This is always the big questions many newbie JETs have. What will my work day be like? I know you’re gonna hate to hear this but… ESID (Every Situation is Different). Never fear, for what I can tell you about it my work experience to give you a rough idea on what you can expect.
Related: JET Program: Tokyo Orientation FAQ
You will work Monday through Friday. It’s always important to arrive early. The morning meeting begins promptly at 8:30. During this time, “Ohayou gozamasu’s” are exchanged and teachers take designated seats in the meeting room. Before the meeting starts, look for important paperwork like an updated schedule and a meeting paper detailing things talked about during the fifteen or so minutes at the meeting. Homeroom teachers attend their homeroom classes and cleaning time begins at 9:00.
Related: Advice for Moving to Japan
I taught at a public high school and my classes ranged from 12-15 per week, but in other situations, it can be as high as 22. My classes ranged from first through third grade (sophomore-senior). If you can, arrive five minutes early, write the date on the board and the agenda for the day. As a teacher, routine is helpful. Open class with by wishing everyone a good morning or good afternoon. Ask them how they are or how their weekend was. Learn their names by taking attendance. Since I have forty students in each class, this helps to learn names and establish rapport.
Related: Japan Thrival Guide
It’s always a good idea to have some sort of reward system. (Yes, even for older kids.) In my classes, I had a stamp card. When students participate, they receive stamps regardless of whether or not they are correct. The point is to get them to try and speak English. Once their stamp sheet is filled, they have the option of getting candy or three points extra credit on a midterm or final exam. This gets students motivated for English and helps the shyer students speak.
During lunch time, most teachers will eat with the other teachers in their office. You can bring your own or buy a bento from the lunch cars or shops around the school. Use this opportunity to listen and make friends. You never know who will take a liking to you.
Related: How to Deal With Culture Shock
I was expected to run an English club while I was the ALT. This may seem daunting because you never know what to expect or what will happen. Try to pass out a survey of what the kids want to do. I made one and asked if they wanted to learn cursive, learn songs, cook, watch movies, or have parties.
Not everyone cares about English
On a last note, not all of the students are going to care about English class. My advice is to focus on the students who do and have fun. I have a pretty great sense of humor when it comes to my students and they are always getting me laughing. Whenever an activity doesn’t work, learn from it. Reflect. Try to figure out what went wrong and modify the activity or throw it out. JET is a wonderful experience and you should enjoy every moment.
Related: How to Survive Winter in Japan
Some people have easy work days with great students. Others have naughty students who smoke behind the school and cut class. The goal of JET is to internationalize Japan and have foreign teachers represent their host countries. JET is an amazing program with so many benefits and experiences. I hope this helps you on your endeavors of what to expect!