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acpc2203
January 21st, 2015, 02:57
Can some current and/or former JETs give a brief rundown on some of the pros and cons of the different school levels?

Shincantsen
January 21st, 2015, 03:09
I taught exclusively at an elementary school, grades 1-6 - which is a fairly rare situation, but I think it's becoming less so as more grades are required to learn English.

Pros:
Cute kids who still had great enthusiasm for learning and interest in me as a teacher.
I wasn't a 'human tape recorder' - I had the chance to write my own lesson plans and lead classes.
The freedom to do more 'fun' stuff with the students (mostly games or activities).
Did not have to work on speech contests (could be a pro or a con, I guess, but was a pro from where I was sitting).

Cons:
No one at the school were official "English teachers" like the JTEs in JHS and HS, so there's no guarantee that anyone will speak English. Meetings with the teachers were held in Japanese, and my lesson plans had to be translated (poorly) into Japanese as well.
You really embody the "ESID" slogan. At JET conferences and such, the vast majority of seminars were about working with your JTE, being an assistant teacher, working with a supervisor, etc. None of that applied to me, and made me feel a little bit isolated.
It takes a LOT of energy to teach elementary school, which can be a pro or a con, but meant that I usually went home exhausted.

I listed some cons, but for me I wouldn't have traded places for the world. I loved working in ES.

naginataonthebrain
January 21st, 2015, 05:24
Is it a good idea to let the people know during your interview which age group you would prefer to work with? I would rather take Elementary exactly because of your pros, shincantsen. But I am totally willing to work at an JHS/HS if need be.

Shincantsen
January 21st, 2015, 06:13
Is it a good idea to let the people know during your interview which age group you would prefer to work with? I would rather take Elementary exactly because of your pros, shincantsen. But I am totally willing to work at an JHS/HS if need be.

I think if it doesn't come up during the interview, it wouldn't hurt for you to bring it up when they ask if you have any questions. Usually ES prefers people who have a fairly strong Japanese background, which helps but isn't absolutely required.

Jiggit
January 21st, 2015, 08:29
I'll note that this is an "Academic" High School - there are multiple types of High School in Japan with quite different focuses. Oh and, of course, Every Situation Is Different~ :023:

Pros


Much greater level of freedom to control lesson content.
Placement at the school (rather than BoE) allows you to communicate more regularly and build relationships with coworkers and students.
High chance of having an English club or being able to take part in another club if not.
Generally decent level of English among students.
You'll probably treated more like a colleague than the pet foreigner. Most academic high school ALTs don't get "human tape recorder" roles


Cons


High level of control in lessons may not be optional; some teachers will expect you to create lesson plans and run them yourself from day one without guidance. SHS JTEs rely too heavily on ALTs.
The focus on examinations means many students rapidly become apathetic towards anything they don't perceive as directly related to the tests. This means speaking and usually writing too. My 3rd grade are worse at speaking English than 1st grade, easily.
That's coupled with a higher level of shyness in my experience. Students seem a lot more energetic and willing to take part at JHS when I've taught there.
Being treated more like a colleague means they'll probably have higher expectations of you. If you don't want to stay after school helping with club and suchlike they may well take a dim view.


As you can see, a lot of this depends not only on the placement but also on the individual. If you're keen to get stuck in with teaching you'll probably prefer HS, if you've only a passing interest in teaching and would prefer to have free time to do your Japan thing you might be happier in a municipal placement. I'm glad to teach where I am, though some days I can certainly see the appeal of teaching younger kids.

Ini
January 21st, 2015, 08:30
ES

Pros
https://tutornerds.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Elementary-school-students-raising-hands-in-classroom..jpg

Cons
http://fukuoka-now.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/84601.jpg

JHS

Pros
http://www.demotivation.us/media/demotivators/demotivation.us_I-always-arrive-late-to-the-office-but-I-make-up-for-it-by-leaving-early_133224762281.jpg

Cons
http://umuvu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Sleeping-at-desk2-620x335.jpg

SHS

Pros
http://cdn.meme.am/instances/51528277.jpg

Cons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

Jiggit
January 21st, 2015, 08:32
Ini is not wrong.

webstaa
January 21st, 2015, 09:05
I teach once a week at an ES, and spend the other 4 days at the JHS.

