Last weekend, I attended the optional pre-departure orientation that was held at The Nippon Club hosted by the JET Alumni Association NY chapter in conjunction with the Consulate General of Japan in New York. It went very well, and my energy was drained by the end of the day. I found most of the orientation to be very helpful. However, I went more to meet my fellow JET peers leaving from NYC. The most frequently used phrase in the workshops was “Every Situation Is Different,” or ESID. There was too much narrow information, which only really helped those who were going to the locations described by the workshop leaders. Plus, for me, I already got a lot of information that I was searching earlier from my predecessor.
I met a lot of fascinating people. There were some who recently graduated from college, but there were also a good number of people who are not fresh out of college. Everyone I met seemed rather lively and energetic, which really comforted me. I tend to have lots of child-like energy hence my continued love for playgrounds and the like. I don’t think this is really child-like energy, but that’s what people tell me. So what if I love Winnie the Pooh, video games (although I’ve been lacking a bit lately), and playgrounds?? I didn’t meet anyone else who liked good ol’ Pooh bear, but I did meet a handful of gamers. It’s funny because a lot of them didn’t mention games until they were drinking alcohol… Interesting, I thought. Anyway, the organizers arranged the seating chart so that those who are placed in the same region of Japan sat together. It’s interesting to note the variety of careers. There were many who majored in Asian studies, but I found that there were some concentrations that I just wouldn’t have expected like computer programming and engineering. If I was asked multiple times in my interview how my passion of theatre arts would complement the JET Program, I can only imagine the interviewers asking some of these people that question every minute. If I were an interviewer, I would be interested as to why a computer programmer wants to assist in teaching English. Now, if the JET program was to teach students to speak in a bizarre abstract language using only numbers specifically 0’s and 1’s, then 011100000011000000…
There were a few workshops, which were more like lectures, held throughout the day. For the first time slot, each attendee went to their designated “JET job skills” workshop, which was CIR, Senior High, or Elementary and Junior High. Of course I attended the one for teaching senior high school. The second time slot was titled “Life as a JET” workshop. Similar to the first time slot, we were split up: suburban, rural, or urban JETs. When I found out my placement, I thought Mito-cho was rural, but apparently it’s suburban as that was the workshop I was assigned to attend.
After the workshops, there was a cross-cultural activity, which I found mildly entertaining but very informative. The format of the activity was a discussion with our table moderated by a JET alum related to a series of role-playing scenarios. I will respond specifically to each in the coming weeks, but for this week, I want to present thoughts on bullying, or いじめ.
The particular scenario presented was supposedly taken from a real incident. There are a few students bullying a classmate, and a JET witnesses the event later requesting that the supervisor does something about it. After a few weeks, the student that was bullied no longer goes to school. I was a bit surprised it could go that far, but having learned about the differences between individualistic cultures like America and collectivistic cultures like Japan, I can see why it resulted in that manner.
An interesting point presented by a man who grew up in Japan was that the homeroom teacher is very important and highly respected. The importance is so great that if a student got in trouble with the law oftentimes it is the homeroom teacher who is contacted first. Therefore, he suggested that if anyone witnessed bullying amongst students, the person should report it to the homeroom teacher. However, I was thinking if that really is the best action. If it was a severe case of bullying, then I think it would be best to bring the situation up with the homeroom teacher. How about if it has not gotten out of hand yet?? I think it would be best to try to create a diversion. An idea that was suggested by the JET alum is to befriend the one being bullied since foreigners in Japan tend to be regarded with star status. Then maybe the bullies would turn around and really focus on the good and/or common aspects of the bullied student. An idea I presented to the table was the tactic of going up to the students and asking questions about their day or something about pop culture. Basically, I am thinking about starting a conversation with them to divert their attention and maybe also draw upon what they have in common. What do you think?? Any ideas??
Stay tuned next week for a look into the common pre-departure stresses for new JETs and thoughts on the cultural differences of a vertical versus horizontal society!
今週の写真: Here are two pictures of the “JET job skills” workshop from the optional orientation. The first picture is a shot from the back of the room showing the workshop leaders in the front, while the second picture is a shot of the attendees from the front of the room. Isn’t it so easy to spot me??