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RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 10:52
Hey Ladies and Gents,

I've been trying to do a bit of research regarding the school levels in Japan. While I would really prefer to be placed as an ALT in the Elementary Schools, I'm not highly proficient in Japanese. I understand that no one can choose which grade levels s/he'd prefer to work with, but the chances of being placed with Elementary Schools is higher if one's Japanese is 'better' (from what I've seen), so I have a couple questions:



Are there ever any cases in which a person is placed in the junior or high school levels and, (if they're asked if they'd like to renew their contract) the following year or two later they are placed in elementary schools because of improved speech (or vice versa, someone bumps up from elementary to SHS or JHS)? Or is the placement a permanent deal for however many years one is requested to renew their contract?
I've never taken the JLPT but have dabbled in the mock tests over the years. Unfortunately, my reading and writing are much stronger than my speech and listening (even in English, I have some difficulty at times taking information in orally as opposed to visually). But due to my background and my current voluntary work in a Japanese field, I have a rather uncommon vocabulary set. At what level should someone ideally be so that s/he is suitable to teach younger children?
Are there any steps that I can take to make my goal of teaching younger children more of a reality? Aside from taking on self-study, which I am trying to fit in my schedule, are there any pointers to share?


Thanks for any input!

Ini
October 7th, 2015, 11:46
If you want an ES only placement you probably want something formal on paper saying you can speak Japanese but those placements aren't that common at the moment (that'll change in next 2-4 years though). If you get a JHS placement in a relatively small town or a village chances are you will be doing ES visits as well anyway. SHS teachers don't really do ES visits that much because of the employment structure (hired by prefecture vs local municipality). If you end up in a bigger town or city and find yourself doing JHS only there is always the possibility of talking to your supervisor at the BOE and getting sent to ES after a year if thats what you really want. If you end up at SHS and really want to teach ES you'll probably have to apply for a transfer and change where you live after a year but that's pretty tricky to do.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 12:03
If you end up at SHS and really want to teach ES you'll probably have to apply for a transfer and change where you live after a year but that's pretty tricky to do.

This is what I am attempting to do, so it will be interesting to see where I get with it. I'm approaching it as an all of nothing deal so I may end up giving my job up for another with lower pay/higher cost of living.

Gizmotech
October 7th, 2015, 12:03
There aren't that many places that will have the built in chance to move from ES/JHS to SHS unless the city owns SHS. Most SHS will be prefectualy run. I imagine it would be primarily designated cities basically that would have that type of movement.

Basically you're gonna be placed where they want, if you choose the "no young kids" option (that was on the Canadian form when i applied) you were more likely to end up at SHS rather than ES/JHS. If you specifically say you want ES/JHS I'm sure they're going to be more than happy to oblige given there are more JETs working those positions than SHS jobs. (we're about 35/65 in my prefecture)

Either way... if you ask for ES/JHS (municipal placement) then you have more chances to "maybe" get exactly what you're looking for. I wouldn't worry about it to much though.

uthinkimlost?
October 7th, 2015, 12:11
Two things:

Why young kids? Older kids can be much more interesting.

Don't focus on this too hard at any point in your app. You need to seem flexible, so unless you're allergic to teen angst you might want to suck it up.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 12:16
Why young kids? Older kids can be much more interesting.


I once thought like this.

ambrosse
October 7th, 2015, 13:01
For JET specifically, a handful of people get placed at Elementary schools and have a low/nonexistent level of Japanese (myself included).
I can say that most of the JETs in my area who were also placed at the ES level have a functional level of Japanese.

If your level is low, it's the luck of the draw whether or not your homeroom teachers are willing to help you translate (fortunately, most of mine are decent human beings and help out). Some ES teachers see an ALT as a get-out-of-class-free card.
I have a Junior High and two Elementary schools with potential to add a nursery school later on.

As others have said, if you say "I really want to work with young children" most of the time, they'll be more than happy to put you in that sort of placement.

webstaa
October 7th, 2015, 13:19
I can only speak to my experience and the stories of those who I have met and talked to.

I don't know anybody who got switched from ES/JHS to SHS or vice versa. All the SHS in my area are either prefectural or private. That limits what/where they can be transferred by their CO. I do know several ALTs who moved from primarily JHS to ES roles due to school closings or the hiring cycle. In one case, they were asked if they preferred JHS or ES classes, and were given the (preferred) ES classes. The JHS classes were taken over by a newly hired ALT as an expansion of the ALT program.

