Off-Track #29: Let’s Speak English (Jordan Rocke, Hojo High School ALT, 2018-2023)


A photo of Jordan Rocke

Jordan Rocke


At the time this article was published, Jordan Rocke is the ALT for Hojo High School, located in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture. He was also the editor of the Mikan from 2019 to 2023. He had been involved with AJET in many occasions, including a stint as the AJET Vice President for 1 year. On behalf of the AJET team, お疲れさまでした!

What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

Well, it’s come to this! My final post as Mikan Blog editor! I figured I’d have some fun with a farewell post, and brazenly break the rules I normally have about only talking to former JETs. For those who haven’t met me before, my name is Jordan J. Rocke, and I’ve been working in Hojo (and a bunch of other places) for going on 5 years now. I’m originally from the beautiful little city of Canberra, Australia. I have been part of Ehime AJET since 2018, about 3 months after starting JET. I have been the editor of the blog for almost all of that time, except for the year I spent as Ehime AJET Vice-President.

How did you find out about JET, and what led you to apply?

Jordan with friends. Peng is on the left.

Oh man, this gets embarrassing real fast. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that for most current US, Canadian and UK JETs, this isn’t a particularly interesting question. The answer is almost always a Japanese professor/teacher of some kind told them, or they found a recruitment session at a university. For folks from smaller JET participation, I tend to find a wider variety of answers, but still they broadly fall under the same category. That would be way less embarrassing than my answer.

At some point in my time at university (I don’t even remember which degree I was doing) I fell hard down the rabbit hole of the webcomic Let’s Speak English by Mary Cagle. Be warned, just finding the link for this blog involved me spending at least an hour re-reading it. The comic, in brief, is about the experiences of a Texan ALT in rural Miyagi, teaching several elementary schools. It’s funny, it’s cute, it’s engaging, and it has probably been a bigger influence on my personality than I’m willing to admit.


Anyway, when I graduated with a teaching degree, the job market in Canberra was kinda crowded. Canberra is a university city, so a lot of folks do things like go to university for a topic they are passionate about and find interesting, but walk out with a degree that isn’t…super useful. An example, pulled entirely at random and not from my own experiences, would be a degree majoring in modern history and minoring in Latin-American studies. Man, just…so many job options. So, a lot of people (like the completely made up example) end up going for a second degree to become a teacher. The issue then becomes that there’s a glut of people in subjects that aren’t super employable that end up in teaching. So, if you’re teaching maths or science, you’re probably fine, but if you’re teaching history, English, art, etc, there’s quite a few people after those jobs.

A common thing Australian teachers do is take a year off and teach somewhere else where teachers are more in demand. The most popular place, from the people I’ve talked to, was the UK. I…definitely didn’t want to do that. I’m sure I’ll hear something positive about the British education system some day, but it hasn’t arrived yet. So, instead, a friend and I decided apply to teach in Japan together! I looked up the FAQ on Cagle’s webcomic and it suggested trying JET before any other programme in Japan. My friend decided to not apply at the last minute (even thought I still think they’d have had a better chance than me), but against all odds I somehow did get picked!

As for the blog, I ended up kind of taking it on a whim. I wanted to be part of Ehime AJET, originally as a historian, but that position already had a taker. Instead, my friend Kate sold me on taking over the blog. I wasn’t really sure what handling it would entail, but I figured I could try it and see if I liked it. Turns out I did!

Jordan and his friends enjoying a picnic

What did you hope to achieve during your time on JET, and did that change over time?

Jordan and his friends enjoying a picnic 2.

That’s a really good question, me. Honestly, the number one thing I wanted was something for my resume. I suppose I do have that nowadays, although Australia is starved for teachers due to covid, so I don’t really need it that badly.

I guess the main thing I hoped to achieve during covid was trying to keep track of a lot of the roles and traditions we had prior to the pandemic. Things like our enkais, orientation, farewell events, etc, were things I really wanted to keep going, especially considering I was PA during the three years of the pandemic. Despite feeling pretty underqualified for PA, I really wanted to try and keep things going on, and even though I’m not the most organised person on earth, I tried my hardest to provide some form of continuity to the Ehime JET community.

