contracts are ideal for me. I find that repeating the same short lesson several times allows me to experiment with different techniques and approaches. This helps me to develop as a teacher and improve the classroom experience.(A: 10 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, E-Learning, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
Q2. Could you tell us about a good memory from your time at Westgate?
Many great memories are with my 3rd Year Education Students at Sugiyama Jogakuen University, in Nagoya. These students are learning to become teachers at early childhood, elementary, middle, and high schools in Japan. The 3rd year program delves deeply into teaching principles and practices for young learner English language instruction. I have had the pleasure of seeing these young women deliver captivating lessons to their 1st and 2nd year fellow students and also to the young girls at Sugiyama Elementary School nearby. It is immensely satisfying to see these students effectively implementing what we have been studying and practicing in class.(A: 12 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
My favourite memories with the Young Learners Program are when students have a 'breakthrough'. I have had a few students who didn't raise their hands, say any more than repeating during drilling and were reluctant to say anything to me in English or Japanese! Then suddenly, there is a moment, a chance in or outside of class where the student starts communicating! It is so amazing to watch them burst with all of the things they have been absorbing over time. Sometimes it is a particular topic that will spark their interest - for example, a student who didn't like to participate so much saw that we were doing world flags. She loved flags and knew them all! Her confidence grew and not only did she start participating in other activities, but she started using new language on her own and communicating with me and other students in English! Seeing the students years later being able to communicate easily in English, to be comfortable in an English only environment, is amazing.(A: 23 terms, B: University-Accredited, Young Learners, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
It's very rewarding when students attend the last day of term party and express their thanks to you for having taught them. Surprisingly, it can get quite emotional! I like to think that I have had a little influence on my students and introduced a different culture, different ideas and maybe a different way of thinking to them. And likewise, I have learned a lot from my students, about their part-time jobs, what drives them and what their dreams are.(A: 10 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
One general thing that always impresses me is how much the Westgate staff remember about the teachers. Considering there are a couple of hundred teachers each term then it would be understandable if you were just a name to them. However, they not only know a lot about you, but actually remember it. I find this very appealing.
One good specific memory is of a funny student in the extra-curricular course. I quizzed her on who invented the telephone and she replied, 'Edison'. I informed her that it wasn't Edison but Edison's friend. 'Was it Peter?' she asked. 'Peter? Peter who?' to which she replied, 'Well, I just thought ALL English speakers had a friend called Peter'.(A: 33 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
My first contract with Westgate was the Extracurricular Program at a Women's University (Sagami Women's University). The students were low-level and some of them were a bit shy. I asked one student why she had joined the class and she said she didn't know anyone at the campus and wanted to make friends - which she did. After a couple of weeks, it was lovely to see her arrive for class and her new friends beckon her to the seat they'd been saving for her. Her radiant smile was an early indication for me that the social aspect of Westgate courses can be as important, if not more important, than improving their English.
(A: 14 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
While teaching at Aoyama Gakuin University, Sagamihara Campus, I have had several great memories. One particular experience that stood out was a student did not get the score she wanted on the IELTS test and was upset about it. We did extra speaking practice and the second time she took the test, her score went up significantly. I remember when she saw me, she looked so excited to tell me the news, so that was a great memory.(A: 23 terms, B: University-Accredited, E-Learning)
Q3. What was one thing about Japan that was different from what you had expected?
I had heard that students would likely be very shy in class, and it would take time for them to speak without inhibition. I found this to somewhat be the case initially. However, I discovered it took very little time for students to gain confidence and enjoy communicating freely. It is a great opportunity for students to express themselves without consequence and feel positive about English.(A: 6 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
Because of my experience teaching Japanese students in America, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect in the classroom. I was surprised at how many of the students weren't as shy as I had expected. On the flipside, depending on the mix of students in class, I would feel flustered as some of the classes didn't speak up much when they had no problem talking when with a different mix of students. I kept having to remind myself that everybody is different. It's a bit of a struggle to teach students to respond in the western way.(A: 8 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, E-Learning)
Before coming to Japan I was a little nervous about the language barrier but the ease of getting by was a big surprise. People are always willing to help.(A: 3 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, Young Learners)
Despite the size of Tokyo and how confusing the train maps appear to be, I found navigating Tokyo surprisingly easy. The train stations are well laid-out and the lines are colour-coded so that getting from A to B in the city is a relatively easy task.(A: 8 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Young Learners, Senior Instructor)
My image of working for a Japanese company, and Japan generally, was that the environment would be very strict. However, throughout my entire time working in Japan I have found Japanese staff, University staff and students very easy to get on with. It is easy to build friendly working-relationships with Japanese colleagues.(A: 8 terms, B: University-Accredited, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
When people think about Japan they often think about bright city lights, crowded trains, and high-level technology, but one thing that surprised me was the beauty and diversity of its nature. You can get on a train and within just a few hours find yourself hiking up a mountain, walking through a forest, or relaxing on a beach. There are many Japanese traditions that revolve around nature such as seeing the cherry blossoms in the spring, enjoying the splendid colors of the autumn leaves, or catching an awe-inspiring glimpse of Mt. Fuji on a clear winter's day.(A: 8 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor)
Q4. What challenges did you face?
