Teaching in Japan

Discuss anything and everything relating to that fascinating island empire of the east
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greg
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Re: Teaching in Japan

Post by greg »

PinkAppleJam wrote:We were discouraged in our school to talk in Japanese because it was supposed to help "force" better English communication!
By my contract, I am expected to speak only English during my classes and also to speak English to the kids at lunchtime or anytime outside of class. It's not enforced, so I speak Japanese a lot, and nobody has complained so far. When I'm teaching at elementary schools, the homeroom teachers don't speak much English, and many of them just stand in the back of the room and I have to do the whole class by myself. I don't mind, but it requires a bit of Japanese to make it work. At my previous job in Nagano-ken, there was one school that was very particular about never speaking Japanese. The principal and vice principal at that school eloquently described it as an "English shower." Well, there's a difference between a shower and being blasted in the face with a garden hose. Every time they heard me speaking Japanese to a student, they complained to my boss. I was sick of it.

I say, repeat enough key English to have them learn it, and fill in the gaps with Japanese as necessary. There is no way you can visit a school perhaps once a week and consider that an immersion. Immersion takes a long, gradual time and requires frequent contact. If a teacher just shows up once a week and blabs incessantly in English, it is really no more than a barking dog. A person's brain just tunes it out after a while.

The way I see it, my role is to not only teach English, but also be an ambassador of sorts, representing the outside world to these kids. There will be kids who don't care to learn English. That's to be expected. But if I insist on speaking only English to them, then that will do nothing really to be a goodwill ambassador. Too many people come here and don't bother learning Japanese, even people who have lived here for many, many years. Japanese people have come to expect foreigners to not speak Japanese. I display to my kids that I am a foreigner and I can speak Japanese. That is also very important. My job is to break the barrier between Japanese and foreigner, and to some extent the barrier between student and teacher. I'm here to be a friend, someone for them to get along with. If they can get along with a foreigner, then that is just as precious as teaching them English. Perhaps even moreso, because while they may eventually forget English, at least they'll have the relationship experience with non-Japanese, and hopefully leveling up their worldview.
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ParaParaJMo
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Re: Teaching in Japan

Post by ParaParaJMo »

I applied for JET twice (once in 2006 and again in 2009) and got as far as being an alternate in both instances. I studied Japanese since high school and even did a home stay when I was 17. I knew a lot of people very qualified (like level 2 JLPT and studied education) and didn't get an interview. I ended up getting a job with Interac in Kagawa and after the first year, things fell apart and my boss just decided to be a prick and let me go at the end of the contract for no reason when the teachers I worked with wanted me to stay. I got another job in Hiroshima with another company and then I figured I start moving a lot.

Overall, teaching in Japan may not be for everybody. It is easy and also hard. But every experience is going to be different. Some people probably don't bother learning the language because they only plan on being here for a year from what I have seen.

Presently, I work at a private girl's high school. With the exception of my current place of employment, using Japanese was strongly discouraged, but I never seen it contractually written that I couldn't use Japanese. Some Japanese teachers I previously worked with (especially at the elementary's which I will get into later) like it if you speak Japanese. At jr highs and high schools, it can be a mixed bag. At junior highs, they are more strict about it. In high school, they generally don't care.

As of 2011, 5th and 6th grade requires a week of English and starting soon, it will start from 1st grade and it is expected that the actual homeroom Japanese teachers, most of whom don't speak English, are officially expected to be responsible for the lessons. Of course having ALTs help and in most instances in my personal experience, they just let the ALT do all the work even though they officially shouldn't. When I taught elementary, the teachers didn't care if I used Japanese though the Board of Education officially wants the ALT to exclusively use English.

At the private girl's school I now teach at, they require to know Japanese since I am also a homeroom teacher and I have to speak with parents and participate in meetings. Though this never happened to me, I heard of some native English teachers thrown out of the teacher's room during teacher's meetings because it doesn't concern them. I also teach the classes myself and I also design the curriculum.

