The JET Programme

This link will take you to all posts about the JET [Japan Exchange and Teaching] Programme in Japan. Below you'll find a blow-by-blow of all the things I took note of my 5th and final year...

 Honestly, BEST. JOB. EVER.

...Summer 2005 to Summer 2010 - in Junior High and Elementary schools.

*Update* - And one last Jr High Graduation trip in March 2013 to celebrate the last kids I taught in Jr High, graduating from Jr High.  End of an Era.

*Update* - Returned to Japan in March 2011 for Jr High Graduation.

7/28 - Last JET post.  Random last month job stuff.  The last judo tournament I went to.  PTA newsletters are still the best.  Things I'll miss/things I won't.  Last day.  Had something like eight farewell parties - that's a lot of Asahi - so here's the links for all eight.  Last days at my two elementary schools.  My Junior High arm wrestling record.  Last Junior High classes.  Farewell gifts.  Farewell letters.  Last day, last meal & the airport.

7/7 - The kids are simply determined to make my Grinch heart grow at least three sizes - proof here and here.  Aging continues apace, even overseas and despite powers of denial.  The kids, they grow up so quick.  Munchkin attack!  Random Jr High notes and memorabilia.  Laziness + defeating Japanese cultural norms.  Some of my last elementary school classes.

5/17 - The final Jr High Sports Day. The practice. The performance. Also, the cognitive dissonance of school attire.

5/1 - The end of April featured the Bukatsudo Shokai [Clubs/Sports Intro] for the new 1st graders, random compliments and the beginning of the year welcome enkai.

4/22 - The 'death' of the JET Programme and using transsexuals to teach the past tense.  Genius.

4/9 - The Entrance Ceremony and the Welcome Assembly for this year's new batch of Jr High School 1st graders.

4/4 - On meeting former students and not quite getting their reactions.

4/3 - Busy week... my last 'end-of-the-year' Jr High School enkai, with massive teacher and staff turnover...  the annual moving of the desks in the teacher's room... and a spring vacation English class super-happy-fun-time.

3/24 - Actually got these just before the Jr High kids graduated, but just put them online. Seriously, just the best job.

3/23 - I don't know how I made it until this year to learn two of the best games to play with the kids. First - Combat Jan Ken Pon. Jan-ken is the classic rock-paper-scissors used to decide damn near everything in Japan, for folks of all ages. This variation was taught to me earlier this year and I've been playing ever since. Basically, the winner of the janken exchange tries to smack the loser upside the head, the loser tries to block. I am regularly and soundly defeated in this by the girl-children who oppose me. But oddly, usually break even with the boys. Clearly, the Japanese have a genetic gift for this game. J/K. After years of playing it constantly though, they do have faster pattern recognition skills in instantly realizing who the winner/loser is in a particular exchange - hence lower reaction time and faster attacks. Shoot, I still get confused when more than one person plays...

The other game one of my judo kids taught me. It's a push/pull/off balancing game that reminds me of how I was taught to "Indian wrestle" when I was a kid. [Though apparently, according to the Google, "Indian wrestling" isn't actually what I was taught... anyways.] Standing parallel, with both hands raised [double high five style] the point is to push the other off balance, or quickly moving your hands when they try to push you, letting them tumble. Like here.

3/22 - The last week and a half have been filled with all sorts of things, as this year is slowly coming to a close. Most importantly, the graduation of this year's Tsuyazaki Jr High students - possibly my favorite class in all the years I've been here. And I got my yearbook that'll always remind me of these great kids. Then there was the 1st Grader's volleyball class match, which was adorable. The graduation of one of my elementary schools, even though I didn't get to go, I got a cool pic from a fellow teacher. And finally, a nomikai with another English teacher and couple members from the Board of Education.

3/18 - It still trips me out when the English teachers teach all the Jr High kids the word "shit" with all its varied and multiple meanings - if only to differentiate it from the vocab being taught - ["sit."]

3/16 - Class pictures of this year's Jr High graduates. Easily some of my favorite students I've had a chance to teach. Great kids.

And my last day this school year at one of my excellently awesome elementary schools. Good times.

3/13 - Culinary and gustatory growth via living in Japan. I give you, the kumquat!

2/22 - Randomly adorable gifts given me by the munchkins.

2/9 - A typical day at Katsuura elementary.

2/4 - Helping some of my Jr High 3rd graders prep for their high school interviews tomorrow. In 4 1/2 years they've become such amazing little people, full of grown-up hopes and dreams and ambitions. I am swollen with pride and tinged with sadness.

1/23 - A little English learnin' is a dangerous thing. When the young ladies learn "May I ask you a question?" and then use the opportunity to ask "Am I sexy girl?" Yikes. Slightly off-putting coming from a 14 yr old. Luckily my wife has provided me with the appropriate answer - "No, no. Baby girl. Like a small child." Effectively fun counter, that.

