Monday, August 31, 2015

Landed first real second stage interview for a non-English teaching job

This round I landed my first real second stage for a non-English teaching job. I wanted to write a bit about the experience while it is still fresh in my mind. While I did not end up with the job, I learned a good deal about the process (and that I did not want to work there myself) .

First, the process through which I was asked. I received an e-mail from a gentleman in their 総務 group telling me that the following "この度は本学の教員応募にご応募いただきまして誠にありがとうございます。さて、慎重に審議いたしました結果、第二次選考(模擬授業)へ進めさせていただきたく、ご通知申し上げます。" The e-mail was highly structured and related the range of dates that were available for interviewing which was a two week range "土日祝を除く" (excluding weekends and holidays). The e-mail told me my interview would have two components: a mock class of fifteen minutes (模擬授業:15分程度) and questions and answers for twenty minutes (質疑応答:20分程度). Moreover, it told me which of the class descriptions to prepare for. On this point, it was strangely detailed in asking for "講義計画のうち中間期(14週完結の講義のうち7、8週目)当たりの授業(ハイライト)を想定した模擬授業でお願いいたします。対象は、学部生を想定してください。" As I understand that, it wants a highlight class that is targeted to undergraduate students which occurs as the 7th or 8th week. I guess this is news to me, because I don't design my classes around this sort of time schedule. Maybe this is standard Japanese practice in teaching?


I responded soon after with the days for my best availability and was told to go the University's city at my own expense for the earliest of the possible days. (Be careful of that if you need time to prepare!)

It took me quite some time to prepare the powerpoint (required) for the 模擬授業 and I requested help from a friend to get the Japanese right. So it took me several hours to figure out the right balance. I decided to what I believed was a bare minimum ethics course knowing how poorly they teach content on the average here including only a skeleton of the interesting questions Kant's ethics addresses. I also tried to anticipate some of their questions and think of what sort of ethics classes they want me to teach.

I'll begin by saying that it all was a failure.

There were four guys in the room. I was treated like a guest but also ordered as to when to do different parts of the material. One gentleman was prompt and spoke good English having studied abroad at an ivy league school. The other gentleman was the president of the school (or CEO? it's hard to say considering the school is for profit). A third gentleman joined who didn't know English as well (he was that attack dog for the most part), and a fourth gentleman who worked for the education section sat back (I don't think he was teaching staff).

First, I spoke with the timely gentleman and had a good rapport. He hadn't been told whether I was going to present in English or Japanese. The attack dog when he arrived said since I submitted paperwork in Japanese that I should do it in Japanese. Before starting the powerpoint, their boss arrived and told me to introduce myself -- which I did (though hadn't thought to prepare for) -- with a one minute speech about my educational life story. In retrospect, I should have (a) anticipated this question, (b) had a response that emphasized business experience, and (c) practiced that response.

Second, I presented the PowerPoint in Japanese. Based on their responses, I went somewhat quickly to avoid over-using their time [next time don't worry on that point]. I did succeed in present the PowerPoint's basic contents  in Japanese, so that's a good start. Where things went wrong, however, is that I did (a) too quickly and (b) too circumspectly. I had assumed that the people I was presenting to [who I received no information about in advance] understood the importance of ethics and were hiring with that in mind. Instead after I made the presentation, the first comment from one of the was that he did not understand it. This comment was later echoed. I was told it was too technical, because it was not Michael Sandel. And that students are interested in injustice.

The questions were also not quite what I expected:

倫理はどのように私たちの学生に役に立つ. (I was probably asked this question several times). My lack of a good answer shows that I did not sufficiently prepare. I am guessing this is a pretty standard question in business schools for humanities or ethics. I suggested a two-pronged answer. Prong-one is the easy part: it's required, so it's kind of irrelevant how you feel about it. Prong-two is the one that seems to show how much distance there is between my thought process and theirs: being human is not about being useful, it's about being human.

I was also asked to explain what I studied: which is human relationships and how they help to undergird human selves and the "selves",etc. of social entities. [fair enough].

I was asked questions about a prize I won for a paper (prize money was only 100 bucks, but the prize offerer is famous).

They also said they had never seen teaching like that before and questioned my competency as a teacher. They asked what sort of teaching reviews I have had while in Japan. They said all schools must keep them as a legal requirement. This is not entirely true at my school (教員 are required to get reviews from one class each semester). I wouldn't be surprised if I'm not well-liked because I do bother teaching actual content.

I was also asked about how I would handle a critical thinking class. I explained how I had handled them in America and in Japan to internationals and in Japan to Japanese. I don't think they get that this is an especial weakness of Japanese students rather than a gross inability on my part to teach critical thinking. But on second thought, that might be right under a certain analysis. For the international students and Americans whom I've successfully taught, I'm really just formalizing something already in their heads. For the Japanese students, I have to put it in their heads, formalize it, and give them power to imagine. The latter is a way harder task.

From all of these factors, I'm pretty sure that I failed the interview, but what do I know about the Japanese education employment sector?

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