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weepinbell
November 16th, 2014, 01:40
I know... ESID, right? Haha. I'm just curious about how breaks typically pan out at the public schools. I know that Japanese teachers are usually required to be at school even during breaks - how often does this apply to ALTs? Anyone care to share their experiences? Thanks!

SomePeopleJustSaySnow
November 16th, 2014, 09:11
I have to be there, but 'there' does literally mean 'on the school grounds'. If I want to lounge around outside to read a book and smoke, I can. I'm lucky though - my current boss is very understanding, and knows that sometimes I will have days with nothing pressing to do in the holidays. Normally I try to plan for the next term though, to be honest.

Ode to a Grasshopper
November 16th, 2014, 11:50
Officially we're public servants, and are required to be at work over holiday periods (barring public holidays). The extent to which that is enforced is largely up to the BoE - some (probably most) will insist on ALTs heading in to their schools/the city office (though as noted they usually don't really care what you actually do there, within reason), others will let them quietly take off early, or just show up and hanko in the right place and then disappear, some make them come in once a week and do the hanko for the whole week, and some will just let them have the whole thing off with maybe a token day/event here and there.

Just a heads-up: there was a city near me which used to give their ALTs vacations off, but then the ALTs from the next city over started complaining to their BoE about not getting vacations off too, who in turn started complaing to the nice-holiday-giving city about it, so the original city dealt with the problem by requiring their ALTs to come in over vacations as usual.
So, if you do have a nice city like that, maybe don't announce the fact, and it might be a good idea to make a token visit to some of your schools in the last few days of the break to check if there's anything you need to do for the first week back.

weepinbell
November 16th, 2014, 11:58
Thanks guys. So what I'm getting is, as a general rule I would expect to get no 'long' break periods. Except maybe Golden Week?

SomePeopleJustSaySnow
November 16th, 2014, 12:07
Basically yes. And even having all of golden week off requires time off.

weepinbell
November 16th, 2014, 15:41
Basically yes. And even having all of golden week off requires time off.

Ahh no way! But isn't Golden Week a bunch of national holidays? I thought they had to give you those.

Ini
November 16th, 2014, 15:48
Golden week isnt a week. next year you get wednesday 29th april, monday 4th, tuesday 5th and wednesday 6th may off. so if you take 4 days paid holiday you get 12 days off (4/29~5/10) but theres no guarantee your school/boe will be happy with you taking 4 days off in the middle of term.

weepinbell
November 16th, 2014, 16:07
Golden week isnt a week. next year you get wednesday 29th april, monday 4th, tuesday 5th and wednesday 6th may off. so if you take 4 days paid holiday you get 12 days off (4/29~5/10) but theres no guarantee your school/boe will be happy with you taking 4 days off in the middle of term.

Oh I know it's not a full week. So they do give you national holidays, but if you wanted to take an actual week then you'd use vacation days. Got it.

Antonath
November 16th, 2014, 17:45
As Ini said, those days in between are work days, and most schools will have lessons. Taking vacation days when there are lessons on is a big no-no for 95% of ALTs.

weepinbell
November 17th, 2014, 00:19
Do you guys ever find the time to travel? Or even have visitors (not like hosting them in the actual shoebox apartment obviously haha)? I know my family really wants to visit me, whichever way I end up getting there.

Antonath
November 17th, 2014, 00:52
Plenty. There's the whole summer if you save vacation days (which most ALTs do), and at Christmas / New Year, a couple of days of vacation work with other holidays to give you a good couple of weeks. There's also the break between school years in March, though April 1st is "new teacher day", and it's good manners to be there for that. There are plenty of other long weekends as well.

Ini
November 17th, 2014, 01:02
You should get anywhere from 9-21 paid days vacation plus national holidays plus any other time off during school holidays (at the discretion of your boe/school) that's enough time to take plenty of trips. It's a job not a working holiday. Go get a entry level job at a bank and tell me how many weeks of international travel a year you get.

weepinbell
November 17th, 2014, 01:14
You should get anywhere from 9-21 paid days vacation plus national holidays plus any other time off during school holidays (at the discretion of your boe/school) that's enough time to take plenty of trips. It's a job not a working holiday. Go get a entry level job at a bank and tell me how many weeks of international travel a year you get.

