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SCHOOL LIFE: Basics

BY: Patrick Bickford & Raegina Taylor & Joyce P. Le     DATE ADDED: May 19, 2010

“Don’t expect it’s going to be the way you expect it to be.”Raegina Taylor

 

"Every Situation Is Different.  Don't you just hate hearing that?  Let me try to rephrase those dreaded words. The information laid out below is how things are 'usually' done in Japanese schools. If you find your situation different, you are in the minority.”Patrick Bickford

    GENERAL SCHOOL LIFE

     

    I. SCHOOL SAYINGS

      1. GOOD MORNING: When you walk into school every morning:
        • HIRAGANA: おはようございます。
        • ENGLISH: Good morning.
        • ROMAJI: Ohayou gozai masu.
        • I CAN'T READ $HIT: Oh hi yo go zai moss.
      2. GOING HOME: When you leave to go home at the end of every day:
        • HIRAGANA: おさきにしつれします。
        • ENGLISH: I've worked hard. I'm going home.
        • ROMAJI: O saki ni shitsure shimasu.
        • I CAN'T READ $HIT:O saw key knee she tsu ray she moss.
      3. TO A CO-WORKER LEAVING: To a teacher who is leaving school for the day, they will say, "O saki ni shitsure shimasu."  You respond with:
        • HIRAGANA: おつかれさまでした。
        • ENGLISH: You've worked hard. Bye.
        • ROMAJI: O tsukare sama deshita.
        • I CAN'T READ $HIT:O tsu caw ray saw ma de she tah.
      4. BEFORE EATING: Before starting to eat any food, especially school lunch, or when someone gives you a snack to eat in the Teacher's Room:
        • HIRAGANA: いただきます。
        • ENGLISH:Thank you for the food I'm about to eat.
        • ROMAJI: Itadaki masu.
        • I CAN'T READ $HIT:Ee tah dock ee moss.
  • AFTER EATING: After you get done eating any food, especially lunch:
    • HIRAGANA: ごちそうさまでした。
    • ENGLISH: Thank you for the food I just ate.
    • ROMAJI:Gochi sou samade shita.
    • I CAN'T READ $HIT:Go chi sow saw ma de she tah.

      Click here to download a more comprehensive list of workplace expressions.

