Maria Devlin

Teach Enrich Empower

Maria Devlin - Teaching in Japan

My name's Maria, but my new name to strangers is “gaikokujin”. This is the polite way to say “gaijin”, which means 'alien' or 'foreigner'. I work in Wakayama, Japan.

I started my TEFL adventure with an adventurous coworker and a handful of strangers in Russell St, London, at The TEFL Academy training seminar. Despite the variety of ages, backgrounds and nationalities present, we bonded quickly over that intense 20-hour weekend of training. When we were asked to share our future plans with each other, I had little more to contribute than “um maybe go to France? Or maybe Japan? Um…” I had no fixed plans, just a strong desire to get that TEFL qualification and change my life. That chilly and rainy February weekend did just that, and would change my life in ways I could never have foreseen.

Before I started teaching English, I worked in the Royal National Theatre in London. Leaving the comfort and security of that job for the uncertainty and occasional chaos of teaching children was the best decision I’ve ever made. Before I started, I wasn’t even sure I liked children very much! I’ve learnt so much and have come to appreciate their good humour and complete honesty.

Working with kids is one of the best aspects of my new job. I teach a wide age range of kids, as young as three years old and as old as fifteen. I work at four different schools for a week each, so I only see each of my students once a month. Most of them have never spoken to a Westerner before, as I teach in small-town Japan. The younger kids love to touch my hair. “Fuwafuwa!” is a wonderful onomatopoiec word which is pronounced “fwah-fwah” and means “fluffy”. I hear “fuwafuwa” a lot about my curly hair. Japanese kids can be really shy about their English ability so it’s essential to build their confidence before you can make any headway in teaching them. We play a lot of games in our lessons to break the ice and make them laugh (a tip I learned at The TEFL Academy!) and I never miss an opportunity to make myself look silly, to get them to relax with their sporadic visiting sensei.

“Working with kids is one of the best aspects of my new job”

I love teaching, and even on difficult days I feel more satisfied at work than ever before. Kids have every excuse to be grumpy here: Japanese teenagers do so many extra-curricular activities to improve their education and career prospects that they often come into my evening classes half-asleep. Babies usually spend all their time with their parents, so not only am I the first gaikokujin they’ve seen, I’m sometimes the first non-relative that they have been left alone with. I think the most important thing I’ve learnt is not to label kids too fast. My worst student is a toddler with two very young sisters, who receive most of Mum’s attention, and who never sees his hard-working dad. He is a hellraiser, impossible to teach, but he’s learned to say “I love you” in English because it’s all he really wants to do. At the end of each lesson, he hugs me so hard it hurts. My best student is a smart, polite ten-year-old – and an absolute pain to teach when he’s clowning for the benefit of his mates!

Witnessing the evolution of young people like this is one of the job’s greatest gifts. They remind me that change is always possible, in the unlikeliest places. My one piece of advice? Stay as adaptable and open as the people you teach. Be willing to evolve with them.

Find your campus!

Choose to learn at one of our global TEFL campuses

The TEFL Academy has over 70 TEFL courses running every month in locations throughout the world.
Our combined TEFL course will give you the qualification you need to become a confident teacher abroad, wherever you decide to study. Select from the search options below to find the right course location for you.

You need to choose country and city!

Download 2022 Prospectus

Download 2022 Prospectus

Download your free 2022 prospectus and discover which TEFL course is best for you. Discover the amazing opportunities for our TEFL course graduates!

Download Prospectus

    Please enter your details in order to download our latest prospectus.

    Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

    Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

    Thank you for downloading our prospectus!


    We hope you enjoy reading our prospectus, we have tried to make it as useful as possible! Please get in touch if you have any questions.


    If the prospectus did not download automatically
    > Click Here To Download <.

    Get Social

    Follow us on social networks, join our newsletter - get the latest news and early discounts

    Sign up to our newsletter

    Follow us on social networks, sign up to our e-newsletters – get the latest news and early discounts

    Accreditation Partners

    Product added to your cart

    You have added to your cart:

    Request call back

      Please leave your details below and one of our TEFL experts will get back to you ASAP:

      captcha Type characters on the left:

      Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

      Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

      Download the TEFL World Factbook

        Please enter your details in order to download the latest TEFL World Factbook.

        Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

        Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

        Thank you for downloading the TEFL World Factbook!


        If the TEFL World Factbook did not download
        > Click Here To Download <.

        Download the Online Teaching Guide

          Please enter your details in order to download our Online Teaching Guide.

          Would you like us to update you on TEFL opportunities, jobs and related products & services?

          Yes, keep me updatedNo, but thanks anyway!

          Thank you for downloading our Online Teaching Guide!


          If the Online Teaching Guide did not download
          > Click Here To Download <.

          $
          $