So, it’s getting to the end of the school year and I don’t know about you but this always throws me off mentally. Having been born in Canada, I’m used to the school year starting in September and so I’ve always had my mental ‘year’ start in September. “I did that last year.” (read: before September)
Japan, on the other hand, considers April a time of new beginnings. It’s when every company has its change-over of staff and when the fiscal year begins.
As the school year starts, the new ALTs will get to look forward to Soubetsukai Farewell Parties and Kangeikai Welcome Parties as teachers are shuffled between schools. I remember tearing up as my favourite teacher left, but I was most nervous about my first day of school after the new teachers arrived. I’m not a high school JET so I’m not stationed at the schools. As such, I arrive after all the formal introductions – full of ‘yoroshiku’s and bowing – have occurred. I wanted to make a good first impression on the new teachers. So, ….naturally, at my first school I completely forgot all about it and didn’t realize until I was leaving for the day.
*Looks at the Kyoto-sensei*
“Oh! That’s right! It’s my first time this school year!”
*Turn to the rest of the teachers, smile all embarrassed and bow* “Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu. I’m really looking forward to working with everyone.”
*Smile as everyone repeats it back, smiling kindly, then leave and close the door.*
*Facepalm* That could’ve gone better.
So, don’t be me. Remember to do your introductions when you first walk in to the staff room. A little ‘Kotoshi mo yoroshiku onegai shimasu’ goes a long way.
Another thing to look forward to is the switching of classes. For those who haven’t been in a teaching/classroom environment before, you’ll have to bear with some of the classes as the students and teachers get used to each other. Some of my better behaved classes were super boisterous at the start of the year. A perk of the job, however, is that you have likely taught these students in the previous grade so, for the first little while, you will know them better than their teachers. My teachers appreciate me giving them heads up about certain students, and it’s fun sharing inside jokes from last year.
For those teaching at elementary schools, you may encounter teachers who are teaching English – specifically Hi Friends! – for the first time. Be patient with them as they will likely be nervous and be leaning on you for guidance in how to teach the textbook. This is a great time to gently give them advice and tips based on what you’ve learned. For example, many teachers don’t realize all the features that are hidden in the digital Hi Friends textbook, or aren’t sure how to best teach the listening sections that throw new vocabulary at the students. A guiding hand can make all the difference for the impact of lessons when you’re not there.
Finally, junior high schools are getting new textbooks! The government has promised more internationalization and a focus on speaking. I got a glimpse of the New Horizon and I like it a lot more than the current edition of Sunshine that I’m using, but I’ll let you make your own judgments on whether it’s better or not. I’m personally looking forward to seeing if it has a positive impact on my students’ learning and figuring out how best to teach the material along with my JTE – who is also using it for the first time. It might be super fun!! … or we might go down in flames like the Lindenberg…Wish me luck!
Here’s hoping you have a great start to your new year!
Melissa Masson is an ALT in Izumi, Kagoshima.