A Day at Akeno Junior High School

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Ohisashiburi!

Yeah, I haven’t posted in a long time and yet there are over 1,000 views for this blog???

I figured maybe some of you out there are looking up JET blogs because you’re in application process and maybe just had your interview and are looking for things to get excited about like I was at this time last year.

So, I thought I’d start posting more and begin with this look into my daily life at my junior high school in Akeno, Hokuto City, Yamanashi prefecture.

This is my school, photo courtesy of the school homepage (which, I’m sorry, looks like something from 2001).  It’s a super nice school inside with lots of wood everywhere.  Okay, here’s my day-in-the-life.

6:30-7:30     Wake up and shower, get dressed, dry hair, apply the minimal-est of makeup (I just don’t like wearing much), maybe grab a bite to eat and head out the door.  Lately, since it’s cold, I set the timer on my kerosene heater to turn on 15 minutes before I get home.

7:35-8:10     I try to get to school by 8:10, when the first bell rings.  I have to be present for the 8:15 staff meeting.

8:15-8:20     Morning staff meeting.  We all say ohayou gozaimasu and kouchou-sensei (the principal), kyoutou-sensei (vice-principal), and F-sensei (the head teacher/curriculum guy) give everyone any announcements for the day.  Then other teachers can share stuff if they need to.

8:30-8:40 Homeroom.  All of the grades have homeroom which I haven’t gone to, so I’m not sure what all they do but I assume it’s sharing announcements about the day and upcoming stuff.  I usually take this time to do my prep work for class.

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This is my school schedule that I translated when I first started.  As you can see, we have first through fourth periods starting 8:45 and going until 12:35 with ten minutes between each class.  I’m usually starving by lunch time.

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This is next week’s schedule.  I’m hoping there’s nothing too private on here.  The schedule generally stays the same every week.  Yes, this looks insane, but it’s actually not.  Starting from the left, we have the dates and days of the week, including Saturday and Sunday (not shown) because a lot of events happen during the weekend like competitions and practices and such.

The next column is any changes in the schedule and why the times are changed or if something is happening during the school day.  I try to keep up with this because sometimes fifth and sixth periods are shorter because the school day is shorter.  But I rarely have class after lunch, so it’s not something I constantly worry about.

The middle column is the most important with the daily class schedules.  It changes every day, yet every week is pretty much the same.  I’m at junior high on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, hence why every grade has English on those days.  I circled my classes (I do this every time I get a schedule) so I can see when I have them.  Surprisingly, next Tuesday, the ni-nensei (8th graders) don’t have English because something is going on.

EDIT: I started this post on Friday and I came in to work today to find a new schedule on my desk for this week.  The ni-nensei are back to having English on Tuesday, just at a different time.

The last column is any big events going on like someone will be gone to a conference or PTA meetings or things that don’t affect the schedule but will be happening.

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This is the san-nensei (9th grade) classroom.  All of the classrooms look like this.  We actually have two classrooms for each grade, but because we have less than 40 students per grade, we have one class per grade.  That means we have roughly 35 or more kids in each grade.  It’s exhausting!

I usually put my stuff on that little teacher’s desk in left corner of the room and generally stand there during class when I’m not doing something.

Here’s how English class goes.

I, my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English), and the part-time JTE all come in to class.  We have aisatsu (greetings) where the kids stand up, bow, and say hello to all of us.  For some reason, the san-nensei (third years) don’t say hello until I say hello whereas the other two grades greet us all by name first.  Maybe this is what they’ve been used to?

Next we do a warm up.  My JTE has a worksheet where the students fill out how they are, the day’s weather, and the date.  When I first started, that’s all the students would do, but then my JTE started having me write questions for them to answer.  Before the end of the semester, we transitioned to having answers, and the students had to make up questions.  Now we have conversations and they have to write what the next part of the conversation could be.  It’s good to have because it gets them thinking and creating their own sentences.  The more they do this, the more they’ll learn.

So after the students write down their answers, we’ll ask for volunteers and write their answers on the board, then have everyone repeat the answers (reading practice!).