ES is fun, but draining. Very energy intensive - if you aren't willing to lead the class, it'll go nowhere fast. But the kids like to use the snippets of English taught to them more than JHS students. Also, I'm treated more as a colleague - I make lesson plans with the HRTs, and then they are much more likely to participate/team teach rather than just turning the floor over to me. I also teach a number of classes without the normal HRT there, and then its usually one of the senior teachers (the old ones who know next to no English, but do there best to use it in the class.) And I get to teach the non-5/6th years (one class a week) that I make the full lesson myself. Those are more of the Kindergarten Cop style (especially the 1st/2nd year students who think a foreign teacher is just the greatest thing ever.) Never been kanchod. I have been swarmed by 3rd years and tickled/poked a few time. 5 hours of classes a day, and I have to eat lunch with an assigned class.

JHS is... constant? Maybe monotonous is the better word. Because they chose an ALT over another JTE, the JTEs are a bit overworked. I'm given a bit of leeway with lesson planning. Usually the JTEs will come to me a week before the lesson and ask for a lesson based around practicing a specific grammar point. Sometimes less. The amount of classes varies due to testing and scheduling conflicts (sometimes I'll have 6 classes, sometimes 0, but it hovers around 3-4 each day.) I play a fair bit of human tape recorder when I'm not leading the activity, but it's far less than 50% of my classes (it used to be much higher, but changing JTEs and English teaching "research" meant that changed pretty quick.) 1st year students are almost always overwhelmed by the sharp change to the JHS "We beat the fun out of you so you can be a functioning member of our society" education. 2nd years are the most fun to teach - they have a few of the skills down, but there isn't any major tests bearing down on them until the end of the year. High ability 3rd years can be fun - actually talking to students in (mostly) English, prepping for speech/writing contests or practicing for the Eiken test. Low ability 3rd years have had their souls crushed and might as well be zombies in most classes, unless you go way over the top on the genki. My school splits 3rd year into A/B levels. I never see the B levels unless one of the JTEs is out, combined with very low level ability in English and... half the 3rd year doesn't give 2 shits about English as long as they have the basic skills to pass the HS entrance exam of their backup choice.

The only thing about JHS that isn't very constant is the Special Education department. I get to be the fun foreigner who hangs out in the 'English' class while the students do whatever the SPED English teacher wants them to do. I bring a game or a song, but everything else about the class is usually a crap-shoot, from number of students, level of ability, topic... But the number of students is low, so you actually get to talk to some of them/enjoy playing whatever game/activity. And some of them really seem to have fun during the activities, which is a refreshing change. These ones are generally sprung on me - usually an hour before the class one of the SPED teachers will ask me to head down to the next class with them...

word
January 21st, 2015, 09:22
Ini is not wrong.
word


I taught at a JHS/ES before. Now I teach at two high schools, a reasonably academic school and a low-level agricultural school once a week. Jiggit's also pretty spot-on with this assessment of SHS (at least, in academic schools).

I would say that a pro of JHS compared to SHS is that in JHS, there are very clear, established learning goals for the students. In my SHS, nobody has any clue wtf they're doing and the entire English education program is suffering from a lack of clear learning objectives.

If you're at a not-so-academic SHS, such as my visit agricultural school, English lessons are less about teaching English and more about keeping the kids from tearing the classroom apart or falling asleep. It sucks.

Gizmotech
January 21st, 2015, 09:39
I agree with Ini and Jiggit.

Your millage with ES will vary, some places have previously developed consistent curriculum in place, some are "HEY, Fun time with ALT".

The more academic your SHS is, the more your teachers push center test over english practice, the more apathetic your kids will become to learning whatever you have to do, unless you make your lessons look very useful. Games/Activities start losing their effectiveness very quickly.

