When I first applied to JET, the question of “What sort of person becomes a JET?” was not at the forefront of my mind, but I certainly had an image. The image I had, of a young, straight out of university, genki American or British person, was certainly reinforced the sorts of people who appoint themselves representatives of the programme on social media.
In her poem “Nothing Lasts,” American poet
Jane Hirshfield writes: ” ‘Nothing lasts’—/ how bitterly the thought
attends each loss. / “‘Nothing lasts’ – / a promise also of consolation.”
While Hirshfield may have not been speaking
about the JET program, her words are applicable here. There are good and bad
days in the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program. There are things, people,
and moments that you love as much as there things, people, and moments that you
detest. You can be bitter that it doesn’t last. You can also be relieved.
As I reestablish my life in America, I am
reflecting on Hirshfield’s words, and considering all the things I miss and
don’t miss about JET. Here’s what I collected:
Japan’s ministry of education announced earlier this week that it would again increase funding for its bread baking programs run out of the department of home economics, making it the most well-funded school culinary program in Japan and more funded than any baking program run by its neighbors to the west, China and South Korea. The funding comes on the heels of a recent third-party review of Japan’s baking education which concluded that the Japanese student graduating from high school are less competent at baking than other students in east Asia and thus unable to compete in the growing demand for baking internationally. Now, instead of baking education beginning upon entrance into middle school, this decision starts baking classes two years earlier, or fifth grade in elementary. Eventually it seeks to by 2020 have children as young as third grade measuring flour and singing “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”
I remember when I first came to Japan and
heard stories of wild and crazy things that would happen to JETs; unexpected
adventures that would happen or strange gifts that they were given just for the
fact that they were one of the sole representatives of a different nation in
their town. They were the kinds of stories that were hard to believe because
they sounded so extreme, so they must be rare or non-existent.
My name is Lee Anne Ledwell and, as I’m sure most of you are aware, I was the Ehime AJET President from 2018-2019. Together with the current president, Laura Beardslee, we were able to rejuvenate Ehime AJET into the blossoming organization you know today. I wanted to take the time to write out this article explaining everything that has happened with Ehime AJET from its resurrection to what our council has accomplished this year to where I hope future councils will lead us.
For this article, I tried to thing of an interesting perspective I could provide here. In the past, I’ve talked with some first year Primary or Junior High ALTs who didn’t know much about the Senior High School (SHS) system. I figured I might be able to help out by giving everyone an idea about how SHS work, and what teaching at a SHS is like, at least in my experience.
I woke up this Christmas Eve with a new anticipation. Instead of performing the traditional caroling and cookie decorating with my family, back in America, I would be traveling to Matsuyama Castle as a Samurai.
On an empty train station platform in rural Japan, there is a poster pasted on the wall with a message in imposing red letters: “Stop Karoshi!” Karoshi is a phrase meaning ‘death by overworking’, and the concept has become so normalised that it has entered the Japanese lexicon. The phenomenon, despite efforts to counter it, appears set to stay.
At first glance, the Japanese government appears to be working hard to battle the nation’s unhealthy working hours, but its current approach is at best superficial and at worst a purposeful avoidance of the problem.
“Failing is just as sweet as success. I’ve tried them both and have no preference. So open your eyes and scan the horizon. Pick a direction and don’t stop driving.” -From Autumn to Ashes
I actually do have a preference, and that’s success. But seriously, for much of my life, I have felt almost limitless. I scan the horizon, consider my options, and zoomed in, I can see only a few prospects as someone with a degree in psychology: social work, graduate school, or a monotonous office job that I would probably hate. Zoomed out, I can choose from a variety of jobs, go back to school, and do literally anything I want. It’s never too late. I’m lucky enough to have my groceries, utilities, and rent covered so if I get a job, it would be relatively easy to find a new direction. Zoomed out even more, I could apply to schools and jobs abroad, travel, anything. Whatever I decide to do, though, the most important thing is to pick something and follow through. That’s what I do when I find myself floundering. Just pick something and stick to it.