I attended a seminar this past week, which was very similar to the seminar in the summer to improve the English competency of Japanese teachers of English (JTEs). Don’t you love all the acronyms? I don’t think teachers like them though. Many times, they mixed “JET” with “JTE.” At least those confusing times kept everyone awake as people were trying to figure out the content.
The summer seminar was for all AETs in the prefecture and a greater proportion of JTEs, whereas the recent seminar was specifically for JET participants and a representing JTE per JET. It is also called the “mid-year conference” in the JET Program. Let me take this time to explain a few key meetings and deadlines for JET Program ALTs after arriving in Japan. In my prefecture (Aichi), most JETs attend a monthly meeting. I don’t think this is standard in all prefectures. However, I don’t think my prefecture is unique with holding these monthly meetings. In January, there is a mid-year conference, which I’ll further explain in a bit. February is the big decision month when current JETs have to submit their decision on if they would like to re-contract. In June, I believe, there’s a re-contracting conference held in Tokyo for all those who will re-contract. July is the end of the contract year, and JETs who will be returning to their home country can leave anytime in the month of August.
The mid-year conference lasted for two days and consisted of five workshops: 1) Classroom Management and Extra-curricular Activities, 2) Customs and Culture, 3) Demonstration Lessons (through Listening and Speaking activities), 4) Demonstration Lessons (through Reading and Writing activities), and 5) Student Assessment. Personally, I don’t think these seminars are very effective, because schools are so different that it’s hard to really apply the workshops. I feel that some people are looking for a big guide with lesson plans, but I think that a lot of the lessons need to be tailored to each class. I do see the need for more formal training though. Then again, JETs are assistant teachers, so I’m not sure if there needs to be more formal training or if the problem is a lack of control by the JTEs. Team-teaching is all about give and take between the main teacher and the assistant, but I think the main teacher has the final say. There are some general things that can really help JETs like effective pacing and classroom management. Probably, the most helpful thing for me was realizing that the best lesson plans had the class time broken up as much as I could. What I mean is that the students shouldn’t be sitting for the entire class nor doing one type of activity. Another thing I have realized is that explanations can take a very long time, which is something I’m trying to deal with because of limited time. Along with my teaching partner, we need to figure out what are the bare necessities.
My post title this week focuses mainly on the impact of heavy discussions that I had with some fellow JETs. After the seminar time on both days, many JETs went to drink and party a little, but I’m not into all of that. Instead, a few other JETs and I went to a tea and dessert shop. We talked about international affairs ranging from health care, politics, economy, and of course Iraq. There were a lot of very interesting ideas tossed around, but I don’t want to focus on the actual discussions.
One of the great things with the JET Program is how there is a social network into which each JET is placed. If the JET doesn’t want to be a part of the group, it’s okay, but there is a group available for support and sharing the experience. Coming from a background in theatre, I came to Japan thinking about going off on my own. I didn’t want to deal with any unnecessary drama attached to group dynamics. However, within weeks I found myself doing some activities with many Aichi JETs. While there are lots of interests that many of them do not share with me, it is very comforting to have this community. I know there are some prefectures where the JETs aren’t organized well, which leaves many of them feeling alone, but there are a good number of prefectures where the JETs share a very special bond that may even last past the JET Program. I think it is most intriguing to see the different opinions out there. Also, it’s amazing to hear about the very different lifestyles in the world. It is one thing to read about other places and cultures in books, but it is all grounded and put into perspective when you meet and share stories with other people from those places and cultures.
Stay tuned next week for another update!
今週の聖書の詩: “’Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’ What does man gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun?”
- Ecclesiastes 1:2-4 (NIV)
Looking back at all my discussions even before the JET Program, there has been a lot of complaining. Sometimes it is necessary for people to vent out their anger, but more often, people are just lashing out at other people or things all under the rules of the blame game. As one of my friends loves to say, “No one wins in the blame game.” This isn’t something groundbreaking. My father said a variation of this too. Jobs, work, and school… we place so much importance in them, but aren’t these also materialistic? What’s the point of these parts of how we live? More money? More fame? I suppose it’s really why we do the things we do. To whom do we live for? It’s amazing that some people I know are going through a personal conflict trying to figure out why we exist. Many of them have resorted to escaping reality by just focusing on their work, trying to find a romantic partner, or keeping busy. Discussions and soul searches are necessary—take responsibility and really know who you are!
今週の写真: Look at how these pictures are funny or cool.
Are any of you ready for "human dining"?
I wonder what people do in this "adult space."
"My lit cigarette always points toward others, never toward myself."
The messages in these last two pictures are good, but I find the pictures to be masterpieces toward the readers. =)