Starting in September, I’ll be teaching a whole new bunch of children.
I guess being away from teaching and from students for a month and half has made me less sad over leaving my old schools (among other things), but what I will miss is the familiarity that I finally gained from being there for a year. It’s the life of a JET in Ono, as well as for many JETs throughout Japan. Some JETs are lucky (or unlucky) that they get to stay at designated schools for their entire time; their visits don’t change. As for me, I’ll be transferring to a different school (or schools) within the city every year. It’s a good and a bad thing, I guess.
My concerns for this year are small, but they are things that I need to get used to.
One is mode of transportation. Last year, I had to get used to riding a bike; in the rain, in the snow, in the wind, and in the scorching heat. This year, I have to take a bus. My schools are so far away that riding a bike would just be way too exhausting (though a previous teacher had done it before).
While taking a bus is nothing new to me, I was a little nervous about it at first since it wasn’t something I did a lot in Japan. The train was always the easiest mode of public transportation in Japan, and I never thought to take a taxi or ride a bus. But since I have to now, it’s something that I have to learn a little bit about. It’s not hard, really. Well, it’s not for me since I’ve lived here for sometime, and because the person who taught at my schools helped me get my bus card as well as told me the basics of which stops I need to get off, charging the card, and taking a receipt to the BOE so that they can reimburse me for the total expenses. I just calculated earlier today that my cost of commuting per month is around 17,000 yen, which is significant. Just a few days ago I went to Sannomiya and just put in 10,000 yen, just so I don’t have to worry about not having enough for the bus fare for a while.
Another concern–a much bigger one–is getting used to a new class procedure. The curriculum is generally the same, and most of the materials available are as well. But I’ve noticed slight changes in how classes seem to be run, and I’m sure that there must be a slightly different array of things that the students are familiar with. For example, at one of my schools I had a class of 4th graders who were super-familiar with three different picture books, while the classes at my other school had only read one of those three. I also didn’t have the 5th and 6th grade English textbooks at one of the schools until they just got them in April.
At one of my new schools, the 5th and 6th graders almost exclusively learn out of their textbooks. This makes planning lessons extremely easy, but at the same time I still have to figure out ways to make the class interesting. I also have to deal with these “point cards” that a lot of the classes are using…we didn’t have them at either of my old schools. Yet another thing I have to get used to.
Talking to my co-workers. At my old schools, I rarely consulted with any of the teachers about class beforehand, unless it was something about whether the children needed colorpencils, or if class was going to be held in the library area instead of their classroom. Apparently at one of my schools, there are these “after-school meetings” with homeroom teachers of each grade. My supervisor said that, while they’re scheduled for just about every week, they really only occur maybe once or twice a month due to everyone being busy. While I do like that there is a schedule for consultation (which I think is a step in the right direction as far as “team-teaching”), it puts a little bit of pressure on me to have lessons and ideas planned in advance. But this shouldn’t be too difficult, I suppose.
I’m still in “summer slump” mode. The actual teaching part of my job is fine; it’s the lesson planning that’s kind of a pain. But once the school year starts, I’ll have to get into work mode whether I’m ready or not.