Yesterday was the first day at my last school rotation. My JET contract will end this July. I’ve now rotated through five JHS and numerous ES. I was to get one of the two left on the list that I haven’t taught at, however, they rotated me back to a school I had two years ago.
That annoyed me so. I didn’t want to go back there. Why only me? If we’re gonna get repeats, why didn’t the other ALTs get repeats too. I know the underlying reason, but it’s still trivial as fuck.
There’s a rotation scheme that the BOE follows. Who goes where in what order. It alters slightly when ALTs leave and new ones replace them. But overall, they follow it. I wasn’t supposed to get this current school two years ago. I got it because of my knee injury. I couldn’t drive to school because of my surgery, so I needed a school that was the closest to where I live.
So that messed up their rotation pattern. So to fix it, they rotated me back to this school when it was my turn. You don’t know who ridiculously stupid this is. The rotation is already messed up and will mess up each time new ALTs come. When we verteran JETs leave this July, it will get messed up again when our replacements come.
They tell us the BS reason the rotate us is that they want to expose the students to different ALTs and English accents. If that’s true, then why rotate me back to the same school where they already had me. Japan can be so damn anal and rigid. They have a system; they have to stick to it. God forbid, if they deviate a micron off-course.
If I had to redo a school, this was my last choice. I’d even go back to the worst school. Because those delinquents graduated, and my two favorite teachers will be there. At this school, the bitchy 1st-years when I was there are now 3rd-years. And they didn’t get any better since I left. I used to yell at them. The JTE were surprised at first, but she then appreciated that I did try to keep the class in control. I was told from the previous ALT that her eyes lit up when she heard “The Enforcer” was coming back. I don’t want to become that person again. I’ve grown since then. I don’t mind if students sleep or are lazy. Because we all have subjects we don’t like. However, I cannot stand disrespectful students. They used to tell me to fuck off or that I’m disgusting when I walk pass them. I’m your teacher, you do not talk to me like that. That, I don’t wanna deal with. Doesn’t help that the students don’t respect that teacher. So they won’t listen to her. Also doesn’t help that she’s a pushover. So she will look to me to do something when it’s her job to do something. Let’s hope my patience will hold up.
However, I shall make lemons into lemonade. Roll with the punches. That’s the most important skill you will need and will have to learn on JET.
There are some good things about being at this school. It’s close to my apartment. So I can sleep in and leave later than usual. Instead of the usual 30+ minute drive to the other schools, it’s about 10 minutes away. It’s also near the city center so I have many choices to eat at if I don’t have school lunch.
One of the things I wanted is to stay at a school and see the students grow up. I hate being rotated around constantly. Since I’m back here, I will get that opportunity. Not the preferred school, but opportunity nonetheless.
I’ve taught all the students before. They were 5th graders, 6th graders, and 1st-years when I was here last. And the current 5th and 6th graders were 3rd and 4th graders then. Damn. Time flies. Hopefully, they will be more comfortable with me and I don’t need the usual three months for them to get acquainted with me.
Actually, surprisingly some of the 3rd-year students have been friendly and called out and greeted me yesterday. I’m quite confused. They hated me. They never talked to me when I was here. I guess they’ve forgotten about that. I’m reluctant to lower my guard.
When I was here last, I was very strict to them. The bad students hated my guts. The good students were terrified of me. Overall, it was a very bad atmosphere. That was my main regret when I left. I didn’t bond with the students. The good students wanted to talk to me but was scared of “The Enforcer.” That’s why I really don’t want to be yelling at them again. Now that I’m given a redo, another chance, I will keep an open mind and enjoy and make the best of my last four months here.
I wanna talk about two things today: stickers and my stamp sheet system.
One thing unique to English class is that we give out stickers and other incentives to try to motivate the students. I don’t think the other subjects use stickers to the extent that we do.