As for the blog, the main thing I wanted to achieve, after I found my footing, was to ensure we got posts every month, two if possible. During covid, this is why I turned to Backtrack and the really untapped resource of former Ehime JETs to ensure that even when folks in Ehime were pretty scarce, I had people to draw upon for articles who could talk about something other than covid and how much it sucked to be living overseas during it. I’m really glad so many folks responded, and kept the blog populated with interesting articles the whole time I was around!

What did you hope to achieve during your time on JET, and did that change over time?

I’m sure this is going to age poorly, and I’m sure after I finish JET properly I’ll have a completely different answer, but I think I feel similarly to some of the JETs I’ve interviewed in that my actual day job is nothing particularly special. I definitely enjoyed it, but I had very few classes in a smaller school, and had more time deskwarming than I particularly would like. Especially coming from teacher placement when the idea of a rest in the middle of a workday is unheard of, adjusting to doing so little was, and continues to be, difficult.

However, the communities have been astoundingly good. I never really had an image of what JETs would be like beyond the handful of peppy, fresh uni grad American women who attempted to make a Youtube career out of their time on JET, but fell off after the apartment tour and maybe a video about one local festival. Sure, there are some folks like that around here, and they’re lovely, but the unbelievable diversity on display in the Ehime JET community, particularly in Matsuyama, is amazing. Meeting people from so many different backgrounds, with so many experiences, goals and ways of perceiving the world has changed me in ways I’m extremely happy with. Despite the nightmare of dealing with Japanese bureaucracy, especially during covid, the wonderful people in the JET community are why I have done a year as RA, then three years as PA. People are great, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve tried to include as many of the people I’ve gotten to know in Ehime as possible in the pics with this article.

In regards to the blog, although we have a very small readership, even by the standards of the size of the Ehime JET community, being the editor has also left me with an extremely positive image of the JET community. The amount of people who have taken the time to write articles about JET events, or especially everyone who has contributed to the Unbeaten Paths, have been so, so appreciated!


One of the biggest concerns for JETs is what they are going to do when they finish JET. Did your plans for after JET change during your time on JET, and if so, how?

Oh man, this one is hard considering I’m still here! I started out expecting to go back to Canberra and become a history teacher, and I’m basically back at that point. For a few years I thought of relocating to the US to teach there, and my first year had me flirting with staying in Japan in some capacity, but neither are where I really want to be.

As for teaching, I still love history, but the idea of working with adults are more and more appealing. Working as a PA and helping other adults was more satisfying than my work with children, and I’d be interested in following that somewhere. My friends also say that maybe I could follow my interest in writing somewhere, but we’ll see if I have the passion for that in the long run. Either way, we’ll see, eh?

Jordan with friends at strawberry picking.

For JETs currently working out what they want to do when they finish, what advice would you give them?

Jordan with another selfie.

I’m going to skip the “what did you do after JET” question because goddamned if I know yet. Take my advice not as someone who has successfully transitioned out of JET, but as someone who has helped quite a few people do that. Here is 90% of my advice:


JET is, except for the absolute rarest of situations, a dead end job. As lovely as the work is, it has a hard line at the end, and in recent years, some BoEs have been bringing that hard line closer to 3 years than 5. If you have an opportunity for a longer-term job? Take it. Feel like a different job would make you happier? Take it. Are the vibes bad? Hit the bricks. No matter how lovely and supportive your CO is, 5 years is going to almost certainly be the hard limit.


That said, to be fair, please give them adequate warning where possible, and I don’t advise burning bridges unnecessarily, but bounce when the timing is right. In most other jobs ditching randomly would be a terrible idea, but there is no future in being a JET, no matter how good you are. Be realistic, and put yourself over your employer when it comes down to it.

All my other advice is to join a union as soon as you can in whatever field you end up working in. Solidarity forever, after all.

That’s it! I’m done!

It’s been a pleasure having edited this blog for the majority of the last 5 years. I hope everyone reading this has enjoyed at least a few of the articles I’ve helped out with, and I have full trust that my successor, Emily, will provide plenty more.


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