Tuesday, August 21, 2007

my job is changing

Hello All -

This is an actual text-only post - been awhile since I've done one of these.

School starts next week, and this year promises to be somewhat different for me as compared to my previous 3 years here in Taisha.

First, a few words of explanation. Up until last year, ALTs, like myself, on the JET Programme could work for three years. If an ALT wanted to stay in Japan for a 4th or 5th year, he/she would have to apply and be allowed to teach only at shogakko (elementary school) for those last two years. So for most of us that arrived in Japan in 2004, we figured our job was over in July of this year and we'd be heading home.

But then last October, the government office that oversees the JET Programme decided to change the rule about recontracting. Now, any ALT could stay a 4th or 5th year if their original employer also wanted them to stay. No more "shogakko-only" stipulation. This is a bid by the JET Programme to get qualified ALTs to stay on, since the application pool is starting to shrink for new JETs, and in pure business terms, it's much cheaper to have an established ALT stay another year than to have to bring a new ALT in.

So how many of the 3rd year JETs in Shimane decided to stay a 4th year under the new rule? Three. Yep, only three. That's about the same number that usually applied for the shogakko-only position in the past. And of those three, one is a CIR (a different position within the JET Programme that is not the same as an ALT), and one is a former ALT who will now be the ALT PA, or prefectural advisor - a liasion between the ALTs and the Japanese staff and officials who run the programme.

So that leaves me. I am the only 3rd year ALT who decided to stay a 4th year in the same position. And in fact, I will be the first ALT ever in Shimane to be at the same school for 4 years in a row.
Now, if you read this blog somewhat regularly, then you already know that I had wanted to transfer to a High School for my 4th year, but that didn't work out. So I decided to stay in Taisha, in the same job.

But I found out this week when I got back from my vacation in America that my job this year will not exactly be the same.

Yes, I'll still be at Taisha Chu, but I've also be assigned a 2nd Jr High - nearby Hamayama Chu. And it seems that I will no longer be making ANY visits to my 5 elementary schools. Just two weeks a month at Taisha Chu and two weeks at Hamayama Chu. So this a BIG change for me.
Many other ALTs have a similar set-up, so it's not that weird. But it will be for me. But part of the reason I wanted to change to teaching at High School was for a change of routine, so this will certainly serve for that.

Izumo, after spending a lot of money last year and bringing in many new ALTs, this year decided to spend NO money and brought in NO new ALTs. So Chris, Rusty, Ewan, Titia and Eulenda - who all went home in July - are not being replaced. Instead, the remaining ALTs here in Izumo - Hannah, Eric, Angelo, Sam and myself - are splitting up the Jr High schools, with each of us having two, except Sam who now has 3 and Hannah who still has only one, but will also still be going to some large elementary schools.

Hamayama Chu is about the same size as my current Jr High. Both have about 450 kids, which means 4 homeroom classes per grade. My friend Rusty was the ALT at Hamayama, and was their ALT all 3 of his years here, so I know they've had a consistent prescence and a good ALT before me. Hamayama is used to sharing an ALT, since Rusty had 3 Jr Highs his first year, which meant Hamayama saw him every third week, and he had two Jr Highs his 2nd year, so that is a situation close to mine this year.

But what's a little weird is I'm not a "new" ALT - I haven't just arrived in Japan and I'm not new to the classroom. I'm a pretty seasoned veteran by now, so it'll be strange for me to be treated at first like a newbie - having to give my "self-introduction" lesson to all the new classes, having to meet all the new staff including my new Japanese teachers of English - maybe having to go to an "enkai" to welcome me which means having to explain over and over again why I don't eat fish or drink beer.

Having said that, I am excited about meeting new students and having my games and activities and ideas for teaching be evaluated and utilized by new JTEs and students.

What is sad is that I never got to say goodbye at my 5 elementary schools. If we'd have known that I wouldn't be teaching there anymore starting in September, I'm sure we would have had small farewell ceremonies at each of my schools. I also have an English Club at two of my shogakko, so I'm not sure what the status is on those right now. I'd like to continue going to at least the clubs.
My elementary kids are now going have English lessons with local residents - most likely Japanese women, although perhaps some Filipina women as well - who are interested in English. They will get paid a small amount as part-time workers. Not sure how that's going to work out. The few women they employed last year for supplementary "Super English" lessons with the 6th graders all turned out to be well-qualified and decent at English. So if they can find more like them, then perhaps it will be ok.

I'll keep you posted on how things are going at my new school after I start teaching there in late September. And don't be surprised if you start seeing pictures of kids here on my blog in slightly different school uniforms.

So my fourth year is off to an interesting start. If all goes well, and my batteries get a good recharge, I might even consider staying a fifth year. But right now I just want to survive the heat of August, get through Shimane Orientation for the new ALTs and help my Taisha kids prepare for their biggest annual school event - Sports Day.

See you,
Jason

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hey Dude

Sounds like some good changes. Hope you like your new school. It sounds exciting.