Since I already put up a post about how I feel about teaching on the JET Program thus far, I thought it would be a good idea to also put up a more straightforward post about what working on the JET Program thus far has actually entailed. I’ll probably write more posts like this later on as new things come or go and if my thoughts on anything changes. But, for now, here’s a snapshot of what being an ALT in Izumo City, Shimane Prefecture, is like day to day.
The Bigger School:
I go to my bigger school three times a week on a normal week. One of those days is only a half day since I spend part of it at the bigger school and part of it at the Board of Education. At the BoE, I usually have meetings or prep time for other stuff and it’s when I have the best chance to talk to my supervisor about different things.
So far, at my bigger school, I’ve taught up to four classes in a day. The grade level and class I teach varies depending on the day. The style in which I teach also depends on the class and the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) I’m working with that period. My JTEs are usually pretty busy throughout the day, but somehow, we can usually figure out a time to discuss the lesson before we get to the classroom. Luckily, I’m still just making my way through a self introduction lesson, so not much preparation is required. In my down time, though, I’ve been preparing and researching different warm-up games and activities that I can pull out at the drop of a hat. I’ve already been asked once at the end of a class if I had a game we could play and I set up a simple True/False question game. Once I’m done giving my self introduction lesson to all the classes, what I teach will change based on where a class is in the textbook. One JTE has told me about how a class in the near future will probably involve us reading a story from the textbook aloud to the students.
When I’m not in class or at the BoE, I’m usually in the staff room preparing materials for games or the English bulletin board, which I’m planning on making a new display for every month. I’ve also been helping one of the JTEs make CDs of different recitations to help students with an upcoming speech and recitation contest.
So, in short, the three main things I do at my bigger school are classes, materials prep, and helping with speech and recitation contests. Helping with the contests will gradually move from making CDs to actively coaching students in their speeches, according to one of my JTEs.
The Smaller School:
I’ve only taught a few classes at this school so far because everyone has been busy preparing for the Sports Festival. There have been a couple of times when I’ve gone with one of the other teachers to just watch the students practice and chat with them when they don’t have anything to do. Aside from that, I’ve been doing mostly the same things here as at my bigger school. When I’m not in class with my self introduction lesson, I work on making materials for the English board and make any materials I might need for future activities in classes. Often, though, I get to chat with the other teachers in the staff room. Since this school is smaller, the teachers are a much more tight-knit group. That means it’s completely possible to just pause whatever you’re doing to have a quick conversation with someone (unless whatever you’re working on is urgent. But everyone seems to have a good idea of when you’re busy and when you’re not).
Sometimes on JET, school Sports Festivals will fall on a weekend and you’ll still be asked to be there. If this happens, you’ll get a supplementary day off later. However, I don’t need to worry about this at my smaller school because they planned to have it on a weekday. When the Sports Day does come around, I’m going to be helping the other teachers run it and cheer on the students. There won’t be any classes that day; it’s a day-long field day!
At my smaller school, I’ve taught a couple of special needs classes, which weren’t too different from my regular classes except the class size is smaller, and so me and the JTE are more involved with the students. Later on this month, I’m going to start teaching at a branch school, which is an offshoot of my smaller school. When that happens, I’ll start having half days in which I spend part of the day at my smaller school and part of the day at the branch school. The branch school is attached to a hospital and will have some of the smallest class sizes. From what I’ve been told, lessons at the branch school will be the most game based out of all the schools I work at.
The best piece of advice that I’ve followed so far is to just be prepared. Have a bag of tricks ready to go for classes that you can pull from anytime. While I might go into several classes with the same lesson ready, I might have to teach it in a completely different way each time just because I’m working with a different teacher or because a class is more noisy or more quiet. Generally, I do the same things at every school, but the details are what make each school interesting. I’m quickly learning that the details are also what makes it so difficult to get a straight answer to questions about school life in the days leading up to teaching on JET. So that’s why the best thing to do, especially in your day to day life, is to just be prepared for anything that might happen at your schools. Be prepared and enjoy the little things. Because that’s what makes things fun.