      II. WHAT TO EXPECT AT SCHOOL

        1. SELF-INTRODUCTIONS: Be prepared to introduce yourself over-and-over again for your first month living in Japan. Also, if you work for a BoE that rotates ALTs every few months, you'll be giving your self-intros about 20 times every few months. Don't be surprised if you wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and find yourself spouting your self-intro in your sleep.
          • BASIC SELF-INTRO INFORMATION: Keep in mind that Japanese self-intros might be a little different than what you are used to back in your home country. Here’s an example of a typical self-intro but feel free to create your own, keeping in mind that your name and the country you’re from are probably something you want to include in a homemade self-intro.
              • Opening Greeting: "Nice to meet you.  My name is..." ("Hajimemashite.  Watashi no namae wa <name>.")
              • Country: "I came from..." ("<country> kara kimashita.")
              • Age: "I am...years old." ("<age> sai desu.")
              • 2-3 Hobbies: "My hobbies are..." ("shuumi wa <hobby> to <hobby> to <hobby> desu.")
              • Final Greeting: "It was nice to meet you." ("Dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.")
          • FIRST DAY OF WORK: On your first day at work, the teacher who is responsible for you at your base school or from someone from the city's Board of Education will introduce you to the principal and/or vice-principal at your base school. This will most likely be where you break your cherry on giving your self-introduction. Then, the principal will take you into teacher's room, and you'll give your self-introduction again, this time to all the teachers. They might even take you over to the local Board of Education and/or around to various schools where, like a broken record, you'll keep giving your self-intro.
          • FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL: The first day you start interacting with the students, don't be surprised if the school calls an assembly and you have to give your self-intro in front of the entire school in the gym, seeing that most schools in Japan don't have assembly halls.
          • FIRST DAY OF CLASS: For every class you have, don't be surprised if the Japanese English teacher (a.k.a. JTE) wants you to give your self-introduction to each class. Keeping this in mind, try and save more specific details of your self-intro for your classes: how many members in your family, foods you like/dislike, etc. Rememberr to bring things from home that enhance your self-intros, like pictures of things that you don't normally think of: grocery store, gas station, coffee shops, sports fields (In Japan, they're usually only dirt), and pictures of your home country's kids in their school clothes (whether they have a school uniform or not).
        2. STARING AT THE WALL:After the self-intros are done on your first day of being at work, you'll most likely be shown to your desk in the teacher's room at your base school, or maybe you'll be based out of the local Board of Education. Either way, don't be surprised if suddenly you find yourself alone at a desk without any instruction of what you should be doing.  If you're based out of your school, take that opportunity to:
          • WANDER AROUND: Walk around the school to get familiar with it.
          • TOILETS: Find the toilets ( = Men  = Women). If you’re not keen on Japanese toilets, scour the school for a western toilet. You might be surprised where you might find one
          • RESOURCES: Get to know the school resources (paper, copiers, etc)
          • TALK: Strike up conversations with other teachers, of course, if they look like they aren't too busy. Don’t be shy! If your Japanese is nil, try to remember to use "easy English". I try to picture I'm talking to a six year old, minus the talk-down-to tone we use with children.
          • COMPUTER: Ask about computer access. You might need a username and password, which will most likely take a couple weeks for the paperwork to go through. Also, you may/may not receive your own laptop. While every other teacher will most likely have their own new fangled laptop, ALTs are often passed over and are forced to use the communal computer in the teacher's room.
          • READING/STUDYING: For the most part, it’s okay to read and/or study at your desk, especially if you're studying Japanese.
        3. CENTRAL-HEATING / AIR-CONDITIONING: There is a total lack of central-heating/air-conditioning in Japanese schools, with the exception of Hokkaido. For reasons that we will never understand, the heaters/air-conditioning units that are located in various rooms throughout the school are used based upon the date and not the weather. Also, don't be surprised if these units are constantly being turned off/on all day long, which can be quite frustrating when students can't feel their fingers the first 20 minutes of class because the classroom is still warming up, or it's so hot that they are falling asleep during the lesson. While you can't really change how things are done in Japan, there are some things you can do to make yourself more comfortable at school:
          • SUMMER: Bring a fan, a small towel and cup to use at school.
          • WINTER: Don’t forget to bring extra layers of clothes. You can bring a fleece jacket and leave it at school. It is generally NOT OK to wear your outdoor jacket in school but you can change into a lighter jacket at school. You should be given a locker where you can keep your clothes. Also, we suggest buying some heater pads that you can stick on your body. They are cheap and can be found at every store in Japan. The pads are called, "kairo" or "hokkairo".
        4. MONTHLY DUES:
          • COFFEE: [Charge: 500-5,000¥] The coffee/tea isn’t free, so if you drink be prepared to pay the month fee. While this range might seem quite steep, you'll most likely get a refund for money that wasn't used. However, if you never use the schools supplies and/or you are constantly being switched between schools, bring this up with your contact teacher at your base school if you are being charged. Basically, it's not fair to pay for something you don't use and/or are never at the school to use. It's going to be a 50/50 chance whether you are excused from these fees but it doesn't hurt to try.
          • PARTIES: [Charge: 3,000-7,000¥] Schools often have “teacher parties”. There is usually an upspoken pressure to attend these parties but not always necessary, with the exception of two parties which you need to attend: Fairwell to Teachers Leaving the School Party & New Teachers Coming to School Party. Every teacher pays a monthly fee into a general party fund. Then, when these parties occur, teachers don’t pay in one lump sum.  Like the coffee dues, at the end of the year any unused money will most likely get refunded to you. This is most likely not an obligatory fee and might ask if you can option out of paying this fee. Or, you can pay for each individual party as you attend them.  The charge can be anywhere from 3,000-7,000 yen a month. 
          • SCHOOL LUNCH: [Charge: 2,000-3,000¥] ES & JHS teachers have school lunches. Keep in mind, there is no school lunch at high school but there may be a cafeteria where you can order food. At the ES & JHS level, everyone generally eats together and they always have the same food. But, the food isn't free. It usually works out to about 250-300¥ per meal. NOTE: If you are not going to be at school for a day(s) in the foreseeable future, make sure to tell the person who collects this money, which could very well be the JTE who is responsible for you at school. Telling that person about your future absence will save you from getting charged for school lunches when your're not present to eat it.
        5. DIFFERENT TYPES OF ALTS:
          • HS ALTS:
            • CLASS LOAD: 13-18 classes a week, while some HS ALTS have reported not teaching for months.

