(Here’s a repost from my other blog from when I was still in JET. )
I’ve been meaning to write more things about the JET Programme, but I’ve been preoccupied and busy with various things. And when I’m free, I just want to rest.
I wanted to write something before applications were due. But they should be already due by the time I post this. I apologize for no clear organization on this post. I’m not too sure what I want to say.
I apologize if the title sounds too demanding and rude. I’m not forbidding anyone from applying. You can do whatever you want. But I do want to bitch about the mentality of some ALTs. Some things seem very obvious, but you’d be surprise.
You should reconsider, if you….
- …if you hate teaching
The T in JET and ALT stands for Teaching/teacher. I’m not saying that you need to have a teacher’s certificate or background in education (because I certainly didn’t). I’ll be perfectly honest, most of us ALTs, don’t actually get much actual teaching responsibilities. We don’t make worksheets, lesson plans, exams, etc. Most of us are used as tape recorders. “Repeat after the ALT.” However, with that out of the way, that doesn’t mean we aren’t teachers. We’re teachers, that’s our job – doing school related tasks.
I know ALTs that complain about marking papers. “I can’t believe my JTE made me mark them!” D’uh. Teachers mark papers, it’s a given. At a couple of my previous schools, there were some part-time teachers whose job is just marking papers. I’ve never seen them in class. If marking some papers suck, imagine how crappy it is for those teachers.
“I can’t believe I have to stay after school to help my students practice for the English speech contest!” Umm… you do know that’s your job, right? If your school makes you stay late into the night everyday and we don’t get overtime for it, I totally understand why anyone would refuse. However, once in a while you might be asked to stay after to help with club activities or speech contests or school festivals. Don’t you want to help your students? Don’t you want them to win? Don’t you want to be of actual use? ALTs complain that we’re not used. But when they do use us, we complain. The more you show interest in your school(s) and students, the more they will open up to you. That will help you in the long run, will make your experience in Japan and at the school(s) much better.
“I can’t believe my JTE asked me to carry the books. Don’t they have trolleys for that?!” OK. This isn’t even about being a good teacher. It’s about being a good person. No, it’s not our job to carry books. But it’s also technically not our job to help someone who falls down either. But we do, because it’s the right thing to do. It’s called compassion and empathy and consideration.
- …if you hate children
This is also an obvious statement. We’re teachers. We teach children. If you hate children, maybe you should really consider another job. I don’t know what your definition of children is, if senior high school students are included or not. But let’s just include them for argument’s sake. So, in one way or another, you’ll be teaching and interacting with children. You’ll be surrounded by children. So if you can’t stand them, try something else.
I don’t hate children, but I don’t super-duper love them. They’re whatevers. However, my favorite days are always the days I have elementary school visits. Yes, they’re loud and super energetic and cry easily. It’s exhausting because they want to play with you all day. They have yet to comprehend concepts like proper hygiene and manners. But they’re super adorable. They’re energetic and happy to see you.
But if that’s not your cup of tea…
- …if you don’t like Japan/Asia culture/food/etc.
If you don’t like Japanese and Asian food, you’re gonna have a very very difficult time living in Japan. No, you’re not gonna eat raw fish everyday (unless you want to). But if you hate rice and fish and tofu and soy sauce and so on, I hope you’re a great cook or like eating at McDonald’s everyday! But even if you cook at home, it can be difficult because non-Japanese ingredients are difficult and expensive to find in Japan. Unless you get super lucky and get placed in a big city like Osaka and have access to import stores and foreign restaurants.
There will be countless festivals going on throughout the year in Japan. I’ve visited countless temples and shrines. I’ve visited a sake brewery. I went digging for bamboo shoots. The other ALTs got to plant and harvest rice (without me!!). I’ve participated in a few local festivals. I even got to dress up as a samurai for a parade! These can be either very interesting or very boring depending on your tastes. Make the best of what you are given.
- …if you can’t easily adapt
This is also very important. You’ll be living in a foreign country, eating foreign food, surrounded by a foreign language and culture. You need to learn to adapt to the changes. Westerners are direct; Japanese people aren’t. The faster you get used to them and understand that, the less stress you will feel.
But more importantly, we have to be very flexible for our job. There will be (many) times when we’re expected to give lessons, worksheets, presentations, events, etc. with little or no warning in advance. We have to be quick on our feet. There’s several times when I show up at my elementary schools and they ask me to do a lesson to an unscheduled class without any notice. And I had to find teaching material within, literally, minutes. Or the BOE and teachers from other schools are going to watch your demo lesson that no one told you about. Or you find out that morning that going to race against the students in the Sports Festival. Or they want to you to play a guitar for Culture Festival because you mentioned that you like music. There will be many, many times when lessons don’t go the way we expect it to. Can you handle that? Can you absorb that and go with the flow? Or will you like a deer caught in the headlights? Prepare for the worse, hope for the best.
All these things cause a lot of frustration and stress. These situations can be either 10x better or worse depending on how you handle the situation.
Let’s switch topics and what I want to request from prospective JETs the most.
- Please think about your actions and their consequences
I cannot stress this enough. Whether we like it or not, we’re cultural ambassadors. The more rural you get placed, the less foreigners the locals have seen and know. So please think about what you say, do, act, etc. Because we are being judged. Don’t be a douche. If you do something bad, not only will it reflect poorly on you, but on your school, your country, your successor, and, in general, all foreigners. Yes, it’s very unfair but that’s how it is.
For some students and locals, you might be the first/only foreigner they know. Let them know that foreigners are fun and friendly and warm. Let them know that while we have different cultures, we can still learn a lot of from other. Don’t be an obnoxious dick and gaijin smash your way through. Don’t give some xenophobic people more fuel for their fire.
No one expects us to be saints. But at least be considerate and thoughtful of your actions.
I’m not saying that you can or cannot apply for JET. This is more of a post letting you know some things you should consider. So, please be open-minded and considerate of others. Be welcome to new ideas and experiences and enjoy your time in JET and Japan. You’ll never know, you might start to love things you didn’t before!
Look at me, I’ve learned to like umeboshi now. =P