Haha right. That sounds more than reasonable. Mostly I wouldn't want my family to go all the way out to Japan only for me to be at school the entire time... I gotta say though, at my entry level job in America, I definitely accumulate a good number of vacation days and have been taking them with no problem... 9-21 days is a lot but obviously the work culture is so much different in Japan, so I'd have to take them during 'breaks' or as 'sick days' (which I hear sick days are pretty frowned upon) anyways. :p I figure it's more productive to go into the process aware of what I could be getting into, though!

Jiggit
November 17th, 2014, 08:46
Haha right. That sounds more than reasonable. Mostly I wouldn't want my family to go all the way out to Japan only for me to be at school the entire time... I gotta say though, at my entry level job in America, I definitely accumulate a good number of vacation days and have been taking them with no problem... 9-21 days is a lot but obviously the work culture is so much different in Japan, so I'd have to take them during 'breaks' or as 'sick days' (which I hear sick days are pretty frowned upon) anyways. :p I figure it's more productive to go into the process aware of what I could be getting into, though!

You get vacation in Spring, Summer and Winter if you want to spend your paid leave guilt-free. Unlike in western (UK?) schools they don't just let you take the time on top of your paid leave, which obviously you'd prefer, but fair enough. Plenty of Japanese teachers will be expected to come in and teach and supervise school clubs in the vacation anyway. While you may take your paid leave at any time, if you take it on days where you have lessons then some other teacher has to cover for you and obviously that's inconvenient for them.

If you get properly sick with influenza or whatever then you'll get sick leave without trouble from almost all COs so long as you get a doctor's note. If you just take a day off or two and say "I felt poorly" they might well get grumpy about it. I think most ALT contracts have something about taking sick leave for a few days not needing a doctor's note but Japanese people would take paid leave in that situation.

mothy
November 17th, 2014, 08:49
It's really not that strange for teachers in any country to only take holidays during breaks.

webstaa
November 17th, 2014, 09:02
As Ini said, those days in between are work days, and most schools will have lessons. Taking vacation days when there are lessons on is a big no-no for 95% of ALTs.

As long as you clear it LONG in advance (like 1-2 months) with both your school and your BOE, and have a legit reason - like visiting family post-death-in-the-family etc, then you should be in the clear. Taking a random extra Friday/Monday shouldn't cause too much of a stir either (at least in my experience.) Although if you're universally hated by your school/BOE then you're pretty much going to get 'chotto' and/or lectured by your supervisor.

You get 20 days of nenkyuu a year on JET. Don't be afraid to use them. I didn't use any my first year (during the school terms) aside from 12 hours to go get my driver's license. I used a bunch during summer vacation. I did take a 4-day week of nenkyuu during testing in my second year with no problems either, aside from students begging me for omiyage (they get NOTHING! Mwahahahaha...)

uthinkimlost?
November 17th, 2014, 09:21
As long as you clear it LONG in advance (like 1-2 months) with both your school and your BOE, and have a legit reason - like visiting family post-...)


Sounds legit to me.

mothy
November 17th, 2014, 09:26
If your school is ok with you missing classes for any non-illness/emergency related reason you should not be happy as it means they think your classes are a waste of time.

Jiggit
November 17th, 2014, 09:43
It's really not that strange for teachers in any country to only take holidays during breaks.

In the UK they get school vacations off pretty much. Without taking paid leave. And they get "half-term" holidays which is even more of a joke.

webstaa
November 17th, 2014, 11:29
If your school is ok with you missing classes for any non-illness/emergency related reason you should not be happy as it means they think your classes are a waste of time.

Or they just ran out of fucks to give about MEXT's "Let's up our English ability v22.349" plan... Hell, my BOE scheduled and English education professor to come from a fairly major university for the same day as SDC. They give zero shits about MEXT crap... which isn't going to be very good in the long run (but I'm out of here in a year or two anyways.)

Or they realize that you don't control your own schedule, so if you clear it with the teachers and the teachers/kocho doesn't "chotto" it off the agenda, you'll be fine.

mothy
November 17th, 2014, 11:52
Or they just ran out of fucks to give about MEXT's "Let's up our English ability v22.349" plan... Hell, my BOE scheduled and English education professor to come from a fairly major university for the same day as SDC. They give zero shits about MEXT crap... which isn't going to be very good in the long run (but I'm out of here in a year or two anyways.)