1/17 - Just the best PTA newsletters.

1/15 - Shinnenkai with the BOE, teachers and assorted foreigners.

12/24 - Closing ceremonies...

12/22 - Last Jr High Bonnenkai - man that was a lotta alcohol.

12/18 - Arm wrestling challenges against the Jr High 3rd graders during soji-zikan has apparently become an official thing. I remain undefeated, both right and left handed, and my ego thanks Buddha. Though a couple times, when I'm on my fourth or fifth go, and they keep throwing fresh kids at me, it was close. And a couple of the kids are pretty darn strong. The highlight has been though, this week, seeing some of the girls have an arm wrestling go at one another. That was awesome.

12/17 - this year I've had to hunt down on my bike more than one elementary school munchkin who decide to scream out "bald head!" as I bike by, instead of my name. [Ah, the perils of teaching English words...] Yeah, it's correct, as far as it goes, but tone and demeanor are indicative... they never fail to appear appropriately surprised and chastised when I turn the bike around and have a few calm, yet choice words with them. Extracting the "sumimasen" and having them repeat my actual name a couple times gives me a perverse teaching thrill. Good manners cost nothing.

12/12 - One of the best festivals... Elementary school mochitsuki.

12/10 - "You are American. But. You have Japanese soul." - one of my Jr High kids, totally sucking up. But in perfect English, so it counts.

11/29 - Catching up on events from the last month. The Junior High School Bunkasai/Culture Festival. And the Katsuura Elementary/Katsuura Town MaruKatsu Festival.

11/16 - Junior High English teachers celebrating the end of open classes and testing.

11/11 - "GAIJIN SENSO!" - random awesome Japanese elementary schoolchild, while throwing lunchbag and attacking via tackle. I crushed him, of course.

10/16 - I swear, if it's not a genetically Japanese thing, they sure do get them early. To wit; 2nd graders' Dream Sheet - "I want to be an astronaut. I want to go to many planets. I want to take a lot of pictures." You gotta love it when the stereotypes are harmlessly perpetuated.

10/15 - Kids give me stuff. I'm gonna take that as a sign of affection.

10/3 - Speech contesting. The kids rock.

10/2 - Nobody parties like ALTs, JTEs and members of the city's Board of Education.

9/26 - My last time, no joke, for reals Katsuura Undokai/Sports Day. Special to me because, as rightly pointed out by the Mrs, it was the first Sports Day I went to when I came to Japan and also because it's such a small, tight knit community in Katsuura - it's always had a little something extra to it. All day I'd managed to put out of my mind for the most part the fact I'd not be around this time next year. That is until the very end, when one of the kid's grandfathers said "Please join us next year if you can!" At which point it was like somebody reached through my ribs and punched me in the heart. Boo, emotions, you suck.

9/25 - Bulgarian folk dancing, serving as inspiration for the Junior High kids culture festival next month.

9/19 - Buying alcohol from your former Junior High School Students is... different. Whether they're working part time or weren't High School material, a handful of my former kids work at the local supermarket. Which makes me always slightly uncomfortable, even though some of them are pushing 18 and 19 now, buying the Chu-Hi, Beer, Sake or Wine that I pick up. Ah, small town living. I dig it.

9/13 - A week at Elementary School...

9/3 - Teaching Tominaga-kun that while nanpa doesn't really have an exact English equivalent, "picking up girls" is close enough. I'm nothing if not an educator of young minds.

9/2 - First day back in classes... Queen's "I Was Born To Love You" remains the go-to song, for at least 3 years running, in Japanese Junior High Schools to teach the infinitive form - "to + verb." Most impressive? This song has transcended teachers, used by at least 3 different instructors in 5 years.

Also, random 3rd grade girl comes up to me and tells me in English - "We can trip without drugs. Because exist friends." Good to know. Then her friend tries to get her in trouble by saying in Japanese that "...but she's a drug person at the study room at Juku." I'm 99% sure it was a joke. Still, too funny.

You know you're known and loved in your town when, while biking home, the post office truck passes you, looks in the rear view, pulls over to the side of the road and tells you to follow them to the post office because you have a couple packages there.

The mutual bow as you bike past another person on a bicycle?... all kinds of awesome.

Kids who blow you off in class and in the halls, if female, will find a way to love you for the Hannah Montana pencils from America.

Some girls like to feel their classmates hair because it's nice. Kotabe and Torii-san, I'm thinking about you.

9/1 - the back-from-summer-vacation Opening Ceremony - marked with the normal handing out of the awards for the summer tournaments. As usual, Judo, Kendo, Track and Field/Cross Country and Softball all do pretty well and score some certificates and trophies. But the standout of this summer's competitions is the fact that our Girl's Basketball Team took Second Place in both the All-Kyushu AND All-Japan tournaments. Which is way cool.