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Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Early Days Of Teaching English On The JET Programme

So... what were my interactions with Japanese junior high school students like back when I was an assistant English teacher on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme?

Pretty boring, actually.

I mean, yeah... we all had a lot of laughs... did some English learnin'... had a few more laughs... but truthfully, the good stuff happened outside the classroom.

For three years I was essentially a human tape recorder, reading English sentences from a book so the students could hear the real way English words were supposed to sound, and not the slightly stilted Japanese-accented way it OFTEN (NOT ALWAYS) came out.

It's cool... I didn't mind being used in this manner.

Sometimes I would be asked to create a game, like Hangman for the kids to play... but really... I was there to either play act a book scene with a teacher, read a passage in my perfect neutral accent, observe the kids in their speaking and make gentle assessments and corrections if warranted, and while the kids did some sort of English work I could walk around the classroom and look like I owned the place.

There was no screaming in class - except when someone wasn't paying attention - and that wasn't my domain.

Even in my one "bad school" the kids were not bad IN class - just completely obnoxious outside it... maybe being a bit unruly when they knew they had a wimpy teacher... but after the teacher reported it to their homeroom teacher, the problem wouldn't happen again for a few more weeks.

Essentially, it was pretty low key. An easy job for me... with the most difficult part being having to look interested for the two to four times a day I would be required in a classroom...

I know that some of my compatriots had more duties... including having to plan original lessons every day for every class—and more power to them. But I didn't envy them.

I wasn't a real English teacher, so having to real English teacher things would not have appealed to me.

I knew of some people who were ticked off when they weren't used like a real teacher... which I thought was funny... because weren't there to be teachers, I figured... we were there to internationalize.... to help get the people and kids used to being a part of an international community rather only Japanese.

So... let me take a look back over the next few blogs and see if I can't relate to you some of the more interesting student interactions I had... from the son of the yakuza boss, to beating the crap out of a kid at judo club, to losing student respect on the soccer field, to watching kids struggle to speak English with me... and much, much more.

And all of it outside of the English classroom.

Andrew (I like Cher) Joseph

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