As to the second point. Japanese will help in your work and lifestyle in Japan, however it is generally not 100% necessary. I know a number of ES ALTs that are nearly fluent in Japanese, as well as one or two who came over (into ES positions) with no prior study. I do both ES and JHS work - I use far more Japanese at my ES (outside of classes) than I do in the JHS. I believe it's just a different workplace dynamic.

As for further steps, you might be able to request ES placement or a placement that involves work at the ES level. But note that ES English language education is mandated at the 5th and 6th grade levels (a total of 35 class hours a year - approx. one hour/week) although increases are more likely as 2020 approaches. Most schools have 2-3 hours of English language for other grade levels for basic interaction/greetings/vocabulary etc with the goal of acclimatizing younger students to the study of English/foreign languages. If you can get any experience in those fields, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt your resume.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 13:24
Two things:


Why young kids? Older kids can be much more interesting.


Don't focus on this too hard at any point in your app. You need to seem flexible, so unless you're allergic to teen angst you might want to suck it up.


I have certain skill sets and methods that make teaching much easier to minds that are 'fresh' so to speak. Even though it's never too late to learn a foreign language, research has shown that that children have the highest propensity to learn another language at a younger age, when their brains are more malleable (basically before adolescence hits). So I want to be able to make a difference in how these kids learn English when it matters most, before it's crapped all over by the time junior/high school has hit, and I want to have a more active role in effecting their desire to learn English/any other language. While I'd love to say that my desire serves a more functional than personal purpose, I admittedly prefer working with younger kids I've found that they respond well to my approach and I am more comfortable around them through my experience. Am I to idealistic in thinking that the role I have will make much of a difference, though?

As for the second point, my aim is to be an ALT regardless of where I'm placed, so I'm focused on being accepted into the program first and foremost and definitely hope to make that apparent in my application. I'm not unwilling to take on teaching older kids since it has its own challenges that I wouldn't mind hurdling, and would certainly welcome it and all that lovely teen angst that'll be thrown into the mix. Variety is the spice of life.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 13:25
If you want an ES only placement you probably want something formal on paper saying you can speak Japanese but those placements aren't that common at the moment (that'll change in next 2-4 years though). If you get a JHS placement in a relatively small town or a village chances are you will be doing ES visits as well anyway. SHS teachers don't really do ES visits that much because of the employment structure (hired by prefecture vs local municipality). If you end up in a bigger town or city and find yourself doing JHS only there is always the possibility of talking to your supervisor at the BOE and getting sent to ES after a year if thats what you really want. If you end up at SHS and really want to teach ES you'll probably have to apply for a transfer and change where you live after a year but that's pretty tricky to do.


Thanks for all that detail. Many things to keep in mind, especially the possibility of being place in a small town/village and doing ES visits. I actually would prefer to be placed in a more rural area and would love to be able to be used as an ALT among different grade levels. I think that'd really help me to see what different approaches I can take to teaching/aiding based on the students' abilities.

uthinkimlost?
October 7th, 2015, 13:33
I have certain skill sets and methods that make teaching much easier to minds that are 'fresh' so to speak. Even though it's never too late to learn a foreign language, research has shown that that children have the highest propensity to learn another language at a younger age, when their brains are more malleable (basically before adolescence hits). So I want to be able to make a difference in how these kids learn English when it matters most, before it's crapped all over by the time junior/high school has hit, and I want to have a more active role in effecting their desire to learn English/any other language. While I'd love to say that my desire serves a more functional than personal purpose, I admittedly prefer working with younger kids I've found that they respond well to my approach and I am more comfortable around them through my experience. Am I to idealistic in thinking that the role I have will make much of a difference, though?

You don't "teach English" in most of ES. You do "English Activities".

That's not to say you can't do a lot, but the ES ALTs I know wander between 6 different schools on a 2 week schedule. They see their kids every two weeks or more. Often what they cover is wiped away in between.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 13:37
I can only speak to my experience and the stories of those who I have met and talked to.

As to the second point. Japanese will help in your work and lifestyle in Japan, however it is generally not 100% necessary. I know a number of ES ALTs that are nearly fluent in Japanese, as well as one or two who came over (into ES positions) with no prior study.

Thanks for sharing your experience. While I'm aware that fluency in Japanese is not a factor into being accepted as an ALT, it's good to know that over all fluency isn't required to be eligible to teach the younger levels.