            • NUMBER OF SCHOOLS: Usually one school, but sometimes 2-3.

            • LESSON PLANNING: Make most if not all of your lessons for class.  Lessons most always focus Oral Communication.

            • BASED OUT OF: You don’t usually go to your Board of Education. You are usually based out of your base school.

            • SCHOOL LUNCH: No school lunch.Have to bring your own or order a bento (lunch box). Usually has a school cafeteria where you can buy lunch.There are also vending machines.

            • VACATION TIME: Pretty strict on taking vacation time when school is in session.

          • JHS ALTS:
            • CLASS LOAD: 9-20 classes a week.
            • NUMBER OF SCHOOLS: 1-3 JHS, with one of them being your base school.
            • LESSON PLANNING: 50/50 what type of situation you’ll be faced with: 1.) plan your own lessons, 2.) be a human tape recorder, 3.) stick close to the textbook for activities, or 4.) a mixture of all the above.
            • BASED OUT OF: You usually go to your Board of Education when school is not in session.
            • SCHOOL LUNCH: Eat with the students, usually in the classrooms.There are no vending machines.
            • VACATION TIME: You are encouraged not to take vacation time when class is in session but it is possible.

          • ES ALTS:
            • CLASS LOAD: 3-5 classes every visit.
            • NUMBER OF SCHOOLS: 1-7 schools. The more schools you have, the better the chances are that some of them are ‘one-shot’ schools.Meaning, you won’t go to them on a regular basis.
            • LESSON PLANNING: The current trend is still on the ALT to plan all lessons, but with new English textbook that came out April 2010, we’ll if that trend starts changing.
            • BASED OUT OF: You are usually based out of a JHS since most ALTs who teach at ES level also teach at a JHS level. When you go to ES, you might stay all day or you might go back to your JHS after you’re done teaching.Every BoE handles their ALTs differently.
            • SCHOOL LUNCH: Eat with the students. Also, depending on whether one exists, you might eat in a cafeteria or classroom. Either way, usually a couple of cheery-eyed students will come and get you to take you to where you’re supposed to be eating.
            • VACATION TIME: Don’t plan on taking vacation if you are going to have to miss ES visits. While there have been exceptions in the past, it is extremely difficult to do and is frowned upon.

               

        6. MISCELLANEOUS:
          • CHANGING CLASSES: Teachers change classes, not the students. The disadvantage to this system is that you can't adorn the walls of your classroom with English materials.
          • JANITORS: Students/Teachers clean the schools. There are no janitors. Don't be surprised if you get assigned an area of the school to help out with during cleaning time. If nobody approaches you to help out, simply help the students clean the Teacher's Room.

