I feel like I’m a bit late on this post, but my 3rd year on the JET Program is officially over and now my 4th has begun! This past contracted year on JET for the most part was pretty darn good, well….at the beginning hahaha. It’s tough to look back now at all the positives of the year given that I’ve had a really rough time from mid-June to now. I’ve been calling this period the “Great Shaming / Depression of 2017”.
I haven’t been blogging a lot lately because of reasons I stated in my last blog post and of course because of the “The Great Shaming”, but I’ve decided I’m going to try and post more when I can! I started this blog to share my experiences about Japan and my yearly reflection post has been an on-going tradition since 2014, so lets get started shall we?
As I said in my reflection from last year, I’ve noticed that as the years pass, the easier teaching gets. I mean thats’s a pretty basic comment for any type of job really. You learn from your mistakes, get experience, and improve for the future. I have noticed though, that not all teachers at my school do this. They get comfortable. Some teachers (not all) tend to stick to the same old thing they made from years ago and photocopy the same old lesson for each chapter, each year and each semester, over and over, for years and years. Well, unless the textbook changes haha. This pattern is horrible for students because if there was something in that specific lesson that went over the student’s heads or was basically shit, it should be changed….riiight???
A good teacher changes things and improves themselves and their lessons if something doesn’t work, so why settle? Being a good teacher is about knowing that sometimes even when you have an amazing idea, it may not actually work in the classroom. Accepting that is step one, and step two is learning how to change your lessons to your student’s needs. I’m not saying I’m a good teacher (not even close), but I’ve noticed and seen a lot of bad teachers lately. The biggest thing I’ve learned this year is that you have to make lessons for your students, not for yourself (as hard as it is). Even when I was in high school I noticed how some of my teachers would only teach about the things they liked and the things they were interested in but would be completely out of touch with what the general student’s current interests are. This is probably my biggest challenge as a teacher because as I get older I realize I’ve become more and more out of touch with Japanese pop culture. I have no idea what music my students love, or what shows they watch (I don’t own or watch Japanese TV), but I think making an effort to insert some pop culture themes into lessons will make ALTs and teachers alike better at connecting with their students and creating better lessons and relationships. Also given that I’m an ALT who has free range in what lessons I produce and teach, this aspect is extremely important. An ALT who has to stick to a textbook may find this harder but I think even with the textbook working against you, connecting to students through what they like is still possible!
I’m not going to lie though, as a new 4th year JET I’ve become bored with the mundane desk warming and repeat lessons. Because of that, I’ve been focusing on editing and changing my shitty first year lessons as much as possible. I also realize that I’ve started to get bored with the same routine at work and because of that this may possibly be my last year teaching on JET. My decision hasn’t been 100% decided, but I’m very much leaning towards finishing JET at the four year mark. I have several reasons for deciding to finish at year four rather than finishing out the full five, one of my reasons is a really positive one that I’ll reserve for another blog post (some may already know hehe), and another reason is an extreme negative one (completely opposite side of the spectrum) that I don’t feel like I’m allowed to talk about until I finish my contract out. Once my contract ends on JET I feel like I can finally freely share what actually happened during the “Great Shaming / Depression of 2017” so that you (current / future ALTS) won’t make the same mistake as me. Did I let on too much? Ah well.
Life In Japan
After re-reading my second year post I first started to feel like my year wasn’t as good in comparison buuuut we shouldn’t compare anyways. I have to remember, I did a lot this past year. I climbed Mt. Fuji with my new Iwata JETs, took a trip to Taiwan with some close friends, returned back to America to spend time with family and friends during winter, biked over 100 kilometers from Onomichi to Shikoku on one of the most amazing biking travel experiences I’ve had in Japan yet, had a romantic Golden Week trip with my love Tsuyoshi where we travelled to Hikone, Osaka, then to Koyasan, and lastly to Wakayama’s beautiful beaches. For my birthday I was lucky enough to have a chance to stay in a real Disney Hotel (thank you Kristina & Kristina’s mom). I had a full blown (from open to close) Disney experience and really had such a wonderful time. I actually went to Disney three separate times in my third year of JET, which to some people…may sound crazy but if you know me, Disney really does make me the happiest person on the planet haha.
And then…things kinda went to shit from mid June and on….. *Cough cough* —-> “The Great Shaming of 2017”.
Moving on, life in Japan has become easier as the years have gone by. I passed the JLPT N3 on my third attempt haha (found out in early January). I feel like my Japanese language is finally getting somewhere (finally after 7 years of off and on study)…though my reading still needs massive improvement. I’m getting by with daily life fairly easily. I have a routine: gym, run, gym, run, girls night…marathon watch a TV series. And on top of all of that I’ve rediscovered and reconnected with my passion for producing art (as weird and/or bad as it is at this point). I’ve experienced a lot this year, and a lot more is to come. I love my life in Japan though, and most of those reasons contribute to the amazing people I’ve been lucky enough to have in my life.
And a few more favorites:
This year I met some amazing people and I also was able to continue to strengthen bonds with my continuing friendships. As some of you may know, I’ve had a lot of issues with people in the past but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize and accept that people come and go in our lives. If, for example, we lose touch, or lose them for whatever reason, it’s okay. And it’s okay if for whatever reasons you don’t mesh well with someone, honestly, not all of us are meant to get along. The important part is remembering the good memories and cherishing them for how they contributed to our lives when it mattered.
Living in Japan has some drawbacks though when it comes to my relationships back home. I’ve found that I feel that I’ve lost touch with a lot of people but then again, on my recent trip back to the states this August I was able to rekindle friendships and meet some old friends I never thought I’d have to chance to see again. It made me extremely happy. I also learned that being away means you forget things about people, and you forget how people are, and it’s a hard readjustment when you see that some of your old friends are growing further and further away from you. Time is a bitch. I know the bonds I have with my good friends back in America are strong but as the years go by I worry I’ll lose people and slowly but surely I’ll disappear and just be that old friend from college/high school who lives in Japan. Or even worse, I’ll be that old friend who gets used for someones vacation to Japan ten years later (not looking forward to that haha).
That’s the thing about being an expat, especially an expat who knows they will stay in their host country forever, it’s that people often come and go and friendships regardless of how strong they are, are fleeting unless massive work is put in to stay in touch. It’s difficult, but I have to remind myself that memories are important and being present is vital. A true friendship is a two way street, so if one person decides not to put the effort even though you are, it may be time to walk a different path. This is advice I give to others, but also advice I really need to take seriously for myself as well.
Phew, that was a long reflection! If you’ve made it this far you deserve a pat on the back! I hope you’ve enjoyed my blogging thus far, and as I said before, I hope to write a lot more this year so keep your eyes peeled and thank you for reading!