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The Impenetrable Language of Schools Part 1


When working in a foreign country, of course it's to be expected that there are many cultural differences that take some time to get used to.  Even I have to admit that I am still occasionally surprised by some differences that I never noticed or just took for granted.


One of the biggest and more obvious cultural differences is the way that schools employ teachers.  The situation tends to vary wildly from school to school, but in many institutions there exists a system of employment that is so difficult to understand that the specialized structure and language used to talk about teachers in Japanese schools seems like a foreign language even to native Japanese employees at "regular" companies or businesses.


Let's review some of the more common employment practices in junior high and high schools (since that's an area I'm more comfortable talking about anyway, but I promise to attempt a level of due diligence and fact checking).  Keep in mind that each school may have a different system as well, complicating an already complicated system, but let's dive in anyway:


Part 1 - Sen-nin(専任) Teachers


A sen-nin teacher is what most people think about when you talk about being a teacher.  They are considered full-time employees, and they are not allowed to work anywhere else (including part-time jobs) as long as they have this position.  That's because it's a big responsibility taking care of your own homeroom class of students as well as doing all the other more obvious teacher duties.


Depending on the school, sen-nin teachers may not even have to sign a new contract each year, because they are considered permanent employees.


It is very difficult for new teachers fresh out of college to get this kind of position immediately.  It usually takes many years of experience working part-time or full-ish time as a Hijoukin teacher... which I will explain more about next week!


An obvious benefit for sen-nin teachers is that the pay is higher than their part-time or semi-full time counterparts, but that comes with a larger burden of responsibility as well.  Go ahead and ask any sen-nin teacher at your school if they think their job is easy... dealing with parents, working incredibly late hours with no overtime, coming in on their days off to help with club activities that they may or may not have even signed up for.  The list goes on, I'm sure.


And yet they can't complain too much (one would hope) because becoming a full-time teacher is probably the goal of anyone who is truly passionate about education and strives for a career at a school in Japan.


If you have any questions about sen-nin teachers, please feel free to leave a comment or send an email to .  I'm sure the topic will come up again as I compare this position to other, more complicated (if that's possible) positions that are often found in Japanese schools.

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