As an elementary school ALT, I’ve played many roles. I have been the tape-recorder: reading dialogue from a script as the children fidget and try to match pictures to numbers based on what I’m saying. I have been the planner. I have prepared materials and designed lessons. I have adjusted things between classes and addressed problems that came up unexpectedly. I have been a kind of class pet: little children literally climbing on me, pulling at my hair, shouting for my attention, comparing hand and foot sizes, marvelling at my non-brown eyes and occasionally trying for that elusive kancho – and that’s where I draw the line.
By Ma. Antonette Lofamia
A few weeks before leaving for Japan, I found out from my predecessor that I would be teaching in five high schools within the Nanyo B region and two special needs schools. Now, I already expected that there would be quite a bit of travel involved in the position since it’s not uncommon for ALTs to have more than one school but teaching in a special needs school wasn’t something I was ever prepared for—hence the panic. While my degree provided a short course on special education, I only had theories and no hands-on training in an environment with special needs learners.
By Josiah Ng
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?”
By Cassandra Mainiero
When I submitted my re-contracting response to the Japanese
Exchange and Teaching (JET) Progamme, my elementary kocho-sensei asked one question.
“Only one year?”
“Yeah,” I sighed, feeling disappointed. “It’s a family obligation.”
By Tim van Gardingen
What’s in a name? Or, in the case of Japan, what on earth is the name in the first place? I found out the hard way just how tricky a Japanese name can be.
Names are important. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have never forgotten a person’s name, even of those who he only ever met once. I assume the reporters meant twice, as with those he met only once, there’s no way to tell. I can tell two things for certain from this: Lincoln understood the power of names, and Lincoln never had to learn the names of Japanese school children.