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High school teachers: which college major for you?

Buntaro

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Hi everyone!

I have a young friend in America who wants to wants to go teach English at a high school in Japan. (He has a friend who already teaches high school in Japan.) My friend finished high school a couple of years ago and he is now ready to start college.

My question is this: Since he wants to teach English at a high school in Japan, what would be the best major for him to take in college? English? Japanese? Elementary Education? (Majoring in being a high school language teacher is not option, as he does not speak any foreign language.) For those of you who are already teaching at a high school in Japan, which major would have been most helpful for you to take in college?
 

Glenski

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There is more than one route to teaching in Japanese high schools.

ALT (an assistant, as the A implies)
These are hired usually through the JET Programme or a dispatch agency like Interac, and they are usually for public schools.

ALT/AET
Hired through the board of education (city hall). They may meet only once a week or once a month, and they may get shuffled to more than one school during that time.

Direct hire, full-time or part-time teacher
These are often in private HS (as I was). Depending on the school, you might teach alone, with a foreigner, or with a Japanese teacher of English (JTE). I did all of those at one school.

Direct hire, full-time permanent (tenured)
This would be the most rare, and it usually requires that the teacher goes through the Japanese education system to get the degree and license in Japan. This is what the JTEs go through, too.

AETs and ALTs just need a bachelor's degree. Any major will do to qualify for the work visa. Direct hires in private school will take a variety of degreed people, too, as long as they have a legal working status (work visa, spousal visa, PR are the most common).

I have to ask about your friend.

1. Why doesn't he post here? I personally dislike going through a middleman.
2. Does he plan to just wet his toes as a teacher just so he can live here a short time, or does he have long-term aspirations about teaching (if so, where?)?
3. What is his nationality? (JET doesn't hire everyone. You said he is in America, but that doesn't mean he is American necessarily.)

Obviously, with the competition as high as it is in Japan, the more closely related to teaching English is your degree, the better your chances of landing a job. Keep in mind (for your friend) that a lot also depends on personality and perhaps even command of Japanese language. The less that the employer has to coddle a foreigner in daily affairs at home or work, the better.

Also keep in mind that for some positions, just having a foreign face may be enough, or it may not. Employers might tip the scales if you have a TEFL or TESL or TESOL certificate (like CELTA), especially if it has a practicum. Not cheap, so it's not necessarily for the short-timers.

Your friend (ahem!) can also go to this site or this site, and get more advice from a larger population of people who actually teach. JREF is a hodgepodge of people with various jobs and experiences.
 

Buntaro

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There is more than one route to teaching in Japanese high schools.
"Direct hire, full-time permanent (tenured). This would be the most rare, and it usually requires that the teacher goes through the Japanese education system to get the degree and license in Japan."

--> What exactly would that entail?

"Any major will do to qualify for the work visa."

--> But he still has to get a degree in something, and I am trying to guide him in the right direction.

"1. Why doesn't he post here? I personally dislike going through a middleman."

--> He hasn’t posted here because I have just begun this discussion with him, and I thought I would get a little information before I continue the discussion with him. But you are right, it might be good for him to post here directly. (Right now, he doesn’t even know hiragana. But I have several years to get him on the right track.) Also, as you may know, doing career counseling is a long, slow, painful road. (I am a fully qualified career counselor.) I am trying to build him up to where he can eventually go out and ask these questions himself. (Many college students need a lot of help figuring out what their career goals are, and do not like doing the hard work involved.)

"2. Does he plan to just wet his toes as a teacher just so he can live here a short time, or does he have long-term aspirations about teaching (if so, where?)?"

--> His plan is to teach English at a high school in Japan for 40 years! (I already got him to commit to this.) He has no idea where in Japan (he doesn’t know that much about Japan) but he has a friend who already teaches in Japan, so I imagine he will rely on his friend for all of these answers, and will probably end up living near his friend, if not downright teaching at the same school or in the same town. Also (in my opinion), he is just a ‘young kid’, so I am trying to guide him in the right direction and give him a lot of information, especially since I used to teach English in Japan (at a 専門学校). But the job market has changed tremendously since I lived and worked in Japan. (I am presently teaching 英会話 in China not Japan.")

"3. What is his nationality? (JET doesn't hire everyone. You said he is in America, but that doesn't mean he is American necessarily.)"