As for further steps, you might be able to request ES placement or a placement that involves work at the ES level. But note that ES English language education is mandated at the 5th and 6th grade levels (a total of 35 class hours a year - approx. one hour/week) although increases are more likely as 2020 approaches. Most schools have 2-3 hours of English language for other grade levels for basic interaction/greetings/vocabulary etc with the goal of acclimatizing younger students to the study of English/foreign languages. If you can get any experience in those fields, I'm sure it wouldn't hurt your resume.

Er, that just got me pretty excited, not necessarily to fill my resume, but because that is the kind of education I'd love to contribute to.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 13:45
You don't "teach English" in most of ES. You do "English Activities".

That's not to say you can't do a lot, but the ES ALTs I know wander between 6 different schools on a 2 week schedule. They see their kids every two weeks or more. Often what they cover is wiped away in between.

Thanks for the clarity. 'English Activies' makes it even better, as it seems like a less rigid approach learning. But at the same time, the fact that what's covered can potentially be 'wiped away' sort of defeats the purpose too :<.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 13:54
Yeah, I wouldn't go into this thinking you are going to make some lasting difference. You'll have an effect, but it might be very small. Is that something that is OK with you?

Everyone on this board will be quick to tell you that ALTs have very little power to make changes. Your a motivator of sorts, and that's the limit. Some ALTs will be given more autonomy to design their curriculum etc, but it seems like that is rare. Especially outside of highschool.

Frap
October 7th, 2015, 14:11
Your a motivator of sorts

Girl.

To OP: I think you should have a good, hard look at some of the personal experiences that have been posted on ITIL, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc. If you don't, and you're shortlisted, I feel like the JET Programme is going to be quite a big shock to your system.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 14:20
Yeah, I wouldn't go into this thinking you are going to make some lasting difference. You'll have an effect, but it might be very small. Is that something that is OK with you?

Everyone on this board will be quick to tell you that ALTs have very little power to make changes. Your a motivator of sorts, and that's the limit. Some ALTs will be given more autonomy to design their curriculum etc, but it seems like that is rare. Especially outside of highschool.

If you get this response twice, it's cuz my internet is wonky (but at least it gave me a chance to refine my response).

Anyway, realistically, I don't know what any of the kids will do in five or ten or more years, so I'm aware that anything an ALT does is pretty much a blip, but if I can have any effect even in its smallest measurements, that's more my aim. I know that as an ALT I'm not going to move mountains because the role of an ALT is rather limited, so it's definitely okay with me.

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 14:34
Girl.

To OP: I think you should have a good, hard look at some of the personal experiences that have been posted on ITIL, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc. If you don't, and you're shortlisted, I feel like the JET Programme is going to be quite a big shock to your system.

Duly noted. I've definitely read a slew of negative experiences that people had with the JET program over the years, since I've wanted to know all aspects about what the JET program entails. So I've kept them in mind. While I'd prefer to go in with a more goal oriented mind, I'm aware that some people's roles can be very limited and am more than able to adjust according to that, but I wouldn't want to go in without putting in some effort, if that makes any sense.

Frap
October 7th, 2015, 14:40
Duly noted. I've definitely read a slew of negative experiences that people had with the JET program over the years, since I've wanted to know all aspects about what the JET program entails. So I've kept them in mind. While I'd prefer to go in with a more goal oriented mind, I'm aware that some people's roles can be very limited and am more than able to adjust according to that, but I wouldn't want to go in without putting in some effort, if that makes any sense.

Well, just so you know, I am a qualified elementary teacher back in the UK and put that on my form, etc. I am placed in a SHS with 87 students and attend around one class per day. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, I really like my school, but I don't think my qualification had much influence over my location!

uthinkimlost?
October 7th, 2015, 14:41
Well, just so you know, I am a qualified elementary teacher back in the UK and put that on my form, etc. I am placed in a SHS with 87 students and attend around one class per day.

...and I hate you.

My only comfort is that I make more money than you.

Frap
October 7th, 2015, 14:47
...and I hate you.

My only comfort is that I make more money than you.

Buy me something nice, daddy!

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 14:51
Well, just so you know, I am a qualified elementary teacher back in the UK and put that on my form, etc. I am placed in a SHS with 87 students and attend around one class per day. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, I really like my school, but I don't think my qualification had much influence over my location!