AyaReiko
January 21st, 2015, 10:35
Is it a good idea to let the people know during your interview which age group you would prefer to work with? I would rather take Elementary exactly because of your pros, shincantsen. But I am totally willing to work at an JHS/HS if need be.

I don't have anything to add to the topic except for the fact that I was asked which group I'd prefer teaching during my interview. It was more of an informal thing, though... I think!

SailorZorro
January 21st, 2015, 12:34
Man, I'm so confused as to which age group I want to work with. I'm reading all the posts and trying to decide, but it's hard. I don't think my Japanese skills are good enough for ES, so it might be a moot point anyway.

When I was a sub I liked ES better because I got to actually teach rather than just be a babysitter like in HS. Middle school was okay, but you had to deal with a lot of hormones. I like getting to teach by myself, but do they just throw you to the wolves? I've taught every age group from preschool to college, so I'm comfortable with all age groups, even adults. Does that make me sound flakey if I say that?

uthinkimlost?
January 21st, 2015, 12:41
Saying you're open to any of the experiences isn't flaky, it is being flexible.

I personally wouldn't like to have an interviewee come in and say, 'I don't do windows or teach SHS.'

Gizmotech
January 21st, 2015, 13:00
I thought the age group question was dealt with on the application, not the interview.

Either way, worry less about the experience and worry more about your comfort level. I personally am not fond of small children. They drive me bonkers, and I could go get a teaching degree back in Canada to be a baby sitter if I wanted to (seriously... yay demand for men in a women's field :P) for more monies than here. So I said no small children and boom, I'm here at SHS.

If you don't care about what age group you work with there are benefits to each level, and I wouldn't worry about the japanese level. If you're useless at Japanese they don't care, things will still happen. Hell, my buddy went from 0 Japanese to N2 doing 2.5 years of elementary school :P

Ini
January 21st, 2015, 13:08
the quality of the school/attitude of your co-workers will probably effect your experience more than the age group.

I've seen ES's full of little criminals brandishing knives where the ALT just stands at the front and reads out the text book when the homeroom teacher barks at them, I've seen JHS's where the ALT is given one period a week to create and lead their own oral communication course and I've seen SHS's where the ALT just plays stupid games like the kids are 5 years old.

Zolrak 22
January 21st, 2015, 13:09
I've seen SHS's where the ALT just plays stupid games like the kids are 5 years old.

I kind of wanna see that. [emoji28]

uthinkimlost?
January 21st, 2015, 13:12
I've seen SHS's where the ALT just plays stupid games like the kids are 5 years old.

Was it taught by a smoking Canadian sexpot?

Ini
January 21st, 2015, 13:13
http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/original/6/67602/1399416-bueno.jpg

Gizmotech
January 21st, 2015, 14:54
the quality of the school/attitude of your co-workers will probably effect your experience more than the age group.

I've seen ES's full of little criminals brandishing knives where the ALT just stands at the front and reads out the text book when the homeroom teacher barks at them, I've seen JHS's where the ALT is given one period a week to create and lead their own oral communication course and I've seen SHS's where the ALT just plays stupid games like the kids are 5 years old.

Ya, but that's not a variable you can control, so focus on those that you can.

Ini
January 21st, 2015, 15:04
it wouldnt be an answer to a JET question if I couldnt shoehorn ESID in there somewhere

Lorenzo
January 21st, 2015, 23:16
There's nothing on the UK application about what level you'd prefer to teach at, so I wonder if I'll be asked in the interview. I think I'd prefer SHS/JHS, but don't mind, really.

Zolrak 22
January 21st, 2015, 23:27
I think I'd prefer SHS/JHS, but don't mind, really.