       

      III. RULES AT SCHOOL

        1. TEACHERS:
          • SAME RULES: Don't be surprised if teachers are held to the same standard as the students. For example, if students aren't allowed to use the air-conditioner in the classroom, teachers most likely won't be able to use it in the Teacher's Room, and if teachers do use it, don't be surprised if they turn it off when students walk in. Childish, right? I've seen this done many times.
          • NO FOOD/DRINK: The standard rule is that there is NO eating or drinking outside teacher’s room. You'll might even see some teachers hide the food they're eating when students come into the Teacher's Room. Either way, you know that morning cup of coffee you like to sip on? It should remain on your desk in the Teacher's Room. Don't take it to class.
          • NO SMOKING: Don' be surprised if there is no smoking on school premises. Despite Japan loving their tobacco, there has been a recent push to remove cigarettes from school premises. However, you might see some teachers standing on the edge of school property smoking.
          • BE ON TIME: Sounds stupid, but be punctual for work. And, 'punctual' is defined as five minutes early. If there is an accident and you are late, make sure you call your school and/or JTE as soon as possible. On that note, get your school telephone number and your JTE’s name as soon as you start going to school. You never know when this information will come in handy.
        2. STUDENTS:
          • NO FOOD/DRINK: Students are not allowed to bring food or drinks of any kind to school. This includes candy, gum, etc. However, this does not include high school, where vending machines are actually located in the schools.
          • SLEEP: Sometimes, I kid you not, students go to the Nurse’s Room to take naps. Say what? Yep! What's even more shocking is that sometimes they sleep DURING class and some teachers will give students an excuse like they studied hard last night, or they practiced their club activity until late the previous day, etc. So, don’t be surprised if students are sleeping in your class. If you’re bothered by it, talk to your supervisor or JTE.
          • PUNISHMENTS: The five big punishments schools probably use in your home country are: detention, suspension, expulsion, assigning homework, and kicking a kid out of the classroom. In Japan, while a teacher may assign homework as means of a punishment, the other for punishments are not regularly used. One time, I suggested 'detention' to one of my JTEs but she couldn't understand the concept.  She said, "...but the student will miss practicing his club activity." That being said, just because there are no active punishments going on, remember that Japan is more of a passive-aggressive type of society. The society tends to fix a problem by coaxing, not punishing. So, while you might not see any type of punishments being implemented in the classroom, you also don't see what is happening behind closed doors and in private. In Japan, teachers are not only responsible for their students' schooling, but for their personal life as well, kinda like being a teacher and parent at the same time. The discipline students receive is usually in the form of counselling, rather punishment. Basically, it's a passive-aggressive technique used to try and bring the student's bahavior back into line with the norm. Is this type of punishment good or bad? Neither, it's just a different approach.

       

      IV. SCHOOL SCHEDULES

        1. THREE TERMS: Japanese schools work on a 3-term schedule.
        2. SECOND TERM: If you come to Japan in August, you are coming beginning of the second term.
        3. NO SCHOOL: From August to September, there is no school but you will still most likely go to either your base school or BoE and sit. You might have summer seminars or be asked to help students with their speech contests (if the city has a speech contest in the second term), but most of the times you’ll be sitting around doing nothing.  Find something to keep yourself occupied.
        4. CHALKBOARD: The daily schedule of what is happening at school is written on the chalkboard, which is usually right behind where the Vice-Principal is sitting. The challenging thing will be trying to decode it since it is written in Japanese. Teachers will most likely not voluntarily tell you the schedule, so you'll need to take the initiative and ask.
        5. VICE-PRINCIPAL: You are to call him/her "Kyoto sensei". S/He usually sits in the middle desk in front of the chalkboard.
        6. PRINCIPAL: You are to call him/her "Kocho sensei". S/He has his/her own office.