Or they realize that you don't control your own schedule, so if you clear it with the teachers and the teachers/kocho doesn't "chotto" it off the agenda, you'll be fine.

Your first part agrees with me so I don't know why you used the word "or." The second part doesn't make any sense. You don't control your own schedule so you're able to do something that requires controlling your own schedule?

Jiggit
November 17th, 2014, 12:42
Or they just ran out of fucks to give about MEXT's "Let's up our English ability v22.349" plan... Hell, my BOE scheduled and English education professor to come from a fairly major university for the same day as SDC. They give zero shits about MEXT crap... which isn't going to be very good in the long run (but I'm out of here in a year or two anyways.)


I've been thinking about your post for quite a while but I can't even parse enough meaning from it to even know if I disagree with it. What are you talking about?

webstaa
November 17th, 2014, 15:14
Sorry, the first part does agree with mothy. In that the BoE/JTEs think that ALTs aren't worth the it. For example - my BOE is having a English education specialist come down to share tips and prepare us for the new MEXT 2015 year English guidelines (and paying heavily for it.) They happened to double book it with SDC, because they don't care enough to look at the calendar for the ALT/TT program's required events. Which might be them not caring, or might just be incompetence.

The 'or' part is this: Quite a few ALTs don't get to choose which classes they go to or not. This is the case in my base school and the base schools of every ALT I know in person. That is - the JTEs or VP sit down with the schedule at the beginning of the week/month and say - I want the ALT in these x classes (up to whatever.) The ALT simply shows up, gets told - these are your classes for the week/month, talk to the JTEs to start planning for them. So as long as I clear it with everybody up the chain of command from JTEs to VP to Principal and on to BOE well in advance, you don't have a problem unless somebody 'forgets' about your paperwork after you give it to them. (Again, might be malicious, might be incompetence, might actually be a genuine mistake.)

mothy
November 17th, 2014, 15:24
That you can get it cleared doesn't mean they are ok with it. I know of JETs that are going along completely oblivious that their school or schools have completely soured on them because of time that they took off.
Possible or not I would highly recommend not taking time off if it means classes missed or classes rearranged. It's going to be a source of hardship to someone somewhere, even if you don't see it.
Unless of course they just don't care about your classes. But then that's another problem.

Jiggit
November 17th, 2014, 15:34
Sorry, the first part does agree with mothy. In that the BoE/JTEs think that ALTs aren't worth the it. For example - my BOE is having a English education specialist come down to share tips and prepare us for the new MEXT 2015 year English guidelines (and paying heavily for it.) They happened to double book it with SDC, because they don't care enough to look at the calendar for the ALT/TT program's required events. Which might be them not caring, or might just be incompetence.

It seemed like before you were saying the school doesn't care about MEXT guidelines but now it seems like you're saying they don't care about the ALT?

Honestly I doubt they'd reschedule this dude if a JTE had to go to a conference either tbh. And yeah, no way would they reschedule for an ALT. You are an assistant, it is the JTEs' job to understand the curriculum guidelines and implement them.

Of course you might have other reasons to accuse them of not caring about that but I don't think this example proves that. Besides isn't this dude just gonna lecture them in Japanese? Do you have the Japanese level to follow that?

webstaa
November 18th, 2014, 08:22
It seemed like before you were saying the school doesn't care about MEXT guidelines but now it seems like you're saying they don't care about the ALT?

All signs point to the school administration and the BoE not really caring about English in a very broad sense. The school has other issues that they're tackling. Both JTEs are actively opposed to CAN DO and dread the "JHS classes must be entirely in English" - which is one of the major points this lecturer is coming to talk to them about - and he's coming to talk in English. It'll be the second time they'll get this talk. From what I know, this guy is going to a bunch of schools to give JTEs and ALTs information and tips about conducting a class in English with a student group that doesn't understand a lot of basic English. The lecture is going to be primarily in English, at least according to the paperwork from the University and the BoE (also in English, which someone had to help them translate...)