+1

SailorZorro
January 22nd, 2015, 00:58
Hell, my buddy went from 0 Japanese to N2 doing 2.5 years of elementary school :P

Wow! :107: That's something to consider. While I'm not at a 0, any improvement is well worth it. Something to think about. Thanks. Won't worry about it too much. I've been working with little demons, er I mean little angels half my life. I make the best of it. :lol:

Zolrak 22
January 22nd, 2015, 01:10
It's sort of a sink or swim situation. [emoji6]

SailorZorro
January 22nd, 2015, 02:46
I like swimming! I vote for that. Much better than sinking. Unless you're diving, of course.

Tyr
January 22nd, 2015, 03:48
I've done HS and ES

HS:

Pros-
Some of the kids are pretty mature in many ways. You can have proper conversations with them. Many have interests you can relate to.
At most schools you'll get some kids with a big genuine interest in learning English and going abroad.
The community sees you as a big deal for being a HS teacher.
Lots of English knowledge amongst your co-workers.

Cons:
Some kids are pretty mature in many ways. So....tempting.....but thoroughly immoral and illegal. No matter how much they may throw themselves at you and 18 year old you cries out in pain.
So much importance is placed on exams and university interviews. Its overwhelming. These kids have no lives and nor do the Japanese teachers.
Speech contests.
You don't have much to do. Its rare you'll be shared between multiple schools. Days spent sitting around doing nothing.
You can be a bit isolated with only the English teachers. A lot of teachers are too busy and too 'another alt? meh' to bother much with you.
You'll run into your kids about town a lot.

ES:

Pros:
Not half as much stress in the atmosphere. Nobody really expects the kids to learn anything. At that age its about them learning English is fun. Yay!
The lower age groups are awesome. You basically just play with them.
Smaller staff so you're far more a part of the whole group, not off as the pet of the English department.
The work day finishes very early.

Cons:
The older kids are getting right into that too cool for school age and can be pretty dodgy. Even the nicer classes are rather unenthusiastic and...dull. At 5th and 6th year the idea that the kids should learn something is beginning to appear but in a confused fashion.
Not much English ability from the staff....nor much English interest from many (the lack of ability is good for learning Japanese though).
Your schedule is usually utterly full. Its rare you'll just have one ES.
You have to eat school lunch. With the kids. Plain rice...ugh.....and that's before even getting to the weird stuff like the whole fish, deep fried.

Jiggit
January 22nd, 2015, 09:03
Also please note that, as with my post, Tyr is teaching at an academic high school. If you get placed at HS there's a decent chance you'll be at a technical high school or an agricultural high school or some other such malarkey. Most of the pros and cons we've listed will be null.

The bit about wanting to bang 18-year-old JK still stands. But a conversation with Sakura-chan that lasts more than 5 minutes will soon cure you of that fantasy.

Ini
January 22nd, 2015, 09:21
what magical ES is there where the day finishes early and you just play with the kids?

Worst ALT evar!

webstaa
January 22nd, 2015, 09:36
what magical ES is there where the day finishes early and you just play with the kids?

Worst ALT evar!

Unless your the magical ALT that joins clubs, JHS is probably the easiest to leave before 4pm. As long as you aren't leaving before classes actually end, you should be fine...

The HRTs at the ES (I do one day a week at) only get back to the staff room around 4. Which is when I have everything packed up and just about ready to head out the door. (But then again, I could make the lesson plan myself, but they want to be included in picking the next week's activity.)

word
January 22nd, 2015, 11:52
Also please note that, as with my post, Tyr is teaching at an academic high school. If you get placed at HS there's a decent chance you'll be at a technical high school or an agricultural high school or some other such malarkey. Most of the pros and cons we've listed will be null.This is very true. Long-time ITILer Gez had the misfortune of being repeatedly placed in some of the worst SHSs in Japan, apparently. At my visit school, an agricultural high school, things are pretty rough. The entire school is falling apart because the kids actively spend a sizable percentage of their day attempting to destroy it by any means possible. The entire place is covered with graffiti. I've had to break up a few fights. I have an all-boys class that is the bane of my existence (my JTEs hate it even worse). A lesson is successful if 75% of the kids make an effort (in the boys' class, I generally accept 50%, and the JTEs are amazed that I can even do that).