       

      V. COMPUTERS

        1. RESTRICTIONS: Japanese schools have been cracking down over the years on computer usage at school. The trend these days does not allow you to bring your own laptop to school.
        2. NO COMPUTER FOR YOU: Despite the rest of your collegues having laptops, it's a 50/50 chance whether you will be issued your own laptop.  Most likely, you'll be told to use the communal computer, and you'll most likely need a username/password. So, one of the first things you'll want to do upon arriving at school is to find out the status of your computer situation and if you need a user/pass start the paperwork ASAP because it can take up to two weeks to receive one. When you’re on the communcal computer, make sure you don’t stay on it for too long otherwise you'll start getting looks from other teachers, despite them having their own laptop. Sometimes, the communal computer is the only computer that has access to the internet. NOTE: "Computer Cultural Shock" will be discussed in another article entitled, The Frustrating Things In Japan.
        3. TEMP ACCESS: Englipedia doesn't claim responsibility, but to gain temporary access to a school computer, try using the entering the following information into the password/username box:
          • ALT/ALT
          • guest/guest
          • Find out your predecessor’s first name and try that for both password/username.
          • Ssshhh…try to use another teacher’s name for the password/username.

       

      VI. SCHOOL LUNCH(ONLY APPLICABLE FOR ES & JHS ALTS)

        1. MILK: Japanese milk might smell and taste different but it's still general pretty good. Keep in mind, pretty much all milk served with school lunches is Whole milk.
        2. FISH: Don't be surprised to find a lot of fish in your school lunches. The Japanese eat over 100+ Different Types of Fishes. And, don't be surprised if you're presented with a fish that still has its head, tail, bones and skin still attached.  It's called "shishamo".
        3. NATTO: Fermented soybeans, a Japanese delicacy. This is the most popular food (if you can call it that) that foreigners don't like in Japan. That being said, you've got to at least try it once. Some, not many, but some ALTs actually love it.
        4. EAT EVERYTHING: Try stepping outside of your comfort zone in terms of eating. Japanese cuisine will most likely challenge your pallete. Don’t feel like you have to eat everything, but at least try everything once. Also, if you don’t like something, don’t pass judgment or make obscene disgusting faces. Simply say, “No, thank you." And if pushed as to why you are not eating it, simply reply, "I don’t like it." But, don't be surprised if some Japanese people still, despite your stern stance against eating something, chide you to eat the thing that you don't like. There's an expression in Japanese called "gaman". It basically means "endure". All ES & JHS students are taught to eat all their lunch, despite whether they like it or not. They are taught to 'endure' through the food they don't like. However, simply put, you are not Japanese, and those Japanese people who tell you to "gaman", simply politely ignore them. That's my personal opionion.  Other might take a more friendly approach.

       

      VII. CLASSES

        1. # OF STUDENTS IN A SCHOOL: This number can range from 20-1000 students. I met an ALT that taught at a school that employed 15 teachers with only a 12 student population. I've also met an ALT who taught at a school of 50 teachers and 1,000 students. Of course, these are extreme numbers. For elementary school, the average is between 80-300 students. For junior high school, the average is in the ballpark of 100-600 students.  For high school, the average is anywhere from 400-1,000 students.
        2. # OF STUDENTS IN A CLASS: In Japan, class sizes run anywhere from 5-40 students. In more rural areas, you'll find smaller class sizes, and reversely so. After 40 students, by law, schools must split the class into two classes.
        3. # OF CLASSES PER GRADE: The number of students at a school is directly related to how many classes each grade has. That being said, the average number of classes for each grade is three.
        4. # OF CLASSES IN A WEEK: The number of classes each week for ALTs range from 5-20, with the average being about 15. 
        5. # OF DIFFERENT LESSONS: While an ALT might teach 15 classes a week, that doesn't mean they have to plan 15 different lessons. You can recycle the same lesson for an entire grade. For example, if you only teach at one JHS and only teach each grade once a week, while you might teach nine classes, you'd most likely only need to plan three different types of lessons. I would have to say the average number of different lessons an ALT plans every week is anywhere from 3-5 lessons.

       

       

       

      STUDENTS

       

      I. CHANGE CLOTHES

      1. IN-CLASS CHANGING: Students change in the classroom. But, before this creeps you out too much, keep in mind they never get down to their underwear, with the exception of the younger grades in elementary school when they still aren't aware of boy/girl differences. Once they do, all students only strip as far down as their gym clothes.

