John Tutor Interview
- Q. Hi, johngallagher please introduce yourself!
A. Hello! My name is John Gallagher, and I’m a professional English teacher from Birmingham, UK. I first became really interested with English when I studied English literature at university. I read lots of Shakespeare and Wordsworth, and enjoyed thinking about the different ways in which English could be used to elicit feelings and responses in people. After graduating, I lived in Hangzhou, China. Living in China was fascinating – it was a total culture shock and helped me learn how to adapt to new and challenging situations. It was my first taste of teaching too – I was employed in a private, boarding school for junior high & high school students. I myself lived at the school too! The vice principal was very trusting and told me that my only goal was to get the students to be more fluent in English conversation. I worked hard and created my own curriculum to get them speaking as much as possible. The results were fantastic, and I’m still proud of the work to this day. After that, I decided to move to Japan and here I am now!
- Q. You live in Toyama, Japan right? How do you like life in Japan?
A. Life in Japan is really enjoyable. Living in Toyama especially, it’s like a rural city. The people are kind and friendly, the food is excellent, the air is fresh and the weather is…interesting – really hot and humid summers, and really snowy winters. The spring and autumn are surprisingly similar to the kind of temperatures we have in the UK. I’m finding that the more my Japanese improves, the more I can enjoy living and working here, too. Getting used to Toyama-ben, the dialect of the Toyama people, was really tricky at first. I felt like I’d been learning a different language! My wife and her family all speak Toyama-ben, so I got lots of practice thanks to them. The only thing I really miss living in Toyama is some of the food I can’t get so easily; things like fish and chips, black pudding, Dairy Milk chocolate, etc. Other than that, living here is fantastic!
- Q. What got you interested in Japan, why did you come here?
A. After I’d worked in China, I briefly returned to the UK. I worked an office job for a few weeks, doing administrative work, but I found myself thinking about teaching all the time. I missed the students, I missed my co-workers, I missed the job satisfaction of getting a student to understand something they’d be struggling with…I missed lots of things. I knew I wanted to go back into teaching, but I wanted to go somewhere other than China. I enjoyed Japanese music and movies, and thought that it’d be nice to see what kind of country it really was. I arrived, quickly fell in love with the place, and here I am, on my fifth year of living here!
- Q. How do you spend your days off? Is there anything you’ve gotten into lately?
A. Recently, after some gentle encouragement from my wife, I’ve been attending driving school. I never got around to getting a licence in the UK, which is a shame because I could have just converted it directly if I had. I have to say I was really nervous before I started the school, but the teachers are really friendly and accommodating. There are plenty of words I have to try and get my head around; saying左折 and 右折 instead of 左 and 右, terms like 徐行, 発信, 5点確認…the list goes on! Trying to concentrate on both driving itself and interpreting the language is really challenging, but it’s actually pretty fun! I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying it to be honest. Any time I’m not teaching, I’m trying to find time to study for the test. Hope I can pass! I’ll try my best, anyway! I love travelling too – I’ve been to over 20 countries, most recently to Taiwan and Vietnam. I wish I had more time to travel too, but it’s quite time consuming and expensive. I’d love to go to Mongolia some day – it looks like an absolutely fascinating place.
- Q. You have now been teaching English for 6 years? What motivated you to become a teacher?
A. To be totally honest, at first I just wanted to live abroad, and this was the best way for me to do so for an extended period of time. Early on, I never planned to be a teacher. My plan was to live in China for 6 months, then go back to the UK and start a career with a big business, or on a graduate scheme or something. But as I mentioned, the work just drew me back. The job satisfaction is worth a lot more than I could have imagined. Making connections with students and helping them achieve their goals is really motivating to me too. Working in a junior high school in Japan, I could literally see the students go from shy first years, to confident, outspoken, chatty third years. I always kept my Japanese ability a secret from them, and only at the graduation ceremony revealed that I could understand them, which was always great fun. Seeing students improve makes it feel like more than just a job.
- Q. What are you most careful of when you teach your students?
A. I want my students to feel comfortable in my class. Especially for my students who pay for man-to-man classes – they are giving up their time and their money to attend my class. If they don’t feel comfortable or that they are getting something out of the class, I feel unsatisfied too. In my pursuit of learning Japanese, I’ve tried various Japanese teachers and man-to-man style lessons myself, so I can put myself in their shoes and really understand how they feel. If my students aren’t happy with how the class is going, I’m more than happy to adapt it to suit their needs. The other big point is; I want my students to be okay with making mistakes. There is nothing wrong with making a mistake in a class with me – I’d almost encourage it. Speaking English with a native speaker can be nerve-wracking and intimidating, so just getting enough courage to do that is hard enough without obsessing over every little mistake that might come out. I’d like the students to be able to concentrate on the lesson without being focused on minor points like that. This ties in with the most important rule for me above, being comfortable.
- Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for our students?
A. Studying English is much more like a marathon than a sprint. You might not feel your progress for a while. You might even feel like you want to give up. But when you look back at what you’ve accomplished, you’ll find the motivation to continue. Write diaries, record yourself speaking, write Facebook statuses; anything which makes a record of your English at that time. Looking back at your old attempts and realizing the simple mistakes you made really gives you a feeling of progress and accomplishment. Keep motivated!