--> He is American. Oh by the say, he has punked-out yellow-black hair. Is that a big no-no for an ALT? (I would imagine so.) I once had an American friend who was offered a teaching job in Japan. But he had a beard and the school said he had to shave it off. He refused, and ended up not going to Japan!

"Keep in mind (for your friend) that a lot also depends on personality and perhaps even command of Japanese language."

--> I am thinking of recommending that he get a degree in Japanese Language. But I believe that is a hard degree to get. Maybe Japanese History? Japanese Literature in English?

"Employers might tip the scales if you have a TEFL or TESL or TESOL certificate (like CELTA), especially if it has a practicum. Not cheap, so it's not necessarily for the short-timers."

--> My university (in Arizona) has a summer program for about 600 American dollars (plus dorm and food) so I may eventually end up recommending that to him.

"Your friend (ahem!) can also go to this site or this site, and get more advice from a larger population of people who actually teach. JREF is a hodgepodge of people with various jobs and experiences."

--> I plan to check those out. The more information, the better, Thanks for your help!

— 文太郎より
 
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mdchachi

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--> His plan is to teach English at a high school in Japan for 40 years! (I already got him to commit to this.) He has no idea where in Japan (he doesn’t know that much about Japan) but he has a friend who already teaches in Japan, so I imagine he will rely on his friend for all of these answers, and will probably end up living near his friend, if not downright teaching at the same school or in the same town. Also (in my opinion), he is just a ‘young kid’, so I am trying to guide him in the right direction and give him a lot of information, especially since I used to teach English in Japan (at a 専門学校). But the job market has changed tremendously since I lived and worked in Japan. (I am presently teaching 英会話 in China not Japan.")
Why would you get him to commit to teaching in Japan for 40 years?? 100-200 years ago it was normal to apprentice and become a <something> where something mean "blacksmith," "sushi chef" or whatever. In today's world, it's more important that students are adaptable and become lifelong learners.
I would suggest a degree with some real-world, practical skills. Or at least something he's interested in. For example for something related to teaching, how about developmental psychology.
 

Buntaro

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Why would you get him to commit to teaching in Japan for 40 years??”
Because I have found that many people (young and old) are not making plans for a career, they are only planning to work a job for a few years, then bounce around in several different jobs until they 'retire'. In my opinion, it is much wiser for a person to have a career plan for their life (up to 65 years old) for several reasons. Of course career plans can change (and I encourage a career change when a career change is a good idea), but it it good for him to at least start thinking about these things now.

In today's world, it's more important that students are adaptable and become lifelong learners.”
I agree. But this has to be balanced with the idea of at least thinking in terms of a career rather than just a job. Many students have no life plan at all. (You would be surprised.) My job is to get them to at least start thinking about putting together a life plan that will put them into a good situation when they turn 65.

I would suggest a degree with some real-world, practical skills. Or at least something he's interested in. For example for something related to teaching, how about developmental psychology.”
I don’t think this is the way to go in career counseling. I let the student take the lead in these discussions and I basically follow along. But, of course, I will bring up ideas the student has not yet thought of. (If I see a meaningful connection between a career in teaching and a career in developmental psychology that the student should take a look at, I will bring it up.) And I will eventually confront the student with ideas that are just bad. But I stay away from saying, “You should be a…”

I have students brainstorm ideas. I give them results from career interest inventories and occupational skills tests, and I have them start researching what it would be like to work a particular career. (And it takes a lot of research, much more research than the average student is willing to do.) We then talk about all of this, and I point out things they don’t see. I also have the advantage of being older and having more life experience. I am also sometimes familiar with a particular career because I may have encountered it in the years I have lived since I was in college. So, I can often see something that is obviously not going to work out (when they don’t see it at all). But my job is to guide them, not tell them what to do.
 
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WonkoTheSane

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I am thinking of recommending that he get a degree in Japanese Language. But I believe that is a hard degree to get. Maybe Japanese History? Japanese Literature in English?
This doesn't sound like a good idea to me. What if he decides he doesn't like living in Japan, what career will he be qualified for with any of these degrees? Has he expressed interest in a career in any of these fields?

If he wants to be a teacher, a teaching degree is his logical choice. It also sets him up for a career (of some sort) even if he doesn't end up remaining a teacher in a Japanese school.

