When I started working, I was overwhelmed by my salary that I didn’t care about anything else. I was just happy earning, and I loved teaching too. Then every year, my workload increased, but nothing changed in what I get. In the first two years, I let it go thinking that I was being overpaid. But as I learn things and improve myself as a teacher, I was silently hoping for a change in my contract. However, I didn’t say anything about it and just accepted what they give me, hoping that maybe next year I’ll get what I want. That was a mistake.
My work is from Mondays to Saturdays, and sometimes until Sundays too. I became the leading teacher in all my classes and assistant homeroom teacher to a junior high school grade seven months into my job because my Japanese co-teacher had to leave for a year and a half. I’m not going into details about everything I do in school. That’s for another post. But, whatever the workload is, no matter how stressful it became, I did them all. When my partner came back, I remained the main teacher and assistant homeroom teacher. But my contract stayed the same. I was waiting for it to change after my second year. When it didn’t, I voiced out my concerns.
Before I started my third year, I asked about my health insurance, pension, taxes, and bonus. The position I filled in was for a contractual employee. The salary is high, but it didn’t include the deductions. I had to pay them all on my own. I guess that is normal to some companies and schools, but I am here to stay, so I need security. After I brought this up to the office, the school enrolled me in their private health insurance and pension plan, and I get tax deductions now. However, the bonus, they say, I can get after five years if they decide to take me in after that.
The 5-Year Law
There is a law here in Japan that contractual employees can stay at a company without getting benefits for a maximum of 5 years. It’s to protect employees from employers who keep workers at contracts for a long period without giving them benefits. If they want an employee to work for them longer than five years, they have to make them permanent and give them benefits; otherwise, they have to let the workers go. I started working in October. So, my 5th year would be October 2021. The initial plan for me was, they let me go for six months and hire me back again in April 2022 for another five years. And when they hire me again, I thought, maybe then I can ask for a salary increase.
Around the first quarter of 2020, I started preparing for the six months I won’t have work. These were some of my plans. Plan A: I thought about saving money and then studying Japanese full-time. Plan B: I can also begin to take a Master’s Degree while I help my mom in her restaurant. And plan C was to work for the organization in charge of our international school trips. This way, I could still see my students and work with the school. I also started asking around for a part-time or full-time job. I thought, if I’m not going to work for six months, I should use that time to study and improve myself as a teacher while still earning part-time.
Then in September 2020, our department was considering changing the textbooks for our first graders. I reminded the teachers that I’ll only be teaching half the year of 2021. I am grateful for the teachers’ support in my school because from here on, they fought for me.
The teachers didn’t want me to go even for just six months. My boss talked to the higher-ups, and they discussed about my case in their board meeting the next day. After a few more days, the school offered me permanent employment if I promise to get the Japanese teaching license soon. I told them I want to get it, which is why I am studying Japanese hard.
Now I won’t have to leave for six months, and I can teach until I’m 65. This made me and my mom so happy.
Renewing my Employment Contract
Since I started in the middle of the year, the school decided to start my new contract this April. So in March, I asked to talk about its details. When I saw it, some things changed. But it doesn’t give me enough security. So, I decided to show it to my co-workers. They didn’t like it very much as well. They said that they would help me if I want to make demands and have some more things cleared. I also asked for a second opinion from my Japanese teacher, who worked at a public school.
Then I talked to the principal and told her my concerns. She knows what I do and how much I work, and she told me I shouldn’t be shy in telling her what I want. I didn’t know then, but she said the teachers already talked to her and asked not to let me go and give me what I deserve. It almost made me cry then and there. I am not the kind of person who asks for things. If I want something, I work hard to get it. If I want something from people, I just silently hope for it. But if you notice it and give it to me, I’d appreciate you for the rest of my life.
Moving on, I told the school that I have been researching and asking around how to get the license. And it became clear to me how impossible it is to get it. I would have to enroll at a Japanese university and take an entire Education course in Japanese, write a thesis paper and teach at a public school for my training. All these while working full-time. I still want to get the license, but it’ll take a lot of years. But the school said that I can take my time. They only want me to have it, to be able to get the same benefits and contract as all the Japanese teachers.
I am very much happy with my new contract though. It has the benefits I need, and it gets better after a few years. That is what’s important to me. A job that gives me security and motivation to work harder and develop myself.
Lessons from the Experience
Lesson learned. NEVER SHY AWAY from asking for a raise, especially when you know you deserve it. Employers won’t just ask if you want to be paid more if not in your contract.
But work hard first, so you deserve what you are asking for.
And the thing is, not all HR knows how much you are working or how well you’re doing it, only the ones who you work with and most especially you. So if you don’t say anything first, nothing will happen. I am incredibly blessed to have the teachers and higher-ups all on my side.
Lastly, always review your contract and if it’s in Japanese, get it translated and make sure you understand every detail. When you sign with your bosses, have a translator with you if you can, or tell them that you will review your contract first and will get back to them if you have any questions. And no matter what you agree on, always put it on paper.
You’ve probably heard this before: good things come to those who wait, and great things take time. But while you are waiting, persevere and put in a lot of effort.
Finally, if you think that you’ve waited enough and worked hard already, ask for it. Sometimes, it’s the last straw to getting what you want.