I’m writing about day 1 at the beginning of day 2. By the time I got back to my room last night, my roommates were already asleep. That said, I decided to go ahead and write this post in the morning. This one comes with pictures!
So the day started off with a welcome ceremony because this is Japan and welcome ceremonies happen a lot (haha). We all got dressed up in suits and listened while people from different government ministries welcomed us to Japan and the program and wished us luck. From there, we basically went through one workshop or lecture after another. This went from about 9 in the morning to 8 at night and I was very, very jet lagged (pun not intended but go ahead and intend it). Since I was super tired all day, my favorite part of the day was when they fed us.
We got breakfast and lunch in the hotel’s banquet halls and it was all so good!
A lot of the workshops were run by current or former JETs and JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English). One in particular really stuck out for me in terms of giving me lesson ideas. The JET running the workshop was from Texas and he had friends basically everywhere, so he set up a lot of assignments where his students would mail something to people in America. For example, he has a friend who’s a Japanese language teacher and he set up a pen pal assignment between his class and his friend’s! The coolest assignment he told us about, though, was this assignment where he had students design and draw a superhero and they sent them off to a friend of his who worked at an animation studio. The guy’s friend drew polished pictures of the kids’ superheroes and sent them back to the kids!
Other workshops were a lot more technical like this one:
We basically went over workplace manners and little things that were considered rude in Japan. For example, don’t wear black ties to graduation ceremonies because black ties are worn at funerals. Also, don’t blow your nose in public. Hold on to it until you can go somewhere private.
After all was said and done in terms of workshops, we had a giant welcome reception. All the JETs and a few people from different government ministries were there. It was fun but it was so crowded! I ended up leaving a little early with one of my friends and wandering around Shinjuku.
One of the most interesting things I heard on day 1 is the new initiatives that the Japanese education system is trying to implement in schools. According to a lecture by a representative from the international relations organization, CLAIR, Japan is hoping that by 2020, all high school English classes will teach classes mainly in English. They also hope that teachers will focus on developing students’ communication skills rather than just teaching them to pass exams. According to our lecturer, only 2.3% of high school teachers taught their classes completely in English in 2010. Additionally, one of the most common practice for English education around the time was having students translate passages from English to Japanese rather than speaking with the language.
These new initiatives aim to foster students’ knowledge of English, their abilities to think and act for themselves, and positive attitudes towards learning. In short, the idea is to give students a “Zest for Life”. I love this quote so much because, not only does it have great implications for what students should get out of school, but it makes me feel better as an ALT. At the end of the day, if I can get students excited about coming to class and learning more about languages and cultures in the world, I’m doing something right!
To be continued with Day 2.