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High School Base
Transcript of High School Base
Takes charge of events like the School Festival, Sports Days, new student welcome, etc., organizes the cheering section for the interschool championships, and runs the Student General Meeting.
Take attendance and pass on information to the students.
Act as counselors for the students about their future/club activities.
Run homeroom activities and take charge of the class.
Teachers that don’t have a homeroom may be backup homeroom teachers
Step in in case of absence
Join the class during events.
The teachers are also divided into departments that take on certain responsibilities. They will vary by school, but it’s probably something like
Curriculum and Instruction (class schedule and curriculum, student records, exams)
General Affairs (monthly assemblies)
Student Guidance (uniforms, discipline, future planning)
Health and Safety (cleaning)
Keep the grounds, make repairs, clean the hallways before school, shovel snow, lock the doors during and after school.
Structure of a High School
High School Base
Saille Bishop-Legowski, Hokkaido Board of Education
Sapporo Ei Ai High School (base), Sapporo Takuhoku High School
2nd-year JET from Canada
July 21 - Marine Day
Entrance Ceremony and assembly to welcome 1st graders.
3rd grade final exams.
Second term begins, with official opening ceremony.
Your school will have a student dress code. Decide if you want to enforce it or not. Also, out of commiseration I don’t wear things they’re not allowed to - makeup, curled hair, earrings, colour or circle lenses - but it’s up to you.
Inside shoes tend to be runners or slip-ons, occasionally sandals or crocs.
I’d say avoid cleavage and watch your co-workers when it comes to shoulders.
These are guidelines, the best thing to do is to watch what other teachers wear. When in doubt, ask. Err on the side of dressing more formally.
Ask when picture day is, so that you don’t get caught having worn flip flops to school like I did!
The school day starts with a morning teachers’ meeting in the staff room.
There are usually six 50 minute periods with a 10 minute break between each.
Periods 1-4 are before lunch, 5-6 are after, followed by cleaning the school, then optional club activities until 6 pm.
How early should you be? Some say 15 minutes. My previous supervisor said 5 is fine. Ask. But always be a little early.
Day to Day
The best advice is to keep your eyes and ears open and watch what others are doing.
Be calm and keep your composure, even in frustrating situations.
Keeping and saving face is very important. Harmonious relations are also important. Keep things courteous and discreet.
Don’t eat or drink while walking. Only eat in places where you see others eating.
Don’t smoke on school grounds or while walking.
Group identity is really important. You represent your schools, the Board of Education, foreigners in general, your country, ALTs, and the JET Programme at all times. It is important to behave in a way that does credit to these entities and their choice of you for this job.
Manners and Etiquette
Winter (Oct 1 to May 31)
Clothing in Japan is highly seasonal. The practice is called koromogae.
Men: slacks, and a short sleeved dress shirt, polo shirt, or Okinawa kariyushi shirt. The shirt can be unbuttoned at the collar. Officially cropped pants are allowed by Cool Biz but I haven’t actually seen anyone wear them when classes are in session.
Women: cap-sleeved or longer shirts, skirts to the knee, capris, slacks.
Ceremonies: go for a black suit and light-coloured shirt, with full-length pants or a skirt.
Summer - Cool Biz (June 1 to Sept 30)
8:20-8:35 Morning meeting
8:35-8:50 Short Home Room
8:55-9:45 Period 1
9:55-10:45 Period 2
10:55-11:45 Period 3
11:55-12:45 Period 4
12:45-1:25 Lunch break
1:30-2:20 Period 5
2:30-3:20 Period 6
Don’t be afraid to correct the textbook.
Some common ones include: Exceed, Voice, On Air, Be, My Way, World Trek
Reading is to be taught after English I, and is specifically for developing reading skills. About 2200 vocabulary words should be used.
Writing is also to be taught after English I, and is specifically for developing writing skills. The vocabulary requirements are the same as for English I.
University general entrance exams take place in January (all subjects) and February (specific to the chosen major). Sometimes they are written tests, other times they are interviews. These are immensely competitive and therefore very stressful for the 3rd year students. You may be asked to help some students prepare.