The bit about wanting to bang 18-year-old JK still stands. But a conversation with Sakura-chan that lasts more than 5 minutes will soon cure you of that fantasy. word

Still, it's a pleasant environment. At my visit school, girls sure do like rolling up their skirts. I'm sure it's enough to make a lesser man totally think unbecoming thoughts.

Jiggit
January 22nd, 2015, 11:56
Skirt length is inversely proportional to the academic level of your school. Mine are pretty much down to the knee all the time. The top schools I see at English contests might as well be ballgowns. When I go down to the city and see the shitty kids who are hanging around arcades and karaoke my eyes pop out of my skull.

coop52
January 22nd, 2015, 19:47
I did 3 years of ES/JHS and 2 years of a low-level SHS as a JET and now work for a high level private JHS/SHS combo school.

ES-
Pro: cute, friendly, easily impressed
Con: takes up a lot of energy, pretty much no free time until after the kids go home to work on lessons, if you don't speak Japanese you might have problems

JHS:
Pro: less hyper than ES but still kind of cute, fairly straightforward curriculum to follow, speech contests and clubs (if you want to do that kind of thing)
Con: kids going through puberty are all terrible, straightforward curriculum means that it's tempting to make you the human-tape recorder, speech contests (if you don't like the idea of hearing the same speech over and over for an hour every day for a few weeks)

Low level SHS (a commercial school with nice, friendly kids):
Pro: not so much pressure, a lot more freedom to plan lessons
Con: in general SHS English curriculum is an unorganized clusterfvck(same con applies to high level SHS), might end up with kids that don't even know the alphabet and you'll have to somehow teach them complex grammar

High level SHS (and JHS)
Pro: kids can actually do stuff like speeches and debates, kids are usually motivated to study, some of your kids might actually be able to successfully hold a conversation
Con: some kids are soley motivated by tests and may not care about anything that doesn't show up on entrance exams, you will come to hate all the stranglehold that testing has here, you'll want to gouge your eyes out every time teachers say the word "hensachi", you will come to understand why so many kids jump off buildings

Other stuff:
Special needs- usually the ones with severe and profound special needs will be in their own school. There are ALTs assigned to visit those schools, so there's a chance that you could get one. Many JHS and ES have kids with learning disabilities and milder special needs in their own groups away from the regular classes (though they will be assigned a regular class for stuff like sports festival). Teaching those kids is very ESID. You could get a kid that just needs a little more time or is a little shy, or you could get a kid who's in the special class because they're violent or something. You may or may not do the regular curriculum, though most of the time I was just told to play games with them. The classes are usually really small, so it's easy to do stuff like cooking and crafts.

acpc2203
January 25th, 2015, 10:56
Thanks for all the responses! I was initially leaning towards JHS since I had the most experience with that age group, but SHS seems like the best choice since I want to continue teaching after JET.

Libellule
January 26th, 2015, 13:54
I teach at seven different schools - four high schools, two junior high schools, and one elementary school.

My experience at each of the schools has a lot more to do with the school climate than the age of the students. The schools that have good teachers who communicate with me on a regular basis and foster a respectful classroom environment are a lot nicer to visit than the ones that don't.

Tyr
January 29th, 2015, 03:32
I teach at seven different schools - four high schools, two junior high schools, and one elementary school.

My experience at each of the schools has a lot more to do with the school climate than the age of the students. The schools that have good teachers who communicate with me on a regular basis and foster a respectful classroom environment are a lot nicer to visit than the ones that don't.
Wow, that's crazy. Having even 2 HSs is super rare.



Skirt length is inversely proportional to the academic level of your school. Mine are pretty much down to the knee all the time. The top schools I see at English contests might as well be ballgowns. When I go down to the city and see the shitty kids who are hanging around arcades and karaoke my eyes pop out of my skull.
Sounds fairly true.
I have certainly heard that less academically inclined girls base their HS decision largely on the uniform.