Where abouts are you located, if you don't mind me asking? Since you attend one class per day, what do you usually spend the rest of your time doing? That seems like such a laid back schedule!

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 14:53
Yeah, and on the flip side of the coin - My school specifically requested a certified teacher. I thought that I would still be an assistant of sorts, but the truth of the matter is that most of the teachers just want a couple of classes off a day. I have a couple of JTE's that genuinely try to make the team teaching situation work, but they are just as clueless as I am. I'm busy throughout the day every day covering classes, but I only see each class once a week - sometimes not even that because of schedule tweaks and such. What I ended up with are classes that I have complete control of, but they aren't really regular enough for me to effectively teach material. I do what I can, but I deal with students who are going to be groundskeepers when they get out of school so English is the least of their concerns.

If your career goal is teaching, I don't think an experience on JET is a waste of time. If you don't speak Japanese though, you're kind of at the mercy of your JTE's classroom management abilities .... those can be quite lacking.

Edit: forgot to say that I see about 500 students in class every week.

acpc2203
October 7th, 2015, 14:56
I teach at a JHS and 2 elementary schools and have eikaiwa with elementary students. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind wanting to be an ES ALT.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 14:57
I teach at a JHS and 2 elementary schools and have eikaiwa with elementary students. I can't imagine anyone in their right mind wanting to be an ES ALT.

I love to sing, act silly, and be friendly. None of those things go over well with my angsty moody ass poor kids. Their lives suck and they don't care about anything.

uthinkimlost?
October 7th, 2015, 15:01
I love to sing, act silly,

That was my least favorite kind of teacher in ES. I went out of my way to be a sh't to them.

Namisuke used to make her SHS kids dance and sing. I've always been surprised nobody stabbed her.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 15:05
That was my least favorite kind of teacher in ES. I went out of my way to be a sh't to them.

Namisuke used to make her SHS kids dance and sing. I've always been surprised nobody stabbed her.

Yeah, I'm not saying there aren't little kids who are assholes.
I'm a god damn choir teacher - it's in my blood to make kids sing. I'm mostly talking about very young kids - if you approach it correctly it's very easy to get them to sing with you.

I have gotten some of my highschool classes to sing with me - although it was much more at their level (I didn't infantalize them)


Little kids should be dancing and singing before life comes along and teaches them that there is something shameful about being happy.

Gizmotech
October 7th, 2015, 16:00
Raven,

I would limit your expectations for long term learning. Any "english activity" you do will probably having lasting benefits, however low ES are "have fun saying funny sounds", high ES are "Can you repeat these 4 basic phrases that are actually hard to translate in simple linguistics (yay highly idiomatic basic sayings)", then they will go to JHS and have all that reset anyways because JHS doesn't trust ES. Keep in mind all of that will be basically reset again in SHS and by that point the kids have lost all interest in English, or are strange.

Also, as Util noted, you won't actually get that much time with the kids at lower levels (like say you would in an ESL support environment back home, or immersion classroom) as it's like what... once every two weeks requirement or something? (ini, what are the specific rules for those "foreign language classes" anyways?)

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 16:05
In short, actual education in the public school system is a mess. I imagine they do well in very rigid environments.

Ini
October 7th, 2015, 19:08
at the moment grades 1-4 can do "international understanding" as part of the "period for integrated study". This is totally up to the BOE/school and can range from 0 times a year to once a week. grades 5-6 have to do 35 lessons of foreign language activities a year. this roughly works out to once a week. Some places manage to schedule an ALT to do every lesson, others rely on visiting JHS ALTs coming once in a blue moon and the homeroom teacher does the other lessons on their own.

uthinkimlost?
October 7th, 2015, 19:11
Yeah, I'm not saying there aren't little kids who are assholes.

I prefer misanthrope‚Äč, tyvm.

Virgil
October 7th, 2015, 20:21
at the moment grades 1-4 can do "international understanding" as part of the "period for integrated study". This is totally up to the BOE/school and can range from 0 times a year to once a week. grades 5-6 have to do 35 lessons of foreign language activities a year. this roughly works out to once a week. Some places manage to schedule an ALT to do every lesson, others rely on visiting JHS ALTs coming once in a blue moon and the homeroom teacher does the other lessons on their own.

Sounds GOLDEN

Ini
October 7th, 2015, 20:27
If you really want to teach ES wait another few years for the new program to get rolled out. Once it goes up to daily english lessons the number of ES placements is likely to skyrocket.

