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Thread: Questions Regarding School Placements

  1. #1

    Default Questions Regarding School Placements

    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!

  2. #2
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.
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  3. #3
    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    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.
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  4. #4
    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.
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  6. #6
    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    Why young kids? Older kids can be much more interesting.
    I once thought like this.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member ambrosse's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.

  9. #9

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    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.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    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.

  11. #11

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by RavenParadox View Post
    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.
    Last edited by uthinkimlost?; October 7th, 2015 at 13:33.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    But what if we reverse the polarity of the quantum string theory? According to uncertainty principle there are infinite worlds out there, so it stands to reason schrodinger's cat is alive in one of them.


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    U da real mvp.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by webstaa View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by webstaa View Post
    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.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    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 :<.

  14. #14
    Fit via vi Virgil's Avatar
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    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    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.
    Last edited by Virgil; October 7th, 2015 at 13:56.
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  15. #15

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    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.

  16. #16

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Virgil View Post
    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.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Frap View Post
    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.
    Last edited by RavenParadox; October 7th, 2015 at 14:36.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by RavenParadox View Post
    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!

  19. #19

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by Frap View Post
    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.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    But what if we reverse the polarity of the quantum string theory? According to uncertainty principle there are infinite worlds out there, so it stands to reason schrodinger's cat is alive in one of them.


    Quote Originally Posted by Apollo87;
    U da real mvp.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Questions Regarding School Placements

    Quote Originally Posted by uthinkimlost? View Post
    ...and I hate you.

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