Dennis Dolan 1It was exhilarating. Just two months after graduating from UAB's MAEd in ESL program, there I was, flying half around the world and more than 9,000 miles away to teach English in Japan. My joy was only amplified by the fact that my flight ticket and my wife's were being paid by my new employer, a $2,000 savings that I was extremely grateful for. I didn't have to worry about where to live because my new employer had a nice apartment ready and waiting for us. Half the rent would be paid by them, in addition to a commuting allowance, a cell phone allowance, and a generous salary with other benefits, like paid vacation time.Perhaps the best part about this whole adventurous moment though was the fact that I would be working with a very unique group of five Japanese preschools, one each day, teaching preschool children, teachers, principals, and smaller elementary and junior high groups that came to the preschools after they had finished regular school. What made this group of preschools particularly special and different than almost all the other preschools in Japan was that they emphasized the use of research-based practices for ESL, focused on constructivist education and Piaget's work in child development. This meant that I would have an excellent opportunity to focus on the essential elements of children's (and beginners') ESL education and that I'd stay on the cutting edge of research in my field, sharing in the growth and experiences of the educators around me.
Dennis Dolan 2How did I find such a wonderful opportunity? Believe it or not, I didn't. This unique program has actually had a long-standing relationship with the School of Education at UAB, promoted by the outstanding work of Dr. Contance Kamii, Dr. Maryann Manning, and other excellent educators who have come to Japan to speak on educational topics related to constructivist teaching and Piaget's theories of cognitive development. I found out about an open position for an ESL teacher in the preschools just two weeks after graduation through one of my closest professors and mentors in the UAB ESL program, Dr. Sue Seay, who had helped many other teachers take advantage of this wonderful opportunity in the past. Dr. Seay not only convinced me that this was an extraordinary opportunity, but also introduced me to previous teachers who taught in the program, set up my interview, and helped me prepare for the big jump once I accepted the position. I still can't thank her enough for all her support as a mentor, professor, and friend!

Before graduation, I had already worked very closely with Dr. Seay, first by volunteering at her adult ESL program, the Toyota Literacy Program at Inverness Elementary School, and then by teaching at one of the sister programs for adult ESL she helped develop at Gwin Elementary School, the Communities Family Literacy Program. These experiences were invaluable; not only did they give me a chance to put my education into practice, but they also helped me strengthen the skills I would need to succeed in Japan and gave Dr. Seay confidence to promote me for the job.

Dennis Dolan 3That's one of the things I especially liked about UAB's ESL program; the courses were taught by outstanding professors who not only knew and cared a lot about quality education, but they also really cared about you and your future, and wanted to help you get wherever you wanted to go. The team of educators in UAB's ESL program, in my opinion, is one of the best, and it shows in the quality of the programs they have developed. No matter where you're going to teach ESL, their programs are going to prepare you for the challenge and give you the credibility that most worthwhile employers are looking for.

I can also speak from experience because it's been more than two months since I first started working in Japan and my future looks very bright here. I've successfully planned ahead a month's worth of lessons and my students are happy with the results, which means my boss is happy too! I want to say thank you to all of my friends at the UAB ESL program, and especially to the professors who worked so hard to help prepare me for this wonderful opportunity. My success is yours also!

To all of you who are reading this and wondering if you can teach English in another country, the answer is YES! The adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you! All you have to do is take the first step and everything else will fall into place with time and diligence.

2018 update: After receiving numerous job offers throughout Japan, Dennis is currently living and working in Fukuoka at Adventure English School.

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