Shincantsen
October 7th, 2015, 22:39
I was a full-time ES ALT placed at one school, and I taught grades 1-6. Everyone here seems to think that teaching in ES is more like being a babysitter, but my town had a curriculum we had to stick to, textbooks, and periodic testing. I wrote lesson plans and was the lead teacher in class - like others said, some of the homeroom teachers were game and did their best to help out, and some just stood in the back of the class and stared into space.

This was in Shiga prefecture, where one of the towns has a special English program. It's pretty rare, but I'm sure it's not the only place out there that has ES-only ALTs. I loved it, and wouldn't have traded my experiences for the world - good luck!

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 23:37
What a good deal for you! Some people seem to leave the JET program feeling bitter, but that's awesome that you loved your more positive experience. It's nice to get different aspects. Was there any room for flexibility in the lessons plans, such as using the arts, or was it more regimented in its approach?

RavenParadox
October 7th, 2015, 23:54
That's pretty how I'd love to be used, using the arts/music to get them to enjoy learning.

Shincantsen
October 7th, 2015, 23:55
Within the curriculum, I had quite a bit of freedom - so as long as I taught the students that particular dialogue and/or vocab, I could do it in whatever way I wanted. There was also some room for extra fun classes - like at Halloween the kids went to the home ec kitchen and made pumpkin pancakes from an English recipe.

Virgil
October 8th, 2015, 08:13
Ahhh that sounds like a great placement.

So I guess we can all take away from this that ESID [emoji14]

webstaa
October 8th, 2015, 08:32
Within the curriculum, I had quite a bit of freedom - so as long as I taught the students that particular dialogue and/or vocab, I could do it in whatever way I wanted. There was also some room for extra fun classes - like at Halloween the kids went to the home ec kitchen and made pumpkin pancakes from an English recipe.

Pointing out one on the other end of the spectrum - my ES is part of an "English Research" program designed to improve English language education. But I'm rather excluded from this program - it's just the HRTs and JTEs. The program was started the year I was hired, so they did 4 months of planning work, after which the 2 years of research and program development have excluded me. For reasons I won't get into here, it was decided that I wouldn't be invited or allowed to join the program.

So when I started, I made the curriculum based on the required textbooks. Which worked great and fit the MEXT goals for ES English activities. That wasn't good enough for this program (which I wasn't informed of or included in) so after the first year, we were switched onto a very set prescribed (and rather terriblely though out) curriculum. The upside is that I don't have to lesson plan anything for ES, and making materials is much reduced (very New Friends oriented.) I can swap out games that won't work with classes of 35 students for simpler or faster ones (instead of spending 5 minutes explaining why this game is a mix of Old Maid and Go Fish, lets play a game they might already know) but otherwise I'm almost completely restricted in terms of what I get to teach. Another upside is that I don't have to teach 1-4 year students, which gives me time to prep instead of having 6 classes a day. ESID

Virgil
October 8th, 2015, 08:37
I would wager that the number of 'less than desirable' placements outnumber the good ones.

There's one ALT in my area that teaches at a public high school with no uniforms, and the students choose all of their classes. I really want to see this magical land.

Gizmotech
October 8th, 2015, 11:21
A school in my prefecture also choose their own dress code (no uniform, but still quite presentable). These schools tend to be non-academic schools though.

FightingNemo
October 8th, 2015, 16:43
A school in my prefecture also choose their own dress code (no uniform, but still quite presentable). These schools tend to be non-academic schools though.

Really?
I work at two academic schools and they are both schools without uniforms, as it seems a lot of the academic schools in my prefecture are. The technical and lower level schools have uniforms...

webstaa
October 9th, 2015, 08:25
Really?
I work at two academic schools and they are both schools without uniforms, as it seems a lot of the academic schools in my prefecture are. The technical and lower level schools have uniforms...

ESID, without a doubt. The top academic schools around here all have VERY distinct uniforms. Both public and private.

starxrox
October 29th, 2015, 15:56
Really?
I work at two academic schools and they are both schools without uniforms, as it seems a lot of the academic schools in my prefecture are. The technical and lower level schools have uniforms...

Did you do anything special to get placed in an academic school?

I'm currently a senior high school English teacher in Australia. Will they carry any weight?

mothy
October 29th, 2015, 16:00
I haven't seen any evidence it makes a difference.

Eta- in terms of academic or not. It probably does make high school more likely.