Today marks my first full year in Japan since arriving in Tokyo. I had a general idea of what to expect based on messages from my predecessor and from other former JETs that I knew. Nothing I read on the internet though or heard from other people fully prepared me though for my life here. With JET, with other teaching programs abroad, it’s not only that our teaching situations are different but how we approach our lives here makes or breaks our experiences here. It’s common sense but it’s true. I can’t say my life in Fukushima is different than I thought it’d be because I wasn’t sure what it’d be like. It was kind of enough to think of moving to Fukushima in general minus any specifics. Despite my uncertainty and opposite of what some people said, coming to Fukushima was the right decision and it’s been an interesting year. If I could go back and tell myself a few things though, I’d say this:
1. Your first year of teaching will exhaust you no matter how much you think you’ve prepared so stop being so serious and relax. Sometimes lessons will go great, sometimes they’ll be routine, and then sometimes they will be so rough you can’t help but want to cry in the bathroom during your break. In that case, make sure you have tissues, let it out, move on, and write as many notes in your teaching journal so that you know what not to do next time.
2. Don’t be in such a rush to switch things up in the classroom. Go along with what your predecessor did, get a feel for the schools and then make changes (a little at a time)
3. You will be invited to different events which will generally lead to more invite from other people that you meet so don’t worry about getting to know people in town. Even if your Japanese isn’t all that great, there will be people willing to show you the things about Japan they know and like. You don’t have to be fluent to get the point across that you’re friendly and willing to see different things.
4. Getting used to a new life in a new country can be exhausting but start thinking about goals during JET and afterwards. It gives you something to work towards when you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Which leads me to the next point
5. Save your money. The JET salary is enough to live off of and put aside a little extra every month. It’s not easy living paycheck to paycheck so even if it’s 100.00 a month, save it. You’ll thank yourself when you’re able to start paying off grad school or a large trip abroad.
I made cards to go along with a writing race practice for the first years after my JTE said she wanted more writing practice. Here’s how the game works
- make two sets of vocab cards
- split the kids into two teams and go over the phrase ‘I like_____’. (This can be used for ‘I play___ ’ or ‘I don’t like___’, easy grammar).
- hand out cards like ‘baseball’ ‘science’ ‘cats’ randomly
- when you call out their card, one student from each team has to run to the board and write ‘I like’ + the word on their card as fast and as legibly as they can.
This has been one of the most intense games I’ve ever done at JHS and something that I’ll definitely do again. Pretty much any writing/drawing competition gets the kids excited but my 1st year students were so much fun to watch as they got into it. They each had two cards so double the chance to practice writing and racing out of their seats.
I got complaints from one class when I first tried it out that there were some kids who couldn’t read the words so I drew pictures just in case to make it easier.
One boy asked me “Sensei, is this round thing in the middle supposed to be sushi??” I kind of just looked at it, realized how weird it looks and lost it which then made everyone else laugh. I laugh way too much, I know that and they know that
I enjoy making crafts and materials but I’ve accepted the fact that I am at best mediocre with drawing anything that isn’t Admiral Ackbar’s face
I think it’s pretty good.
Now whenever this 1st year sees me, he just yells ‘Hey sensei, sushi!’ at me. I like feeling that I can joke with my students and since I see the ones at JHS only every couple of months or so, I want them to have fun and feel comfortable with me. It’s ok if they think I’m silly or quirky, as long as they get into the games and get something out of it.
It looks like typhoon weather has worked its way up to Fukushima. Yesterday was beautiful and clear but thunder, lightning and pouring rain woke me up around 2 am. I live in a very small house that shakes when trucks pass by so it was a rough early morning feeling my walls shake every so often. I hate being a light sleeper.
The rain has calmed down slightly, I can see fog rolling in over the trees from the 2nd floor of the junior high. I’m hoping it calms down just enough tonight so I can make my 2nd osteopath appointment. As much as I enjoy rain for the cool air it brings in the summer, I want this typhoon to pass soon.