I moved to Japan to teach English 10 years ago. I set out to become a better teacher and help legions of students improve their language skills. I did a lot of that, but instead, I think my greatest lessons were the ones that I learned – not the ones that I taught. Here are 5 things that I’ve picked up along the way:
Customer Service = Empathy – I learned that the best teachers can put themselves in their students’ shoes and understand where the other person is coming from. Don’t get frustrated that the other person doesn’t understand what you’re teaching. YOU need to adapt yourself to reach the people who are counting on you. When your customers see that you really understand what they want, there is no obstacle to building a relationship with them.
Learn by Teaching – It’s been said before that the best way to learn something is to teach it. Absolutely true. I only really learned about English after figuring out how to teach it. I only really learned about teaching after training others how to teach. If you want to truly know something, find an opportunity to teach someone. New workers can benefit from your experience, and you will learn more than you ever expected to.
Say NO – Definitely not always, but sometimes. Even if you really don’t mind helping out, you have to say no occasionally for 2 reasons. You need to separate your professional and personal life. And unfortunately, some people (or companies) will shamelessly take advantage of you. Maintain boundaries.
Education isn’t Everything – Some of the best teachers that I have had the pleasure of working with have had only basic education in non-educational subjects. They succeeded because they could relate with their students. It’s not about how much education you have; it’s about how well you interact with other people and how well you can apply your knowledge.
Be Reliable – Being unreliable will hurt everyone you work with – customers, coworkers, even yourself. If you say you will do something, do it. If you can’t, you need to communicate that to the people involved. Even little things add up; don’t be late, don’t slack off, don’t take “long” lunch breaks that go over your allotted time. If you brand yourself as someone who isn’t worth trusting, everyone will resent you.
These are the 5 things that I would tell a younger version of myself. Going forward, I will keep my mind open to learning more, and I will not get stuck in my habits.