Last year I wrote a number of posts reviewing my year in different ways. This time I’m going to condense it down into a single post. Mostly because I think after a second year of JET there is in many ways less to write about as you are no longer jumping over new hurdles but rather old and slightly worn ones.
I think the first thing to address is my post about this year’s goals, which I foolishly made specific instead of general, with the intention of specific goals are achievable goals. So the goals were to pass the Japanese language proficiency test Level 3, attend 4 fighting game tournaments in Niihama, attend a Dragon Quest X gay game night in Tokyo, hit 3 towns from Yakitate Ja-pan, and finally interview another Japanese developer.
I managed to fail all of these, but I did keep in the spirit of many of them:
This seems like it’s almost silly in terms of how this is being broken down right? While writing this I am concerned this is going to be a more detailed than social side of things?
So, when I got to Japan, the bicycle I got was… terrible. Awful. I foolishly assumed the problem was me, but the problem was a bicycle that was fundamentally not build for me. So, after a few days and more blood than I was prepared to lose I gave up entirely on the bike. Assuming that at my current size I was just not cut out to ride a bike. My trouble with cycling back in Australia prepping for the trip was equally terrible, helping that assumption.
This naturally resulted in me walking to most of my schools. Which I am extremely glad I did. Thanks to those walks I had the time to greet students, I had the chance to take so many great photos and just stop and enjoy the scenery. It also made me a little famous as many people saw me walking to school(s) each day. Which helped add a little more conversation into my daily life. Although it only made the summer worse. Once the weather was less cruel, I loved exploring Saijo by foot. And thanks to that time I spent, even going so far as to talk to the next city (12km), I enjoyed getting to know the area by foot.
This is the real meat of the year I guess. Teaching is after all what I am here for.
I feel I have certainly come a LONG way in teaching since I started. Particularly with Elementary Schools. Junior High School, I must admit I struggle with a little more than I should, and never feel like I am improving. I suffer from trying to engage the students in anything more interesting than hi how are you, and even if I know they know the grammar, it takes so much work to get anything more from most students. This is only really a problem at one of my middle schools but it is frustrating.
However, I am a lot better at getting classes without much energy to have a little more, I make a lot of students smile during some of vocab repeat stuff using different pitches and tones which I enjoy, and many students seem to too. My activities, once people understand them, seem to go over well with teachers and students. Sometimes the nature of the specific grammar point means making a “fun” activity is a little more challenging or forced, but usually, despite feeling like a number of my Junior High students really don’t like me and are trying to put me off during classes (which is sadly effective) I am generally getting through and students talk about me fondly when I am not there supposedly. On the flip side though, I feel like I get along with most of my Junior High School teachers really well. Which helps me get through the classes.
Of course, one of the best things about going to a new place is meeting new people! … ish.
Personally, I have never really very good at making new friends. The combo of generally not following the same media as everyone else, having niche interests and a disinterest in drinking don’t help that much. However, so far I feel I have pretty well on the making friends front given my usual self. Karaoke is also a big help here, as while others might say you need alcohol to have it work, I just love singing!
I think for every JET, not matter their ability, language is a great and consistent battle.
Even if you can speak well, kanji are a minefield. While I don’t use a dictionary everyday in Japan now, most days I do. And I either consider a victory or day of not enough Japanese conversation if I don’t use it. There is always something that crops up where I need a little boost to work out what it is that is going on. Language, particularly early on was a stress for me. I didn’t really study much in the lead up, and so the first 2 months or so were mostly me just getting used to speaking and using the language regularly again.
I questioned how much this was worth adding. But, overall this is one of the biggest things I think JET through at me that I wasn’t expecting to be so big.
There were a lot of reasons why I didn’t think this would get to me. My family were always quiet when growing up. Sure we’d interact without hesitance, but usually we all kept to ourselves in some way especially from year 7 onwards. And me and my housemates during university usually all kept to ourselves too.
What I hadn’t realized, and what was maybe the biggest shock, was how much I valued being alone together. Which I know sounds silly.
A year in review oddly enough starts before the year is finished. That’s because I am actually arbitrarily deciding my JET experience really started in late June/early July. Basically once I bought the first clip on Koala for the trip, that was the starting point. This is the first of a whole set of year in review articles which will be emerging over the next few days.
I found the lead up to getting to Japan incredibly stressful in many ways. I was concerned about money for starters. And while I had been to Japan 3 times before, and thus felt I knew what I needed… I haven’t been in Japan before as anything more than a student. So concerns over expectations as a teacher caused a lot of concern. Those who had me on close friends on facebook noticed a varied of colourful language quickly deleted, reposted, deleted, new foul language etc, but I feel I made no mistakes with what I packed and requested sent ultimately. Although perhaps I didn’t quite need to buy as many clothes in advance as I did? In the lead up I basically bought an entirely new wardrobe that could cope with some weight loss or gain. Which wasn’t cheap. Unfortunately, a number of cheap pants I bought developed holes too quickly. One of which had a seam just die in such a fashion I needed a fairly dramatic repair using safety pins to fix it. It worked of course! But, it wasn’t something that thrilled me to say the least.