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Thread: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

  1. #1
    Looking for some chaw acpc2203's Avatar
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    Default Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Can some current and/or former JETs give a brief rundown on some of the pros and cons of the different school levels?

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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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.
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    I really hope Japan doesn't turn me into this.

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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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.

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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by naginataonthebrain View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Libellule View Post
    I really hope Japan doesn't turn me into this.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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~ 

    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.

  6. #6
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    ES

    Pros


    Cons


    JHS

    Pros


    Cons


    SHS

    Pros


    Cons
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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...

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    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Jiggit View Post
    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.
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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.
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by naginataonthebrain View Post
    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!

  12. #12

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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?

  13. #13

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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.'
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    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

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    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    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.
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    The Sun's Bird God..what? Zolrak 22's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    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.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    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?
    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.

  18. #18
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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    Gizmoduck - blatherskite Gizmotech's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    Quote Originally Posted by Ini View Post
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cytrix View Post
    Organising anything with ALTs is like herding cats on catnip

    Quote Originally Posted by Antonath View Post
    We Jeeperneez are express all emotion through money. Wedding is happy money. Funeral is sad money. Izakaya is friendship money. Girl-bar is almost-sex money. But babby-borning is bery happy money, as no babby in Japan. All babby is special so we is givings much money as presento for babby.

  20. #20
    Billy Big Bollocks Ini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pros and Cons of teaching different school levels

    it wouldnt be an answer to a JET question if I couldnt shoehorn ESID in there somewhere
    Great men of action never mind on occasion being ridiculous; in a sense it is part of their job.

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