Friday, August 24, 2007

Sports Day prep - Aug 2007 - #2

Members of 3-4 class working on their dance routine for our upcoming Sports Day.

The 9th graders have to come up with a 5-min routine, that includes a class cheer, and then teach the routine to the 8th graders and 7th graders next week.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

pics from the 9th grade Sports Day in July

Mai - SLAM! - 4.jpg
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

For three days in July, my Jr High has a grade-specific sports day for each grade in the school.

On this day, the 9th grade boys played basketball and the 9th grade girls played volleyball - competing in a double-elimination tournament with all the homerooms.

I missed the 8th grade tournament this year - I had to go visit an elementary school that day, but I did get a bunch of pics of the 7th graders, which I hope to post soon.

Click on this great shot of Mai going up for a SMASH to be taken to my Flickr page to see about 50 more pics from this hot, hot day in the gym with my 9th graders.


Sports Day prep - Aug 2007

This is how I spent a good chuck of my day today - walking around in our very HOT school, watching the kids prepare for Sports Day, which is Sept. 7th.
The kids have three basic tasks right now - prepare the very large poster to represent their class and team, make their costumes and come up with a 5-min dance routine.
I'll be shooting lots of video over the next two weeks as my kids prepare, so check back for more updates.
This is the first video I've posted that was shot with my new Flip Video camera that I bought when I was home in America. I think the picture quality is pretty good and the sound is better than my regular digital camera, but the sound is also a little "tinny" when compressed for upload to You Tube.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rina, Yuki and Ayumi at the Taisha summer festival

Rina, Yuki and Ayumi
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Last Wednesday, the 15th, my small town held its annual summer festival, called the "goen matsuri."

This year was my 4th year to attend. I was joined this year by my fellow Taisha ALT - Ang - and another teacher - James - who teaches at the NOVA language school in Izumo - and another teacher - my former JTE - Yamamoto sensei, or Hanae as I call her now.

We all met up on the main street in Taisha town at about 4pm, and it was HOT - 30.C +!
We walked around, saw the vendors and food sellers and I saw many of my students. We stuck around until it got dark and more of Ang's students started to appear, since she teaches at Taisha High School and the older kids wait until it's dark to come out - they must be wiser about it being cooler by a little bit after the sun goes down.

Many of my kids dress up in summer kimono - called "yukata" or "jinbei" - and walk around with their friends eating snow cones and taking a break from thinking about school.

I took a bunch of pictures again this year, so you click on the one above and be taken to my Flickr site.
I also shot a few video clips which I hope to have up on YouTube soon.


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,

Saturday, August 18, 2007

another benefit to staying a 4th year...

12th graders
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I'll get to go to the graduation ceremony for the kids who were my first group of 9th graders when I arrived in 2004.
Their high school graduation in March of 2008 will be the first class to include kids I taught at the Jr High level.

Looking back, I didn't get to know that first group of 9th graders very well. I was their ALT for only 7 months. And everything was so new and overwhleming for me, it was really tough to strike up any lasting bonds with those particular students. Plus, they were in the final months of their Jr High career, which is a stressful time for Japanese students as they have to prepare for their very important High School entrance exams.

But I did manage to connect with a few of the kids in that first graduating class, and I hope to attend Taisha HS's graduation ceremony next March to see some of them get their diplomas.

And I still run into some of them on occasion - out at a restaurant or at karaoke or in the supermarket or at a festival.

Like Arisa and Yasuka in the pictures here. The one above is from this year - their final year of high school. The one below was taken in the summer of 2005, just after they had graduated from my Jr High and were in their first year of high school.

It was great to see them again and I wish them the best of luck in their upcoming exams and life decisions.


4 Taisha HS students