It just struck me today that in a few months I’ll be entering my fifth year as a JET ALT this coming July.
I stumbled on the email I got from the South African embassy all the way back in 2011 to tell us the details of our final arrangements which was pretty nostalgic to read. At that point I had no idea what my school would be like or what my town was like or how to even teach English classes!
I’d also just finished a stint as a financial manager at a company that closed it’s doors just a month before I had to leave for Japan so the timing couldn’t be better for me. I was also reaching a point where I’d become rather disenchanted with working in finance so the chance to try my hand at teaching a language was a fantastic prospect to me.
It feels like a million years ago that I walked into my new apartment for the first time and set down my bags. I didn’t have any idea what my life would be like over the following four years or where I’d end up. All I knew was that I wanted to make the most of the chance I’d been given and do my best to help my students to enjoy English.
Every time I travelled anywhere in those first few months I’d be looking all around me and soaking everything in with almost childlike glee. The most mundane things were amazing and fantastic to me, like it must be for most people when they move to a new country.
I was also rather lucky to work with some fantastic teachers when my classes kicked into gear in August after the end of the summer holidays. They were kind and welcoming and helped me to get up to speed with teaching which I really appreciated as someone who had no previous teaching experience or background.
The students were a combination of genki students who loved to joke around and shy students who hardly ever spoke to me and seemed to move through their school careers like phantoms in the mist.
I surprised myself by really taking well to teaching and despite being a rather introverted person I found myself becoming more outgoing and energetic in my lessons. I’ve even started presenting at ALT conferences and trying to help out JETs who may only just be starting out on their teaching careers in Japan.
That said there’s still a lot I need to learn when it comes to teaching but I love learning new techniques or teaching methodology or improving on my lessons. It’s something that inspires me day after day even when I have to go through the long school holidays with not much to keep me busy except for copious amounts of Japanese studies.
Speaking of which, just recently I’ve been motoring through my kanji thanks to WaniKani and I’ve also started looking at the grammar and vocab I’ll need in order to pass the JLPT come this July. I’ve still got a long way to go but I’m really motivated to make some actual progress in terms on my Japanese fluency by the year’s end.
April should also bring in the new wave of students and that will be something fun to look out for. I really want to give them a fantastic introduction to studying English in high school, especially with the rather sobering news that nearly 60% of third year high school students in Japan dislike English. Hopefully by the time my students reach their third year of high school they’ll realize that studying English, or any language, can be fun and challenging without becoming boring or stale.