I would hand out stickers to students who answered correctly or did well. Depending on the mood of the class and teacher. For example, some teachers don’t have class participation during their lessons or no one volunteers, so there’s no way for me to give rewards. I would give out stickers more often in elementary schools than in junior high schools, since elementary students are less self-conscious. But I would usually reward students who were correct or won. I was also stingy with my stickers since I wanted to make them last.
Because of that, I’ve ended up accumulating unused stickers. I started thinking about what I have been doing, and realized my mistakes. What’s the point of me saving up these stickers. I’m not gonna use them for myself. They’re useless to me. Also, I realized that I only rewarded correct answers, rather than rewarding effort and participation. What’s important is that the student wanted to try. They should be commended for volunteering. By not giving them stickers for trying, I was implying that only correct answers mattered. That they should only answer when you know the right answer. Which is a HUGE problem with Japanese student mentality. Students only answer when they know that they’re 110% sure it’s the correct answer. Even then, they still won’t answer. I really didn’t to encourage that, especially at the elementary school level. I wanted to get them used to trying at a young age.
So now I buy tons of stickers and give them out to the students if they tried, regardless if they were right or wrong. Sometimes I would give out stickers for all the students if we do an activity that involves the whole class.
Here’s some advice about stickers.
Buy lots of them and different kinds too. Students get bored if they’re getting the same kind of stickers each time. Rotate between your anime stickers, animal stickers, fruit stickers, English stickers, etc.
If possible, buy some stickers with English words on them from your country, Costco, online, etc.
Daiso is also a great place for cheap seasonal stickers like Halloween and Christmas. If one Daiso doesn’t carry it, check another one. One Daiso had huge sheet of Christmas and Halloween stickers for ￥100! Each sheet had about 100 stickers!
Don’t hand give out reward stickers to students under 4th grade. Because they’re too young to understand, and will cry that they didn’t get a sticker. Reward all the students, or none at all! Trust me on this.
Another thing I want to talk about is my stamp sheet reward system. This isn’t so much advice, as just ranting. I would give students stamps if they would talk with me in English. Personally, I don’t know if this system is good or bad. I really don’t have an answer for it. On one hand, in principle, it rewards and encourages students to speak English with me. But on the other hand, it seems to scare off students who want to speak with me otherwise. They think that they can only speak to me if they use perfect English.
At my first school, it was successful. Students came up and talked with me and got a lot of stamps. But it has more to do with their personalities, I think. But after that school, I haven’t had much success with my stamp system. at the other schools. Despite wanting the prizes, they would not speak with me or they would quickly lose interest, despite my numerous reminders and coaxing.
Part of the reason too, it seems, is me. I don’t look like Brad Pitt. I look scary. I would tell the following ALT who rotates into my previous school that the students are shy and wouldn’t talk with me. When I check up on them later on, I would hear from them how the students love talking with them and aren’t shy at all like I said. WTF?! What has changed? Same school; same students; different ALT. So the problem is me. I’m not popular because I’m not beautiful like ALT #1 or handsome like ALT #2. It’s so discouraging. I can’t change any of that.
Next month, I will rotate to my last school before the end of my tenure in the JET Programme. I don’t know if I should continue doing my stamp system.
Just out of curiosity, do you prefer American school lunches or Japanese school lunches?
While my taste buds and I wouldn’t mind chomping down on fried chicken and tacos from American school lunches and I hate eating damn pickles everyday, in truth, I think Japanese school lunches are better — made fresh daily; not processed; seasonal menu; calorically and nutritionally balanced.
I would sometimes complain how Japan is too ethnocentric and needs to see things from different perspectives. But I can’t point fingers. Because some Americans are even more intolerant and racist. I’m ashamed to be categorized in the same nationality as some of them. I’m sick to my stomach at such hate.
During the SuperBowl, the Coca-Cola Company aired a commercial to promote their brand as every other mega corporation who has a few million dollars to blow on a 30 to 60 seconds of television airtime. It was a nice commercial titled “It’s Beautiful” in which American people did American things…