Today on the Ibaraki JET space, we have an interview with two JTEs! This interview was conducted by Randy Guevara, a third-year ALT working in Hokota. It’s a great way to get an inside look at the life of a JTE, especially for new ALTs wondering about the ins and outs of JETlife. Take a look below!
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There are a lot of benefits teaching multiple high schools. You work with several teachers and students that widen your network in Japan. Meeting with a number people also adds variety to the week! Day to day interactions can range from speaking in a mix of English and Japanese while farming with students, to leading an interesting discussion with the English club about cultural differences between Japan and Hawaii.
Teaching at multiple schools can also present some challenges though. Maintaiing an open line of communication with several JTEs is tough. ALTS aren’t available to sit down with teachers to efficiently plan lessons. Although email and smartphone apps like Line help, a lot of the time face to face meetings are required.
Recently, I sat down with two of my coworkers. Both are high school teachers. One teaches high level while the other low. I asked them questions and documented their responses.
The first interview is with a teacher, let’s name her Suzuki-sensei.
She works for a lower level high school.
1. What do you look forward to when team teaching?
“Students don’t get many chances to speak in English with a foreigner. Team teaching is an opportunity for the students to talk in English and ALTS bring new atmosphere to the class.”
2.. What is your least favourite part about team teaching?
“I`m sorry, I don’t know.”
I offered sample responses and she thought about it, but still declined to comment. I didn’t push for an answer. It’s important to respect boundaries and Japanese culture is not always the most direct. I felt her unease, so we moved on.
3. When team teaching, what is important to you?
“Building good relationships with the ALT is important because then I can talk about [lesson] plans.”
4. Describe a normal work day.
“I come to school at 8:00AM and leave at 8:30PM.
In the morning, I stand outside [in front of the school] and greet students. I check their uniform and make sure it is proper. After, I attend the morning meeting we have every day. I teach 3-4 classes a day. I teach all grades (1st, 2nd and 3rd). Planning lessons for each grade is different so it changes how long it takes to plan to each lesson. When I am not team teaching, I prepare a worksheet for each of my classes. That takes a lot of time and I hardly have any spare time. I clean in the afternoon and then I go outside. I check to make sure the students have their I.D and check their motor bike. I check their helmet and make sure the lights work. After, I go to my club activity. After my club activity, I go back to my desk and work.”
5. What do you want me to tell other ALTs in Ibaraki?
I am an English teacher, but I am not very good at English. I would like ALTS to help me and other teachers teach students.
The second interview is with a teacher who I will also name Suzuki-sensei. He works for a higher level high school.
1. What do you look forward to when team teaching?
“Team teaching is an opportunity for students to listen to real english. When we team teach, it makes it easier for me to create a good atmosphere for group work. Without team teaching, we never do group work, sometimes we have students work in pairs but never in groups. It’s a good chance for them to share ideas.”
2. What is your least favorite part about team teaching?
“We have a curriculum we need to do and team teaching interrupts the yearly plan. This is especially important before exams and tests. Sometimes, we are already behind the plan because of medical checks, snow storms and team teaching can disturb the schedule.”
3. Describe a normal work day for you.
“I arrive to school at 8:00AM and I prepare the announcements for my short homeroom at 8:35. I am always thinking how I can use this time efficiently. I don’t like giving students papers now, instead I give them papers after school. We also have a morning meeting twice a week. Sometimes I prepare announcements for the meeting too. I teach from 3-5 classes per day, all 2nd grade. We have a curriculum and we share making lesson plans between the English teachers. I make 3 lessons, then another teacher makes 3 lessons and we share the plans. It takes me 90 minutes to prepare for each class. I seldom go to my club activity during the week because I go on the weekends, but during the week I stay late every day making plans preparing for tomorrow’s lesson.”
4. What do you want me to tell other ALTs in Ibaraki?
“University entrance exams are very important. It is our school goal. I want ALTS to know about the exams. They should know what skills and grammar are on the entrance exams. I want ALTS to study how long the test takes and what students need to know to pass the exam.”
Whether you are an ES, JHS, HS ALT or even a CIR, I hope you find these interviews helpful. If you’re a new arrival, this could good insight as to what your future coworkers are thinking about. I certainly enjoyed taking a moment and it’s always nice bridging the gap.
Randy is a third-year ALT working at a high school in Hokota. He enjoys traveling, riding his bike, and relaxing at the beach.