Oct 20, 2018

First encounter with the school workplace environment

First encounter with the school workplace environment photoMy first experience working in Japan was with JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching). The JET program has an orientation for staff before they head off to their assigned prefectures.

While lots of good information is provided during the JET orientation, and they also host workshops, it really didn't prepare me for what I needed to do. I had never taught a class before nor had I ever made a worksheet. These are just a couple of the hurdles I faced made harder by the fact that when I got to my school many of the teachers there assumed that I had had plenty of training, instead of just two days of seminars.

Luckily though, Japan has this nifty little way of introducing new workers into their environments. 

Any workplace environment, be it a school or a new business, will always have the newbies come in and just observe. For the first few weeks that's basically what you're supposed to do. Part of me wishes that I would have been a little more observant during my observation period. The very unfortunate part though, at elementary school where I taught, even though I was a brand new teacher, was that they just sort of threw me into the classroom and expected me to know what was going on.

I had to scramble about initially because most of the teachers at the school expected me to make the entire lesson plan for every class. The elementary school teacher I was paired with kind of expected me to do everything.

It actually turned out to be a great experience for me, forcing me to think on my feet. And while during the first 6 months of teaching at that school I had so many panic attacks and had lots of emotional problems and stress, because of this I wound up becoming a better teacher.

It gave me the opportunity to see what I needed to do and during my second year there I even made the entire curriculum for that school.  I was given full power to do whatever I wanted after having learned (sort of) what to do through that initial observation period, and was able teach rather well for the remaining four years that I taught at the school.

My middle school was still a struggle though, because I wasn't actually expected to do much. However, I kept trying and struggling, pushing through and observing and it ended up working out well.

I love that cultural aspect of Japan that everybody is expected to be able to sit and observe and not actually do anything.  If you weren't raised in that sort of environment though, and you're expecting somebody to teach you and tell you what to do, it might be kind of hard to get to know rules and ways of doing things that are unfamiliar to you through observation alone.  However,  I've learned that if somebody is trying to reprimand me or school me, or isn't getting along with me maybe due to a misunderstanding, and I just tell them that I've never encountered the issue at hand before, most of the time the person is way more understanding.

It also becomes a great opportunity to teach them that there may be a different way to do approach the issue.  So, think my most used phrase now is, "Ee! Mitakotoganai" (ええ!見たことがない).  "I've never seen this before". 



American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too