One of my classes was giving me a hard time, but I sat down with a Program Coordinator and we tossed around some ideas. I tried some of them out, and it really helped to turn the class around.(A: 15 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Young Learners)
I don't think I was prepared for just how big Tokyo is. As such, I had to adjust to how long it takes to get places. The train system here is incredibly efficient and easy to use, but it can also take a while to cross the extensive sprawl of the Greater Tokyo Area. If you're someone who tends to run late for appointments, give yourself a little extra time when navigating the train system here!(A: 9 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
For me the principal difficulty is the climate. I don't handle heat and humidity well and from June until sometimes well into October it really can be difficult for me; I've learned to put up with it, but I'll never get used to it.
Oh, and then there's the language! I'm kind of old to be confronted with the Japanese language, and it's really quite intimidating if you are that little bit more mature or simply don't have a good memory for vocabulary.
(A: 14 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
The train lines in Tokyo were so difficult to understand at the beginning and they are still fairly baffling now. During my first term in 2016, I was constantly getting lost since I had no internet data to check maps and routes when I was travelling to new places. Thankfully, Westgate provides teachers with smartphones these days so it's much easier to navigate the train system.
(A: 11 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
Difficulties were few and far between, but one difficulty I'm sure many people face is the language barrier. However, there are many community centres that offer free Japanese language lessons to help overcome this barrier as long as you put the effort in.(A: 12 terms, B: University-Extracurricular)
At first, teaching larger classes was a challenge, but I found that using management techniques that I used when teaching young learners helped. It's often the case that learners who come in disliking English because they find it difficult and/or boring, are the ones that improve drastically throughout the year, and end up really enjoying coming to class.(A: 8 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited)
Q5. What advice would you give to teachers who are new to Japan?
My advice before teaching in Japan would be to learn about the culture, especially the current trends. This will help a lot when you are trying to make your lessons interesting and relevant for your students. I have taught at many universities during my time at Westgate, and all of them have been rewarding experiences. Take the time to get to know your students and create a relaxed environment in your classroom, even if you are teaching in an accredited program.(A: 25 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, E-Learning)
Many of the students will seem shy when you first meet them. Do not confuse this shyness with an unwillingness to speak. In most cases, they really do want to speak English and just need the patience and guidance to do so. Start slow and be patient. Secondly, most of the students in the Westgate program want to learn about other cultures and want to learn how to share aspects of Japanese culture with you. Bring realia from your hometown/country. Our programs afford the students a unique opportunity to learn about not only English but the culture that goes along with it.
(A: 22 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor, Curriculum Aide)
I would say if you have an interest in Japanese culture, it's a great opportunity for you to experience the country and see and do things you've never done before. You'll certainly have the time and opportunity to travel round the country.(A: 17 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, E-Learning, Senior Instructor)
Keep an open mind! Some things might look the same as back home, but sometimes things are done differently here. Not necessarily for the better or worse, but just different. Try and go with the flow.
And don't be afraid to ask for help. I've been here for years now, and still I feel like a fish out of water sometimes. But there are a lot of people here that can help you. Don't hesitate to ask!(A: 21 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Secondary School, Young Learners, Senior Instructor)
Come with an open mind to experience the culture and beauty that is Japan. Leave your expectations behind and the experience of living in Japan will be all the more rewarding, and you may very well end up learning a lot more about yourself than you ever have before.(A: 11 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, E-Learning, Senior Instructor)
Westgate is an excellent way to get started in Japan. There are no false promises or misleading advertisements. The short-term contracts also allow you to experience Japan and Japanese life without a long-term commitment.(A: 12 terms, B: University-Extracurricular, University-Accredited, Senior Instructor)