      II. LOW-LEVEL ENGLISH

      1. BAD ENGLISH: Don’t be surprised by lower-than-expected English. Japan boasts the lowest level of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in the Asian region. I'm not saying that all Japanese students are bad at English, just surprised how they can study a language for so long and not obtain a workable use of it. But, it's not their fault their English system has failed them, so don't get frustrated. Simply try to help them improve their English.

      III. DEAD-PAN STARES

      1. NO RESPONSE: Don’t expect students to respond to your questions. This is a cultural thing which either stems from the Japanese language using a lot of rhetorical questions that aren't responded to, or from a cultural fear of making mistakes.
      2. SOLUTIONS TO NO RESPONSE
        • MAKE MISTAKES: Conscientiously make simple English mistakes that the students can even catch; even the bad kids will chime in to correct you. This can ease the classroom tension and promote a more relaxed mistake-friendly environment.
        • POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Give heaps of encouragement to kids who try, whether they are wrong on right. For more on this idea, read Englipedia's Mistakes Are Good article.

      IV. WELL-BEHAVED

      1. RESPECTFUL: The Japanese are trained from an early age to be respectful and for the most part better behaved than students back in your home country. Also, it's interesting to note that 'respectful' in Japan means "listen and take in the information", whereas back home it means "participate and respond to the teacher".
      2. EXCEPTIONS: Keep in mind that kids will be kids, no matter what country they're from, so don't be surprised if you get a couple bad apples.

       

      V. OUTSIDE-THE-CLASSROOM

      1. QUIET STUDENTS: You might run into students who are quiet in the classroom. Bear in mind that they might be quiet outside the classroom, too. Don't push a student too hard if you don't think they can rise to the challenge. Also, ask your JTE beforehand which students are abnormal, quiet, have certain problems, etc. This will help prevent dramas inside the classroom.
      2. STRANGER: Japan is a mono-culture. 98% of the population is Japanese. People are often scared of things they don't know. You are a stranger to them, and as such, it's easy to be intimidating to them.
      3. SMILE: Smile and make conversation as much as you can outside the classroom.
      4. USE OF JAPANESE: Use Japanese sparingly as the students will rely on that to communicate with you, instead of English.
      5. GET INVOLVED: Whatever your interests are, even if you're not all that interested in them, get involved in what the students like doing during their down time.
        • PLAY SPORTS: If you play sports, join the boys during lunch break.
        • ARTISTIC: If you draw, find students who like to draw.
        • ENGLISH BULLETIN BOARD: Start an English board with English comic strips (translated from Japanese - go online to search), cultural awareness, games, puzzles, etc. anything related to English). For further reading, check out Englipedia's Bulletin Boards article.
        • MAILBOX: Start a mailbox (have students write letters to you but be sure to reply). Start arts and crafts contest, holiday contest, coloring contest, riddles contest, etc.)
           

           

       

      TEACHERS

       

      I. CHANGE CLOTHES

      1. MILLION +1: Teachers change clothes a million times a day. For example, most Japanese men come to school in a suit --> change to a track suit after the morning meeting --> change back to the suit for any type of official business and/or meeting --> back to their track suit when it's done     --> and finally back to their suit when they go home. Don't feel like you need to jump on the constant-changing bandwagon. 
      2. EXTRA SET OF CLOTHES: You will most likely be assigned a locker to use at school. You might think about keeping an extra pair of gym clothes in it. You never know when it might come in handy. Also if you bike to school, you might sweat a lot during the summer so it is actually a good idea to keep an extra set of clothes at school.