Honestly, though, the vast majority of people I've heard this plan from really just want to be in Japan and the teaching thing is really just the only option they know of that allows them to satisfy that goal. It's like saying that because one wants to live near the beach one needs to work as a lifeguard. Nowadays there are myriad careers that can be done from anywhere in the world either because they are needed everywhere or because one can perform their job remotely.

Quite frankly, if he would be unwilling to adopt a more typical hairstyle in order to be employable, I'd have to doubt his seriousness of intent and commitment to this plan. I'm not saying he needs to be willing to do it but I'd be quite surprised if, given two equal candidates, an employer wouldn't choose the one who conforms more to societal norms of dress and personal grooming.

Also, how does you recommending any of these degree paths conform with your later dismissal of recommending Developmental Psychology because you say your "job is to guide them, not tell them what to do."? What is there intrinsically about the Developmental Psychology degree that makes recommending it more 'telling them what to do' than Japanese History? This makes no sense whatsoever to me.
 
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Mike Cash

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40 years as an ALT/Eikaiwa teacher just so he can be in Japan? Do you hate this kid or something? That's the worst advice I could imagine giving anyone.

Tell him to get skills he can use anywhere, in a field he is interested in. Cross-reference with what skills are in demand in Japan.

The days when pretending to teach English to people pretending to learn it were one's only option for living and working in Japan are over. Anyone going that route just so they can be here and who thinks that is going to be conducive to a protected stay is an idjit.
 

mdchachi

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Also, how does you recommending any of these degree paths conform with your later dismissal of recommending Developmental Psychology because you say your "job is to guide them, not tell them what to do."? What is there intrinsically about the Developmental Psychology degree that makes recommending it more 'telling them what to do' than Japanese History? This makes no sense whatsoever to me.
That's what I was wondering. You were making degree suggestions and then you dismiss one that I proffered. And your whole thread, based on the title, is for the purpose of soliciting ideas for college majors??
That's the worst advice I could imagine giving anyone.
I'm quite surprised. I honestly thought you were more imaginative than this.
 

Buntaro

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What is there intrinsically about the Developmental Psychology degree that makes recommending it more 'telling them what to do' than Japanese History?
The 'intrinsicality' is this: I work with the student to brainstorm ideas about majors. The idea of going from teaching English in Japan to studying Japanese History would be a logical idea for me to suggest if this is the way the student's brainstorming is going. The idea of going from teaching English to studying Developmental Psychology is a bit more of a 'brainstorm jump'. I would recommend it, though, if the student, through his own brainstorming, mentioned an interest in something like Educational Psychology or plain Psychology. The idea here is to have the student brainstorm and have me react to their brainstorming and mention ideas in the direction their brainstorming is going in. The student is in charge of which direction the brainstorming goes, not me.
 

mdchachi

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Then why are you asking us for ideas? Let's go back to the beginning:
My question is this: Since he wants to teach English at a high school in Japan, what would be the best major for him to take in college? English? Japanese? Elementary Education? (Majoring in being a high school language teacher is not option, as he does not speak any foreign language.) For those of you who are already teaching at a high school in Japan, which major would have been most helpful for you to take in college?
Your question should be: Since he wants to teach English at a high school in Japan, what would be the best major for him to take in college knowing that he will likely never teach English at a high school in Japan as a career and probably wouldn't enjoy it even if he did?
There's a reason why there are not many (any?) American teachers teaching English in Japanese high schools as a 30-40 year career (as a direct hire, full-time tenured teacher). Yes I can see that students not thinking about their career and future is a big issue that you face but getting them to agree to focus on a specific career in a foreign country that is highly unlikely to happen is not very good for them either. I don't think you're doing him a favor by getting him to agree to a 40-year career as an English teacher in Japan and base his major on that. It's not that much better than the students who have no clue.
 

Glenski

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To go through the Japanese educational system (college) and get a degree suited for teaching English in HS, he would have to get 4 years of college classes under his belt here. That means learning the stuff in Japanese. Most English teachers who are in HS have literature degrees with very, very few earning degrees related to foreign language teaching. Some are English majors. So, right off, he will have to know enough written and spoken Japanese to accomplish all that.

I have just begun this discussion with him, and I thought I would get a little information before I continue the discussion with him.
Just what is your relationship with this youth anyway? You seem to have taken a very serious role in his career guidance, and I also wonder what he has learned from his school's counselors.

