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Posts Tagged ‘Nara’

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

I haven’t been very regular with posting since arriving! For that I am sorry. Things have been hectic, and it’s taken me a couple of months to get into a routine and get back to something like myself.

It’s been a crazy ride so far, but I think I’m finally settling in.

Bikes in Shinjuku.

Bikes in Shinjuku.

What can I say? When I first arrived in Japan, I have to credit JET for helping me make a smooth transition. Everything was well organized, and I rarely had to worry or wonder where to go or what to do. Spending four days in Tokyo was wonderful – I have never seen so many skyscrapers! We were staying in Shinjuku, so it was particularly fantastic. However, I want to go back and do all the exploring I missed out on due to having training seminars all day. To put it nicely, the seminars were not exactly as useful as I had hoped. There were one or two that were interesting and applicable but for the most part, I would have much preferred to be out exploring and soaking it all in!

My first day in Kochi, I was greeted by my Supervisor, my predecessor, and one of my JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English), who shall henceforth be referred to as “I-sensei.” They were holding an adorable hand-made welcome sign for me! I was so touched to see all the people there waiting for the ALTs when we arrived, holding their colourful signs and wearing big smiles. It really made us feel welcome and instantly took away a lot of my fears.

Tosacho's Sameura dam and the beautiful rice fields.

A view from my town.

My Supervisor works at the BOE (Board of Education). I shall refer to him as K-san. He is chubby and jolly and speaks almost no English. Instead, he eagerly gets by with gestures and hilariously mispronounced words. It’s quite comical. I am stationed at a Junior High School. I work with two JTEs. The one who greeted me at the airport that day is kind of a lower-level teacher. From what I can gather, there are two types of teachers. Those who have passed the first of the teacher exams, such as I-sensei, who can only gain short-term contracts with their schools. They spend a lot of time moving around from school to school as the prefecture requires. And then there are those who have passed the second-level teacher’s exam and seem to have more authority and longer term contracts. I’m not sure if this only applies to English teachers or not. My other JTE, N-sensei, has been here for 7 years! She is an excellent teacher, in my opinion.  Before coming on JET, I read a lot about how ALTs shouldn’t expect much from the classrooms. Basically, I was picturing antidiluvian teaching methods, where kids listen to boring recitation, sit neatly in rows, and boys and girls are totally seperated. Boy, did I have the wrong impression of my school!

The school courtyard.

The school courtyard.

I was told they are trying new educational methods. On my very first day teaching (after a long, hot, boring summer), I was pleased to see that the kids already sat in pairs, one boy and one girl. Furthermore, they already had groups they would get into when instructed! The teachers try to focus on student-oriented instruction rather than teacher-centered boringness. They try to challenge the students. I think I am really lucky in this sense! In fact, I think this JHS is pretty excellent (especially when I compare it to my own JHS experience.  Not that I’m bitter or anything…) Unfortunately these “new teaching methods” result in SOME less enjoyable things, such as demonstration classes where a whole bunch of strangers invade your classroom during the lesson. But that’s a story for another day. For the most part, though, I’m glad the kids are getting this kind of quality in their classrooms.

As for the kids themselves, they are adorable and so far I love them (most of the time!) Honestly though, kids are kids. I’m fairly sure no matter where you go in the world, 14 year olds are going to be 14 year olds. I would go out a limb and say that they have more discipline in their lives than Canadian kids, and I have been very impressed with their work-ethic and their general attitude so far. These kids work hard. They stay at school until around 6:00 pm for their club activities when they have them. What is more remarkable is that they come to school for long periods of time even on weekends, holidays, and during their vacation time! Despite it all, they stay positive and perservering (for the most part…again…kids are kids!)

As far as my schedule goes, they keep me pretty busy. I help with all three grades of JHS, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. I also have a 2-hour elective English lesson on Tuesdays with the 3rd years. More often than not I only have 2 or 3 classes per day, but it can get pretty hectic some days as I also visit 5 different Elementary schools. For now, at least. The population has decreased so much that as of this

spring, all of these schools will be allocated into one school, right here at my JHS. As I type this, the construction vehicles are hard at work making the new building (loudly and distractingly, I might add).

Despite the busy schedule, I have managed to do lots of bopping about Japan and fun stuff :D. There are several ALTs in the area and we hang out regularly. There is a girl at the local bookstore named Meg. Her family owns the place, and I frequently spend way too much money there. I made friends with her almost right away. She lived in Canada for 8 years, and even had a boyfriend during all that time. She decided to return to Japan 5 years ago and left all that behind. She’s 30 years old, but we get along just fine. She really reminds me more of a Canadian than a Japanese girl! The CIR in the next town over is also Canadian, so I guess I lucked out. Represent!

MASSIES reunite!

MASSIES reunite!

I have also visited Hiroshima, met a live MUKADE (*shudder*), visited Nara, Osaka, and Kobe and re-united with 11 of my darling MASSIE friends! (MASSIE stands for “Mount Allison Sophomore Semester in English” – it’s an English study abroad programme for students from KGU University in Kobe). I have also gone surfing, hiking, and Amazing Racing since I’ve been here! It’s been a roller-coaster ride, and I’m sure there will be more to come!

Well, that is the setting and the plot so far. I must now move on to planning a Halloween lesson for my elective class. Tune in next time for more~!

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