       

      II. LOW-LEVEL ENGLISH

      1. ENGLISH TEACHERS: Don’t be surprised if your English teacher has lower-than-expected English. This can be for a wide array of reasons: 1.) don't really care about their job, 2.) English in Japan is studied to pass tests, or 3.) the English textbooks they are teaching from leave a lot to be desired. Whatever the reason be, you will most certainly meet English teachers who struggle with basic English conversation. However surprising it might be, don't make fun of them. Simply, find other means of communication: gestures, drawings, simple English, etc.
      2. OTHER TEACHERS: Also, don’t be surprised if the math teacher has a really high-level of English. You'll most likely find out which teachers can/can't speak English at the first teacher's party you attend...the Japanese call this "nomunication". This word is a made-in-Japan word where two words - "nomu" (to drink) and "communication" - are blended to make "nomunication", or the ability to communication but only when I'm drinking alcohol.
      3. ENCOURAGE: Encourage ALL teachers, not just your English teacher to speak to you in English around your students. This allows the students to see real English being used with real world applications. In a country where English is taught with the main focus to pass a test, students need all the exposure to English they can get.

       

      III. DUMB IT DOWN

      1. BIG WORDS: Most of you are college graduates, but leave your college words at home. Loquacious tautological discourse that is often found in L1 platitudinous rhetoric will not have cognitive meaning to the average Japanese English speaker.

       

      IV. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS

      1. JAPANESE IS OKAY: This might sound stupid to say, but it is okay to speak in Japanese to teachers. Start conversations with teachers both inside the English department and in other areas. Find out what the teachers teach, if they have traveled, hobbies, interests, etc. Building good working/friend relationships with teachers can ease the stressful times you may encounter.
      2. NOW IS THE TIME: For people coming to Japan in August, you'll have an entire month where there is no school. That is the perfect time to get to know your co-workers. Keep in mind, some teachers may not be forthcoming with talking, so it is up to you to be as friendly as possible. These relationships can be beneficial when it comes time to using various equipment at school: photocopier, woodwork appliances, video cameras, etc.

       

      V. ASSUMPTIONS

      1. CULTURAL AWARENESS: Teachers at your schools may tend to forget you are a foreigner and don’t know the Japanese culture. Much less, the policies of the Japanese education system. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. And, don't be afraid to remind your colleagues that you are not Japanese. That being said, keep in mind that some Japanese will expect you to be 'Japanese' while you are living in Japan. Meaning, they will expect you to follow every rule, way of doing things, etc. Other people call this, "When in Rome, do as the Romans." However, at the end of the day, it is up to you how far you are willing to step outside your comfort zone to live life like the Japanese. Be flexible, but don't completely ignore the culture you came from, either.

       

       

      Final Thought

      “You are an Assistant Language Teacher. Although you possess the label of ‘teacher’, you essentially are in-between a teacher and a student. It is up to you how much responsibility you take in the school and in the classroom. Don’t expect to be taken seriously, if you don’t take your job seriously.  You must decide if you are in Japan for the green tea and onsens, or are you here to teach Japanese students about your language and culture.  Have fun, smile lots and most importantly…don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

       

       

       

       

      Comments:

       

       

       

      • (Jan 23, 2012) Jed said: Thanks, very interesting and helpful. Well put togther. I am sure many new ALTs will find this a God Send
      •  
        (Aug 23, 2011) Ebony said: I am a current JET who just arrived 4 weeks ago and I am sitting in the staff room of my school with nothing to do. This was so helpful! I feel so much more prepared to start teaching now! Thank you.
      • (July 4, 2011) Saburi said: I have never taught in the Japanese school system before. This was very insightful. Thank you
      • (May 20, 2010) Daniel Pierce said: Great information! It's good to see a written comparison of the different types of ALT's. I was struggling to find info about that online. Thanks so much!
      • (May 20, 2010) Anonymous said: lol, my sensei used to tell us that "itadakimasu" sounds like "eat a ducky mouse"...
      • (May 20, 2010) Tash said: Heaps of great information. Thanks for posting this guys!
      • (May 20, 2010) Angie said: Very insightful! Thank you!

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