Then it’s time for actual class!  This depends entirely on what page we are on in the book.

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We used the Sunshine textbook series.  This is the san-nensei textbook.  I’ve heard this may change for the next school year…or we might just get a new version of this book.

So, usually in English class, we read the passages, my JTE translates them and explains the nouns and verbs and other things.  We practice reading and practice the vocabulary, and the students sometimes have to make their own conversations and sentences.  We have such large classes that they usually have to do pair work with their desk buddies.  We rarely have them do group work because it takes awhile for them to focus.  They’re middle schoolers, after all.  When they answer a question, too, I help hand out participation points in the form of stickers or stamps.  I try to find fun ones that they like or make silly ones that make the students laugh.

When the bell rings, we do aisatsu again and say “bye” or “see you.”  In between classes is when I can talk to the kids, but honestly, it’s difficult sometimes because a.) I have to speak in Japanese and my speaking ability is…meh, and b.) I don’t want to make the kids have more English time when they’re supposed to be getting ready for the next class which often means starting their homework ten minutes before.

However, my first years love speaking English with me, so we usually have a five-minute impromptu English exchange after class.  I’m hoping to start an English talking time during afternoon break with this next school year.

So what do I do during downtime?  After all, I don’t have classes every period.  Some things I do:

  • study Japanese/complete my JET Japanese coursework
  • make stickers to hand out during class for participation points
  • write down stuff to get done that day
  • write the warm-ups for each grade (I wait until the day of class to do these)
  • plan lessons for elementary school and make materials
  • make stuff for my English bulletin board
  • write letters to students who write to me
  • occasionally tutor some of the special needs students in English
  • translate drama subtitles (just being honest here)

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4:30 – Quitting time!  Normally I don’t have to stay past 4:30 because I don’t have that much work.  The few times I had to stay over were during speech contest time when I was helping my students with their speeches.  Occasionally I stay over ten or fifteen minutes if I’m finishing something.  No one minds, but I never feel comfortable leaving before 4:30 unless kyoutou-sensei or kouchou-sensei says I can leave early.

Some of you out there might be wondering about clubs and stuff.  Well, coming in mid-year is hard because the clubs have been established and they’re doing competitions and things once second semester starts.  I’m hoping to do some stuff with the volleyball club in the next school year since my JTE is also the club adviser.

We’re a very small school, so we don’t have many clubs.  The students also have a lot of stuff to do.  Like a lot.  Like it’s sometimes ridiculous what all they have to do in addition to studying.  But that’s often the way it goes in middle school.  As much as I would like to start an English club, there just may not be a lot of interest and the school may not want me to add on to what the students are already doing.  I think this is an ESID situation where you should feel out how your school is, what they want you to do, etc.  And if you’re interested in going to a club or starting a club, you can always ask!  The worst they can say is no, and it will show that you want to be more involved in with your school.

For elementary school, it’s been a little different.  I’m not always there when they have club time, but when I am, I try to go to club time and do stuff with the kids.  At first, I was invited by the teachers, but now I do it myself.  Again, I’m planning to get more involved in the club activities and maybe even ask about starting a once-a-month English club at one of my elementary schools.

But that’s my general school life so far.  At the moment, I don’t do much besides helping to teach English, but the school year is almost over.  A new one will begin, and I hope to start some new things and get more involved in my schools in general.

Thanks for joining me for this post!  I’ll try to keep this updated more often from now on.

Jaa ne!

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Just Another Day at the Chuugakkou

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おひさしぶり!

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated.  Well, since before I left, actually.  I’ll give everyone the Cliffnotes version of what’s happened in the month since I came to Japan.