Though in my area there was one medium high level HS that still used the old sailor fuku and all its girls had mini-skirts.

mothy
January 29th, 2015, 08:15
[/COLOR]Wow, that's crazy. Having even 2 HSs is super rare.


Having two high schools is pretty common among the prefectural JETs in Saitama.

Gizmotech
January 29th, 2015, 09:18
Same here in my prefecture.

coop52
January 29th, 2015, 20:19
A few prefectural JETs here have two schools, usually with one SHS and a special needs school. It's actually getting rarer for the city BOE people to have multiple JHS since that messes with ES visits. When I started, most people only did ES on an occasional basis and about half had a visit JHS as well. A few JHS here even have two ALTs, one from the city BOE and one from the prefecture for some sort of "English shower" program.

word
January 29th, 2015, 20:35
Every SHS ALT in my prefecture has at least 2 schools, as far as I know. I have two, as does my co-ALT.

heregoesnothing
January 29th, 2015, 20:59
this is the most accurate post I've ever read on this site.

edit:
referring to

ES

Pros
https://tutornerds.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Elementary-school-students-raising-hands-in-classroom..jpg

Cons
http://fukuoka-now.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/84601.jpg

JHS

Pros
http://www.demotivation.us/media/demotivators/demotivation.us_I-always-arrive-late-to-the-office-but-I-make-up-for-it-by-leaving-early_133224762281.jpg

Cons
http://umuvu.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Sleeping-at-desk2-620x335.jpg

SHS

Pros
http://cdn.meme.am/instances/51528277.jpg

Cons

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIZofPB8ZM

Ini
January 29th, 2015, 21:10
domo arigato mr roboto. domo. domo

edit: ahhhhh, after that edit you no longer appear to be a crazy bot spouting token forum replies. still, i went to the effort of typing out styx lyrics so they will stay there.

mothy
January 29th, 2015, 21:44
And now it just seems like you're appreciative of his appreciation. Which is entirely out of character, but at least makes sense.

Jiggit
January 29th, 2015, 21:55
We all just want to be loved, mothy.

mothy
January 29th, 2015, 22:19
And I love you all jigsaw, don't you worry.

Libellule
February 2nd, 2015, 11:57
Wow, that's crazy. Having even 2 HSs is super rare.

To be fair, three of them are super tiny, only one class per grade. One of those has less than 20 students in each class. And from what I understand most people around here have multiple high schools.

toumasu
February 2nd, 2015, 14:06
i teach at kindergarten, ES and JHS. here's what i would say:

kindergarten:

+ kids of boatloads of energy and naturally love you
+ they learn fast and are down for anything you teach them
+ anything you do is hilarious and it's easy to bond with them
- super short attention spans, have to have lots of material to change quickly
- can be very tiring
- can be difficult to communicate at first seeing as most have no english

ES
+ students are generally right before the "too cool for school" stage and will listen to you more (completely depends on teacher, however)
+ teachers tend to be more lax
+ less focus on grammar; can do more fun games
- sometimes kids can be shits and if you don't have a good Japanese counter-part, classes can be hard to control
- sometimes teachers can unreasonably adhere to everything in the crappy textbook

JHS
+ often where 'genuine conversation' starts to take place
+ opportunity to teach them stuff that will stick with them throughout high school and beyond
+ written activities become possible
- can suck depending on your teacher
- annoying teen/pre-teen stage and associated angst.

-------------

above all, so much of your job is going to depend on your teachers as well as your outlook. if you get stuck with bad ones it could be a real downer in your experience, and if you don't go in with a positive perspective from the get go it could also be draining.

SailorZorro
February 6th, 2015, 13:18
So in my interview the coordinator asked me about my substitute experience and from that I think he threw me into the ES category. I said I worked more with ES schools here but that's only because HS teachers treat subs like babysitters while ES and MS allowed me to actually teach. I've actually dozed off at a HS once because I was so bored. Oops.