When I taught at a junior high in Saitama, this teacher I worked with would really freak out if I used Japanese in class. To best describe our working relationship, try to imagine Lois Lane and Clark Kent back in the Lois and Clark TV series. We were a lot like that. Hell, she didn't like it when I spoke to her in Japanese in private. But she went back to her home town and after she left, all the teachers told me that she actually wanted to ask me out but couldn't bring herself to do so :lol: . I will admit she was pretty and had big knockers. :twisted:

One thing I hated when I was teaching in Ibaraki is that the vice-principal and another teacher gave me crap for buying my breakfast at a local 7-11 saying it was a bad influence for students. I was commuting by bike (no bus or train in that area) to the school from my apartment and it would take about an hour. I didn't have time to make breakfast and there was a 7-11 a couple of blocks away from the school and I would just eat at the parking lot. Teachers saw me and complained to me about it. But what really pissed me off and totally did not get was how I was discouraged from having breakfast at a 7-11 and how teachers greeting students at the front gate could smoke. To this day, I completely fail to understand how I am a bad influence on students.

But back to JET selection. I know I will get crap for this, but I feel I still need to get this off my chest. In addition to age discrimination, I think they (possibly) gender discriminate as well. Most of the people who got accepted in my interview group were women. I can only speak on personal experiences, but most of the JETs I have met were blonde women. When I left Niigata in 2011, their system switched to hiring JETs and all the instructors they got were blonde women. If my niece manages to get into the JET program, I think I will scream.

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Re: Teaching in Japan

Post by greg »

Yes, the JET is dumb. I think that is partly why cities all over are dumping them in favor of their own programs.

So it is interesting that you not only teach at a private school, but that you are a homeroom teacher. What's more is that you haven't taken any official JLPT certification tests. What is your general Japanese level? Intermediate, or advanced? I'm somewhere in between intermediate and advanced. I hope to someday find such a position. I've been told by the teachers I work with that they consider me to be the same level of teacher as they are, but my BOE always rotates us around each year so that we must teach at different schools every April. I really wish I could stay put in one place and feel like I belong. Then again, I understand that not every city is like that. I'm not sure I would want to teach at an all-girls' school. It sounds a bit boring. The students I find easier to talk with tend to be girls, because they naturally focus on relationships and communication. Still, I enjoy finding the boys who share the same interests I do.

So how do you like teaching high school? To me, it seems taht students become more boring the older they become.

The problem I have with schools who insist that an ALT speak English exclusively is this: it gives a very bad impression about the importance of language learning. What I mean is that it is counterproductive for kids to observe their ALT and say, "Why the hell should I bother to seriously learn English? Look at this ALT. He has lived in Japan for several years now, is even married to a Japanese wife, and yet he still can't speak Japanese. If this clown can live in Japan and not even bother to learn Japanese, why the hell should I care about learning English? It's not like I ever want to live in another country, anyway."
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ParaParaJMo
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Re: Teaching in Japan

Post by ParaParaJMo »

Well, I only see the policy working in the next generation as Japan's birth rate rises and its elderly population dies out to the point that the existing Japanese population will have to go overseas or hire labor from abroad. As of this generation, yes, the intentions are well meaning but it is very counter intuitive. Especially in a country where 98% of the population is Japanese and most of the foreign population is Chinese and Koreans and they have major issues with the Japanese.

My Japanese is pretty much advanced but I doubt I could work in the science or law field lol.

As for teaching high school, it depends. As you know, high school is optional in Japan and there are all kinds of high schools. There are some low level, high and intermediate. Some days it's fun, and some days you just want to be like Mr. Cartmenez screaming "HOW DO I REACH THESE KEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDSS??????!!!!!" Some schools have special English programs like mine where I have to prepare students for a one year study abroad experience in Australia. As for a girl's school, it has made me more patient and worked out better than I thought. I was teaching at a jr. high last year with 40 students per class and there were 7 classes per grade and it was driving me crazy. Now I teach with 25 students per class and I love it.

But yeah, transfers happens a lot in the public school system in Japan. In private schools, most of the teachers stay at the same school for relatively the rest of their teaching careers.

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