  • I said goodbye to my family and my friend Sue (who kindly drove me to Nashville for Pre-Departure Orientation with as few tears as possible.
  • Had a fun time at Pre-Departure talking with everyone whom I’d only talked to over Facebook and the Internet before.
  • We had a super nice dinner at the Consul-General’s house. Super nice.
  • Only the way to the hotel, we got lost in Nashville and our bus ended up stranded somewhere downtown.  Thankfully, we had resourceful people with us who called taxi vans to take us to the hotel.
  • Departure was exhausting.  For me, the flight to Japan was probably my worst yet.  I don’t know what it was, but I was just on edge the whole time.
  • But I got to Japan!
  • And CLAIR (that runs JET) made getting through the airport super easy.

Tokyo Orientation

  • I roomed with two people from Nashville (yay!)
  • Orientation was pretty good, in my opinion.  Things have changed, apparently, since CLAIR now runs orientation.  But overall, I found it helpful.  It wasn’t much different than any other staff training I’ve had.
  • The last night there, I went out with my Nashville peeps, and we had a super fun time.
  • I found an Ouroboros shooting location purely by accident and went super fangirl until we left.
  • Had to say goodbye for now to everyone. *sniffle*
  • Departed for Yamanashi with the other JETs.

I feel like JET is divided into two major phases: everything that happens before you get to your placement and everything that happens afterward.  When you get to your placement, that’s when your life in Japan really begins.

I’ll write more details later or maybe even finally make videos, but for now, let’s skip to today.

Right now, I’m at my main school, the junior high school.  And I just had the most awkward lunch with the first years.  It was 不器用(ぶきよう)to say the least.  They barely said a word to me.  I asked them if my predecessor had ever eaten lunch with them.  They said no.  So now I’m rethinking eating with the students.  At least for now.  Maybe when the new school year starts and I get a fresh batch of kids from the elementary school that will know me, then I’ll eat lunch with them.

So what happens at school?  I get to school around 8:00am and look at any papers are on my desk and translate some stuff to see if it’s relevant to me.  Then at 8:15, we have a short staff meeting.  It’s all in proper Japanese, so I can only understand a bit of it, but my vice-principal aka kyouto-sensei speaks English, so either he or my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) tell me if anything is going on.  Like today, my JTE asked me if I could come to the welcome party in September.

After that, my schedule changes daily.  But thankfully, this school seems on top of it.  I have the schedule for the rest of the year, but since people have unexpected meetings that come up, the schedule usually changes.  That’s okay with me.  As long as I know which class I’m with on what day.

Today was my first real day of class (not counting my self-intro classes last week).  I’ll be honest.  I’m a glorified tape recorder.  I’m the Pronouncer of All That Is English.  But I don’t really mind.  It’s not my job to “teach” per se.  I’m the assistant.  We also have another assistant who is Japanese and speaks some English and is super sweet (she just got back from Kentucky, too!) because we have large classes at this school.  My job is to assist with whatever the English teacher needs me to do.  Am I really needed…? Meh, probably not.  But I’m here if someone needs me.

Plus, there are some kids in class that are REALLY good at English.  Even the noisy ones are usually the ones who try and are good at English.  There’s this one kid in the third year class who always knows the answer and tries hard and always has a better answer than what’s required.  I’m already fiercely protective of him.  I hope he goes on to learn ALL the English.

Right now, I don’t have any classes.  I’m at my desk, desk-warming and writing this blog.  I have junior high again tomorrow.  On Wednesdays, I go to the elementary school beside this school.  Then on Thursdays, I go to another elementary school.  Honestly, my Thursday school is my favorite so far because they are precious baby cinnamon rolls too good for this world and have NOT mistaken me for my predecessor.  Plus the teachers are super awesome and sweet and the principal aka kouchou-sensei always has food for us for morning break.  Because he is awesome…and I usually don’t get to eat breakfast so this is awesome.

Here in awhile, I’ll go into the nurse’s office because the nurse here is super sweet and speaks some English.  I usually go to chat and help this one little first year girl with English one-on-one.  It’s fun, and I actually feel like I’m helping someone.

It’s still early days yet.  The kids will get used to me.  Plus, they’re in junior high.  That’s the WORST age.  They all want to be cool, but they’re not.  I honestly don’t think having high school students would have been any better for me.

Anyway, until next time!