My First Week Teaching Junior High School English in Japan
Still with Interac, I’ve switched schools now that my 2016-2017 school year contract is up. I’ve switched from elementary to junior high, and while I’ll make an in-depth comparison post eventually, for now I’m going to talk about my first week at my new junior high.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been at a junior high. I actually started at one my first year of teaching. When I moved branches, I was moved to elementary school. It was okay, but due to some issues regarding staff and scheduling, I decided to switch schools. I made sure to specify a junior high.
Because I was going to a new school, I was subject to another first time meet and greet. But I’ll be talking about the week after that. My first week scheduled with actual classes. I was scheduled to start work at the beginning of the school year (Spring contract) from Monday, April 10, so I’ll start from then.
My first day, the 10th,
I didn’t have any classes. I wasn’t expecting to, as it was the first day of classes for everyone. I was told to wear a suit because we’d be doing school pictures. That’s all I ended up doing. I brought some stuff from home to put in my desk, and I organized it a bit, but in reality there was nothing much that I had to do.
However, the teacher in charge of my SLP (Scheduled Lesson Plan, which basically told Interac and myself which classes I’d be teaching for that week) still hadn’t submitted it yet. I asked about it the previous week because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t scheduled for anything on Monday. But I didn’t get anything. I was going to just ask my school, but the teacher in charge wasn’t at his desk the entire day! I finally called the company and Interac promised it to me by Tuesday.
My second day, Tuesday the 11th,
I got my SLP (and an apology) from the Eigo Tanto (the scheduler) who was making my schedule. I still didn’t have anything from Interac. I looked at my schedule and saw I was scheduled for one class second period. The scheduler said if I wasn’t prepared, he could move it to another day. But I figured something like this was going to happen, so I prepared an “about me” quiz and my introduction cards so I was okay. Class went pretty smoothly. (Much better than my first junior high attempt at a self introduction lesson my first year...)
I should note that my school is a larger school (5 first year classes, 6 second year classes, and 5 third year classes) so there are two ALTs at my school on Tuesdays. So I got to see the second ALT. He’s been at this school for like 5 years or something like that, so he was able to help with my questions. I was really grateful that he was there because I had a lot of questions that I didn’t have the answer to.
My third day, Wednesday the 12th,
I was starting to get the hang of things. They changed up the morning greeting today, though. Usually, we stand and greet the principal and vice principal when the bell rings then go into the grade-level morning meetings. However, I found out they don’t do that on Wednesdays. There are no announcements on Wednesdays.
My classes went well. I started to get the hang of JHS again (despite me still talking in elementary-level sentences). I only had two morning classes that day, so I had the rest of the day to do whatever I wanted.
However, this was also the day that my school decided that I needed to come with them off-campus for an English meeting. Apparently, a few times a year, my city holds a meeting with all the JTEs in the city. My school decided I needed to go. I was the only ALT there but I did see a few teachers from my old school which was nice.
It wasn’t on my schedule originally (they only told me that day) and so I called Interac. Interac decided that I should go since my school wanted me there. I’ve already complained to Interac about it and am hoping to hear back soon. (Update: Interac apologized, as did the school, and I was told I didn’t need to go to those again.)
My fourth day, Thursday the 13th,
I had my first third year class. I hated going to third year at my last junior high school, but that was because I didn’t like the teacher at all. There was still a bit of trauma left over so I was apprehensive. But class went well (although it was a bit quiet) and I’m not going to complain about that.
My second period was with the second years. (Still giving those self-introductions.) But, my second period was also with my first period teacher. Even though she’s not a second year teacher, my school practices team teaching… Which means that there are times when three teachers will be in the room (ALT, head teacher, secondary/team teacher). Seems like a waste of time, in my opinion.
My fifth day, Friday the 14th,
was pretty uneventful. By Friday, I had seen every second year class and was moving on to finishing the third years. This was the first class that I had extra time at the end to use the introduction cards I had prepared. In the end, it only took up an extra 5 minutes or so, and one class had no questions for me, so it was kind of awkward.
I ended up asking the students some questions like “What’s famous in [the city I teach in]?” and got lukewarm responses. For me, Q&A time at the end is a real tossup. Sometimes, classes will get really into it and ask interesting questions, which makes it fun… And sometimes, you get no questions at all, which makes standing up in front of the students just an awkward waiting game.
it was a good first week. I already ran into a few small annoyances, but I’m trying to look past them, or deal with them head on by bringing the issues up to Interac early. In my years of experience, if you give schools an inch, they’ll take a mile. So don’t make any concessions early, or they’ll expect it from you every single time.
I’m still getting the hang of things here, but I am cautiously optimistic.
...Well, let’s see how next week goes.
Originally published in June 2017 on Blogger