So far, not a whole lot. The students are on summer break right now, so I won’t be teaching until the end of the month. The Japanese school year starts in the spring and runs on a trimester system. I’ll be working in a junior high school, which is equivalent to grades 7, 8, and 9 in the US, although they call them grades 1, 2, and 3 within the school. Junior high is the highest level of school that is compulsory for students, and they have to take entrance exams to get into high school. They don’t go to high school based on where they live, but rather based on how they do on the entrance exams. High schools have different focus areas, as far as I can tell. But I’m not involved at the high school level in Japan.
My main school is called Ichinomiya Minami JHS, which is actually just “Ichinomiya South.” Ichinomiya is one of the four towns that make up Shiso, but I will get into that later. There are three English teachers, one for each grade level, and when I first arrived, it was the 2nd grade teacher who came with me to serve as translator while we did things like get my cell phone, sign my housing contract, etc. He explained that the different teachers will want me to serve in different ways. The 3rd grade teacher will want me to pretty much run my own lesson for his class each week. The 1st grade teacher will mostly do his own thing and include me as a resource. And the 2nd grade teacher will be somewhere in between. All of this makes sense to me, since third-year students can be expected to follow a lesson given entirely in English, while I wouldn’t make such a demand of first-years.
Once a week, I’ll be visiting elementary school. I’ve been assigned to two schools, and one of them is right next to the junior high (called Kanbe). The other, Somegochi, is further out. I haven’t visited these schools yet, mostly because the schedule got all screwed up with the typhoon rains. Then, it was Obon holidays, and the 2nd grade teacher who was going to take me left town.
In addition to these, I’ll be participating in other things. I’m not sure exactly what yet, but I’ve heard about Sports Day, which will be in September, which is like field day, but a bigger deal. I also want to participate with a club, if I can; I’ll also help with English speeches for the town speech contest. I’m not sure if I’ll just be coaching Minami students, or if I’ll actually be part of the contest itself. Finally, I’ll also be teaching an adult conversation class with Lee, one of the other Shiso JETs; the class has two levels, beginner and advanced. I met one of the advanced students, Naruo, the other night when several of the JETs were out to dinner, and he was very cool. These classes will be Thursday nights.
A typical work day, of which I’ve had a grand total to date of two, begins with me taking the bus from the stop just in front of my apartment. I walk up the driveway to the school and say good morning to whoever is there. It’s been sparsely and strangely populated, because not everyone comes every day, and those who are there are often doing things with their club activity students. I always see groups of students on the baseball field in front of the school, and also running in little packs.
This is the view toward the window from my desk. That's the baseball field outside, and the mountains beyond it.
The staff room, where we all have our desks, is grouped by grade level, mostly. My desk is in the first grade area, on the corner by the tea stuff. The front of the room has a bunch of boards covered with writing; they look like calendar schedule things, but of course, I can’t read them. Just in front of these boards, the vice principal has his desk. I really like the vice principal so far; he used to be an English teacher, so he speaks English really well. But he also speaks to me in Japanese, so I can practice. The principal doesn’t really speak English much, but he seems pretty cool too. They all even have a sort of laid-back demeanor, which I wasn’t expecting. I think they will be exacting about some things, and relaxed about others. I don’t know yet what those things will be. I still dress as formally as I can for work, because I want to make a good impression. This is a bit annoying because they don’t like to use the air conditioner; actually, they’ve used it now more often than I expected. I mentally prepared myself for a total lack of air conditioning ever. But they do turn it on when it warms up outside. At least the staff room is nice and cool. I really want to come off as hardworking and earnest in my endeavors, so I’ve kept pretty busy on the few days I’ve been in. I know I’m going to make mistakes, but I want to keep them to a minimum.
At work, I’ve been mostly going through materials left by the previous JETs, trying to get a grasp of how best to go about what it is I’m to do. Soon, I’m going to start trying to make myself more familiar with the staff room. I was given a chart of who sits where, and what they teach, but I want to be able to match names to faces, so my next project might be creating a photo map of the staff in the room. I want to do this electronically, so I might be able to put it up here. I still haven’t given everyone my omiyage, my American presents. I keep waiting for a good time, when a lot of them are around, but I haven’t seen it yet. I may just put stuff on their desks and call it even.
I have a great book with lots of lesson plan ideas, and Lara, the previous JET, left me a bunch of her stuff as examples too. I want to look through everything so I can plan as solidly as possible.
Next time: what about the other JETs in your area?