He's never been to Japan. How has he settled on this country of all 200 on the planet?

He has learned what he knows about teaching (?) or working (?) or living (?) here from " a friend who already teaches in Japan". Just who is that individual? What does he teach and for how long has he done it?

he will rely on his friend for all of these answers, and will probably end up living near his friend, if not downright teaching at the same school or in the same town.
There is no guarantee of this whatsoever. Many who come with friends on the JET programme, for example, get sent to different cities. Even people who are engaged or married have that happen.

His punky hair may or may not work against him. DON'T post a pic (for the sake of privacy), but it's hard to judge without knowing how extreme it is. I agree with an earlier comment that a more traditional hairstyle will serve him well in the more serious teaching environments. Places like eikaiwa need butts on seats, so attracting them with attractive foreign face is often the route.

My strongest suggestion is to come as a visitor first, learn some of the language just to get around, and make direct contact with foreigners who have been here at least 3 years. And, get him to come to sites like this.
 

Buntaro

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To go through the Japanese educational system (college) and get a degree suited for teaching English in HS, he would have to get 4 years of college classes under his belt here. That means learning the stuff in Japanese. Most English teachers who are in HS have literature degrees with very, very few earning degrees related to foreign language teaching. Some are English majors. So, right off, he will have to know enough written and spoken Japanese to accomplish all that.
All of this is good to know. So no, I don’t see him graduating from a college/university in Japan.

Just what is your relationship with this youth anyway?
He is an employee at a place where I am a customer. One day we just happened to strike up a conversation about his interest in teaching in Japan.

You seem to have taken a very serious role in his career guidance…
Yes, for several reasons. For once, I am a fully qualified career counselor. His career plans are a little shaky, and I may be able to help get his career plans into a more realistic state. Also, I used to teach in Japan. I am more than happy to help anyone who is headed there. I also speak Japanese and it is fun to help someone learn Japanese, even a total beginner.

He's never been to Japan. How has he settled on this country of all 200 on the planet? He has learned what he knows about teaching (?) or working (?) or living (?) here from " a friend who already teaches in Japan".
Here is what this young man is thinking: “I have a friend teaching English at a high school in Japan. My friend likes his job. Japan sounds like a cool place. I am going to go teach English at a high school in Japan too.” Other than this he knows nothing about Japan. He has no idea what he is getting himself into. He doesn’t know what TESOL or ALT stand for. He doesn’t know any hiragana. (He does know a few Japanese vocabulary words from watching anime.)

There is no guarantee of [living in the same city with his friend] whatsoever. Many who come with friends on the JET programme, for example, get sent to different cities. Even people who are engaged or married have that happen.
Yikes! That’s good to know. I will pass that along. By the way, how is the job market for ALT’s? Is there are a lot of competition for ALT jobs? Are they hurting for ALT’s?

His punky hair may or may not work against him. DON'T post a pic (for the sake of privacy), but it's hard to judge without knowing how extreme it is. I agree with an earlier comment that a more traditional hairstyle will serve him well in the more serious teaching environments.
I do plan to bring this up with him. I know that some schools are very strict about this.

My strongest suggestion is to come as a visitor first, learn some of the language just to get around, and make direct contact with foreigners who have been here at least 3 years. And, get him to come to sites like this
Thanks for sharing that. I can pass that along.
 

WonkoTheSane

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The 'intrinsicality' is this: I work with the student to brainstorm ideas about majors. The idea of going from teaching English in Japan to studying Japanese History would be a logical idea for me to suggest if this is the way the student's brainstorming is going. The idea of going from teaching English to studying Developmental Psychology is a bit more of a 'brainstorm jump'. I would recommend it, though, if the student, through his own brainstorming, mentioned an interest in something like Educational Psychology or plain Psychology. The idea here is to have the student brainstorm and have me react to their brainstorming and mention ideas in the direction their brainstorming is going in. The student is in charge of which direction the brainstorming goes, not me.
In what way do you feel that going from teaching English to studying Japanese History is less of a jump than going from teaching English to getting a degree in Educational Psychology?

In what way does getting a degree in Japanese History help your overall goal of getting this young man onto a career path that will leave him in a good position when he is 65 years old?