In reality, most of it can be attributed to a sort of benign neglect - it isn't so much that they're trying to torpedo English in the school, but there's a huge sort of "focus on EVERYTHING" that things just slip through the cracks. Its an inaka school as well, so there's even less emphasis on English as well, at least compared to more standard subjects. I shouldn't attribute it to malice, as it can easily be explained by incompetence.

My forecast: JTEs utterly ignore this dude's tips and the whole English only thing except for the 4 classes a year they have any supervisory group visit the class. For which the teachers will pull their hair out and plan elaborate, over the top classes with lesson plans down to the 5 second interval, like usual.

SomePeopleJustSaySnow
November 18th, 2014, 11:41
It's easy to do lessons that are completely in English... unless you have to try to meet the goals set by Japanese testing in terms of grammar and memorization rather than functionality. Surely MEXT knows this?

Lianwen
November 18th, 2014, 20:01
Do you guys ever find the time to travel? Or even have visitors (not like hosting them in the actual shoebox apartment obviously haha)? I know my family really wants to visit me, whichever way I end up getting there.

HAHAHA. In my 3rd year of JET, I had about 40 days of vacation saved up before I left. Because I am the worst ALT ever, I took two months off and left in early June. Best vacation ever.

coop52
November 18th, 2014, 22:01
It's easy to do lessons that are completely in English... unless you have to try to meet the goals set by Japanese testing in terms of grammar and memorization rather than functionality. Surely MEXT knows this?

They know it, but for some reason don't bother to actually follow up on those policies by requiring extensive training. They just tell the teachers to do it in English, which leads to teachers attempting to do what they've always done, but in English, which leads to the kids not knowing WTF is going on.

One of my JTEs is convinced that the current ES kids will have to do some sort of speaking when they do their university entrance exams. There're already plans for universities to accept TOEFL/TEAP/GTEC/whatever scores instead of the center test. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years, since the center test itself is being phased out in favor of an SAT style "basic skills" test. Already teachers are freaking out because they don't know what'll be on it. I'm pretty sure even the test designers don't know what's going on.

Jiggit
November 18th, 2014, 22:42
which leads to teachers attempting to do what they've always done, but in English


What kind of fairytale miraclelandJapan do you live in?

Zolrak 22
November 19th, 2014, 00:49
Best vacation ever.

You are my hero, there's no way I'd ever do something like that.

Too inconvenient for others xD.

coop52
November 19th, 2014, 06:55
What kind of fairytale miraclelandJapan do you live in?

Never said they stick with it, just attempt. They try to explain grammar in English, then give up after a couple of times because the kids have no idea what "present progressive", "modal", or "subjunctive mood" mean.

mothy
November 19th, 2014, 08:22
You are my hero, there's no way I'd ever do something like that.

Too inconvenient for others xD.

It should be pointed out that newnail's coworkers already thought she was an incompetent schlub, so they probably breathed a sigh of relief.

Gizmotech
November 19th, 2014, 09:38
Never said they stick with it, just attempt. They try to explain grammar in English, then give up after a couple of times because the kids have no idea what "present progressive", "modal", or "subjunctive mood" mean.

Which is why they fail, because they don't know how to EXPLAIN things in English.

It's really quite amazing how very little ability Japanese English speakers have at expansionary dialogue and discussion. I mean, as kids we learn how to explain words, write definitions, etc.... but it just doesn't appear to be a skill that most people here have developed in any meaningful sense. It also makes it MUCH harder to teach when you can't use expansion patterns because the student is in no way responsive to processing linear meaning and building an idea in real time as opposed to being told the whole idea and thinking about it.

I seriously don't understand the purpose of 100% english classrooms. I mean, I did it back in Canada, but I had 6 different language families in my class, and I had to use it as the only common language. In Japan, you have the common language, so why not do the "hard" part, basic grammar explanation in Japanese, and then do the other 80% of the class in English using the tools they have encountered.

Jiggit
November 19th, 2014, 09:45
Which is why they fail, because they don't know how to EXPLAIN things in English.

It's really quite amazing how very little ability Japanese English speakers have at expansionary dialogue and discussion. I mean, as kids we learn how to explain words, write definitions, etc.... but it just doesn't appear to be a skill that most people here have developed in any meaningful sense. It also makes it MUCH harder to teach when you can't use expansion patterns because the student is in no way responsive to processing linear meaning and building an idea in real time as opposed to being told the whole idea and thinking about it.