I have to admit that I'm confused by your thought process here. To me the only viable reason to ever suggest a degree in Japanese History would be because the student has an intense burning desire to study Japanese History.

I think your goal of helping the young man is noble, but I frankly have to say that I think it's a disservice to the young man to recommend a degree that has no clear career path.
 

jt_

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Leaving aside the matter of degree or career choice, I simply can't comprehend the idea of convincing this young man to "commit" to living and working in Japan for basically his entire adult life at this point in time. To review: he knows absolutely nothing about Japan except for what he's learned from his friend and anime, and hasn't even begun to study even the basics of the language. In practical terms, he has no way of knowing whether he'd enjoy spending forty days in Japan, let alone forty years.

Working backwards from that (flawed) premise to decide what major he should choose strikes me as putting the cart so far before the horse that the poor animal is likely to be dead by the time it even gets within sight of the vehicle.

As someone who has found a fulfilling life and career in Japan (and never, ever, ever would have expected back in high school that I would end up where I am today), my advice would be that he find a college or university with a good study abroad program (and, if possible, a healthy Japanese exchange student population) and study whatever he's most interested in. If he's genuinely interested in teaching as a career, then an education, lingustics or ESL degree (or some combination of the above) might be appropriate, but if he's only zeroing in on teaching because that's what his friend does and he thinks that every foreigner working in Japan is an English teacher, I would disabuse him of this notion immediately.

If he's interested in other fields (computer science, law, economics, what have you) there are also career opportunities in (and/or related to) Japan that will give him better job prospects. This isn't to say that a Japanese history or literature or what-have-you degree is career suicide. I have a B.A. and M.A. in Japanese literature, but my choice of major was only because I simply had no idea what the hell I wanted to do with my life at the time, and studying Japanese was the only thing I was really interested in. I've done okay for myself (I now work as a translator and interpeter), but it was a long and winding road, and I wouldn't recommend that anyone follow my path unless they're in the same position I was, and the choice is between majoring in Japanese or dropping out of college entirely due to lack of motivation.

In any event, I would suggest that he study the field he is most interested in along with Japanese, and then study abroad in Japan for a year. If he likes it, then he can consider applying for the JET program (or some other ALT position, though JET is probably a better gig if he can swing it) after graduation and work there for a year (or two, or three). It is at this point, and only then, I think, that he will be able to evaluate whether or not he really wants to make a life for himself in Japan.

Anyhow, I would echo the others in suggesting that your young friend go on forums like this himself so he can ask his own questions and get as many perspectives as possible. I wish him (and you) the best.
 

Buntaro

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In what way do you feel that going from teaching English to studying Japanese History is less of a jump than going from teaching English to getting a degree in Educational Psychology?

In what way does getting a degree in Japanese History help your overall goal of getting this young man onto a career path that will leave him in a good position when he is 65 years old?

I have to admit that I'm confused by your thought process here. To me the only viable reason to ever suggest a degree in Japanese History would be because the student has an intense burning desire to study Japanese History.

I think your goal of helping the young man is noble, but I frankly have to say that I think it's a disservice to the young man to recommend a degree that has no clear career path.
I was just brainstorming along with the young man. The first step in career counseling is brainstorming, no matter what kind of crazy direction it goes in.
 
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Buntaro

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I simply can't comprehend the idea of convincing this young man to "commit" to living and working in Japan for basically his entire adult life at this point in time.
He needs to start thinking in terms of putting together a career plan which will put him in a good position for retirement. I am not telling him to stay for 40 years, but I am bringing up the idea. I don’t tell people what to do. The plan was for me to follow up this 40-year-career idea with the idea of perhaps getting a TESOL certificate before he goes to Japan, but he shows no interest in such an idea, so I will not even suggest it.

In practical terms, he has no way of knowing whether he'd enjoy spending forty days in Japan, let alone forty years.
True. But it’s good to get him to at least start thinking about this now, so that after he has been in Japan for a couple of years, at least someone will have put the idea in his head. (I know several English teachers who have been in Japan for years, are just fine with going along with the flow for several more years, instead of thinking about where they might eventually want to end up in terms of a career.) And it would have led to a discussion about getting a TESOL certificate, which ended up not being discussed at all.