I would say they don't know how to explain things in Japanese either. Like we've discussed before it's like answering the question (to use our textbook as an example) "do you prefer cats or dogs" with "I like dogs because they're cute" vs "I like dogs because of xyz properties intrinsic to dogs".


I seriously don't understand the purpose of 100% english classrooms. I mean, I did it back in Canada, but I had 6 different language families in my class, and I had to use it as the only common language. In Japan, you have the common language, so why not do the "hard" part, basic grammar explanation in Japanese, and then do the other 80% of the class in English using the tools they have encountered.

With how their education system is set up right now I completely agree. I think it's just a combination of the government wanting to be able to say what they're doing to improve English speaking ability of Japanese high school graduates + perhaps a hope that if they tell them to use only English they might start using some English.

I was talking to a new teacher the other day who I know is smart and motivated... but talking about what she does in the lessons I'm not there just gives me a headache. The whole system is just screwed up from the floor to the ceiling.

I remember when I first came here I wondered why more students didn't say they enjoyed English. Now if a kid tells me their favorite subject is English I wonder just how terrible their other subjects are.

therealwindycity
November 19th, 2014, 21:41
Which is why they fail, because they don't know how to EXPLAIN things in English.

It's really quite amazing how very little ability Japanese English speakers have at expansionary dialogue and discussion. I mean, as kids we learn how to explain words, write definitions, etc.... but it just doesn't appear to be a skill that most people here have developed in any meaningful sense.

To be fair, I think that this is the part of learning Japanese that has been the hardest for me. It takes a lot of accumulated hours of fucking up and having native speakers correct you.

coop52
November 20th, 2014, 07:31
Part of the problem is that speaking and reasoning skills aren't covered all that well in Japanese classes, either. Sure, they might have the kids do short speeches or presentations every once in a while, but learning how to explain something in a way that people without any prior knowledge of the topic can understand. There's a lot of circular-type reasoning where the listener is supposed to infer the main point by the speaker going around it without actually saying what the main point is.

As for all English classrooms, I think the only way it'll work is if the teachers get more training and if they're allowed to do an approach that focuses less on form and more on communication.

And for the original topic, I used to have a shitton of time off as a JET. I traveled and had fun, and I still had money and vacation days left over.

webstaa
November 20th, 2014, 09:15
Personally, I think the biggest issue facing English classes being only taught in English is that JTEs nationwide don't have enough speaking ability - part of that problem is very limited exposure to native speakers, and part of it being a lack of ongoing education. I think both of my JTEs are pretty good teachers, but neither are really prepared to teach 50 minutes of English to Japanese students only using English (or even a 80-20 split.) They still make pretty simple grammatical mistakes, which I try to correct (for their benefit, as they've asked me to do.)

And yet in the same way, if I've asked my coworkers to correct my very terrible Japanese, and they never say anything. (Except the JTEs, who just ask me to say it in English, and then don't understand.)

Anyways, I have a ton of vacation days as well. Something like 28 or so left for this year. And I know at least 2 other ALTs that have less than 5 days of nenkyuu left - and it's only 4 months into their contract. I will enjoy their facebook tears as they want to do stuff and find out they're out of nenkyuu.

uthinkimlost?
November 20th, 2014, 09:28
Anyways, I have a ton of vacation days as well. Something like 28 or so left for this year. And I know at least 2 other ALTs that have less than 5 days of nenkyuu left - and it's only 4 months into their contract. I will enjoy their facebook tears as they want to do stuff and find out they're out of nenkyuu.

They'll just go on vacay anyway. If the BoEis lucky they'll tell them first.

webstaa
November 21st, 2014, 08:19
They'll just go on vacay anyway. If the BoE is lucky they'll tell them first.

There was one JET who left this past summer who did this. He figured "I'm leaving anyway, I can burn these bridges." I think he spent every day up until his contract ended sitting in town hall for 7 hours a day doing nothing. And they docked his pay. He was pissed, but deserved every last bit of it.

Ini
November 21st, 2014, 13:02
you can take unpaid leave. it'll just cost you 1man a day or whatever you JETs get paid. Not something they will encourage but if you have used up all your nenkyu and you need to go back to your home country because your cat died or something its possible.