Working backwards from that (flawed) premise to decide what major he should choose strikes me as putting the cart so far before the horse that the poor animal is likely to be dead by the time it even gets within sight of the vehicle.
He said he is going to Japan. He needs to choose a four-year degree. I am helping him with this. Sounds un-flawed to me.

…my advice would be that he find a college or university with a good study abroad program (and, if possible, a healthy Japanese exchange student population) and study whatever he's most interested in.
These are not options at this time.

If he's genuinely interested in teaching as a career, then an education, lingustics or ESL degree (or some combination of the above) might be appropriate…
Thanks for the advice, but he has now shown he is not interested in these.

…if he's only zeroing in on teaching because that's what his friend does… I would disabuse him of this notion immediately.
It depends on what a career counselor sees his/her role as being. My training and my experience working in a career counseling center has shown me that my present way of handling this will work the best.

~~~

It’s hard enough getting young people to listen to career counseling. On top of this, most young people don’t listen to good career counseling. (Yes, you read that right.) And to give unwanted, un-asked for advice makes them even less willing to listen, and will just chase them out the door even faster. Telling a someone to find a college or university with a good study abroad program, when they are in no condition to afford such a thing, just tells the student that the counselor is not listening, is giving irrelevant advice, and tells the young person that they should not be listening to this counselor in the first place. A career counselor’s job is not to tell people what to do.

I would like to invite everyone to a career counseling center and listen to how good career counseling is done. (It was not the original intent of this thread to discuss career counseling techniques.)
 
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Glenski

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He needs to start thinking in terms of putting together a career plan which will put him in a good position for retirement.
Not necessarily, Buntaro. As a career guidance counselor, you should already know that. Plenty of people take time off before going to college. Plenty more change majors for various reasons. And then there are people like me who changed fields after a couple of decades in one field.

Does he need to think of a career plan? I guess that depends on what you call a "plan". I think jt_ hit the nail on the head with everything he wrote.

Have been in Japan since 1998 myself (and was here working for half a year in 1985-86). I've been on a few discussion forums, mostly for teachers or wannabe teachers, for over a decade, too. I've seen my share of enthusiastic young people who think they want to come and "spend the rest of their life" here, but like your friend, they have nothing really useful to base that on. Many of them actually argue with the veteran posters about their chances of finding work because they have overly lofty dreams not based in reality. Discussions change from attempts to be helpful to shouting matches when the interested party refuses to listen to the practical advice. We all have the opportunity here to nip this in the bud simply because he has not yet come here and because he is not even in college, but I sense that our own conversation is headed in a similar direction.

He said he is going to Japan. He needs to choose a four-year degree. I am helping him with this. Sounds un-flawed to me.
"Going to Japan" does not mean he has even the slightest idea of what is involved. There's one flaw. Thinking he will truly like it here is another. And, pounding (even gently) the notion of a TESOL certificate in his head even before he has taken his first college course, let alone determined what major interests him, is another. Admit you are jumping the gun.

Get him here. I think it's pointless for us to deal with him through you at this time.
 

mdchachi

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He said he is going to Japan. He needs to choose a four-year degree. I am helping him with this. Sounds un-flawed to me.
This is the flawed part. There is no reason to link his vague desire to visit Japan with his four-year degree. His four-year degree should be linked towards building skills or expertise in something that he enjoys and, ideally, be helpful in a career down the road be it in Japan or anywhere else.
 

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So, this Young man wants to become a tenured teacher in Japan without knowing Japan beforehand? Seriously? You know, as a tenured teacher in Japan, you have to morally educate the students. Meaning you have to understand the culture and how they will have to behave in society, because you'll be the one teaching them the rules they'll have to abide by.

I'm a tenured teacher at a high school in Japan (got the teaching license at a Japanese university though born and raised in France) and I frequently have to ask my senpai how to deal with some situations, even after 2 years of tenure. It's a really demanding job, as we work on weekends too. We have to do a lot of administrative work in Japanese, so you need proficiency in Japanese to do that.

Anyway, not a good idea. First, this Young man should go to Japan (and more than once), learn Japanese and after we'll be able to discuss his career plan.
 

AmerikaJin5

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What if he chooses an all-around useful major like software engineering, then gets a fulltime position at Rakuten (mostly English-speaking, "westernized" giant company) making 5mil JPY/year?
Using the word "brainstorming" like a magic spell clearly isn't doing anything useful:emoji_upside_down:
 
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