There are two terms (April-September, October-February). Each has midterm (June and December) and final (September and February) exams.
Students are graded from 1 to 5 on major assessments (some schools use 1 to 10 for the first term). 1=fail, 2=barely pass … 5 = excellent. Students that fail are allowed to retake their exams.
You may be asked to help mark exams. It’s a good way to see what the students are struggling with.
What else do they study?
Students must take English I (three 50 minute periods per week) or Aural/Oral Communication I (two 50 minute periods per week), but the other courses are electives (four 50 minute periods per week each).
English I, which focuses on developing communication abilities in all four skill areas in an integrated way, and deals with everyday topics. The students should have a vocabulary of about 1300 words.
English II follows the same principals as English I. The students should increase their vocabulary to about 1800 words.
Aural/Oral Communication I, which focuses on developing listening and speaking skills, and deals with everyday topics. The Course of Study advocates integrating reading and writing activities too. The students should have a vocabulary of about 1300 words.
Aural/Oral Communication II, which follows the same principals as A/OC I, but the students should increase their vocabulary to about 1800 words.
The classes are:
There are basic levels that are required, as well as higher levels that are optional.
“to develop students’ practical communication abilities such as understanding information and the speaker’s or writer’s intentions, and expressing their own ideas, deepening the understanding of language and culture, and fostering a positive attitude toward communication through foreign languages.”
The objectives of foreign language education are:
Your JTEs may be struggling to teach their classes in English, or they may not. They may look to you for ways to bring more English to the classroom, or for ways to explain things clearly in English.
Your first year students probably came from classrooms where English was taught in Japanese. They may have struggled with the adjustment, and they may still be struggling 5 months in. Keep in mind the difference between classroom/textbook English and natural English. The kids will respond better when you use phrases they know well, so read the textbook or ask the teacher what they are. You can bring in other phrases slowly.
Your school may have decided to apply this dictate to the 2nd and 3rd year classes as well.
What does this mean for you?
A new high school curriculum just came into effect in April. Your JTEs may still be adjusting a bit. The biggest change was the requirement that Foreign Language classes be taught in the target language at a high school level.
Science (Chemistry, Biology, Physics)
Math (largely without calculators!)
Social Studies (Japanese History, World History, Geography)
Home Economics (Cooking, Sewing)
Art and Calligraphy
Health and Physical Education
* Agricultural and technical high schools often follow a different curriculum.
The Standards in the Curriculum
Get to know your students. I know you’re probably nervous that they’ll give you attitude or won’t like you. Truth is, they WANT to like you, so you just have to meet them halfway. They are super interested in you, so open up! Make the effort to learn their names, club activities, and interests. Talk to them in and outside of school. Answer their questions. Make them feel valued. Smile! Remember it’s like you’re half teacher, half older sibling. Sometimes you really do have to power to make someone’s day.
Try to be on good terms with your supervisor, Kyoto-sensei and Kocho-sensei. Everything is easier when they are advocating for you.
if you have a predecessor, prepare to be constantly compared with them, or at least to hear about them a lot at first. The attitude toward you in the workplace, at first, will be a legacy of their relationships with the staff and students. Try to gauge what the relationships were like, but don’t worry too much about trying to fill their place. You will make your own impression soon enough.
I have 14 classes of 40-ish students at one school. Their English level is pretty low, but boy are they enthusiastic!
I have 12 classes of 27-ish and 15 classes of 40-ish at the other. They are higher level, but in general rather shy.
Altogether I have 1440-ish students, but I don’t visit them all in equal rotation. Some classes it’s maybe once every 2-3 weeks, some classes it’s once every 2-3 months.
In theory I stay at my base school 2 days/week and visit my former base school 3 days/week. Last year, I ended up at my visiting school much less than this because they would request that I not come.
If there is something you feel you need to do a lesson or your whole job well, try asking for it.
Ask the JTL you are working with, or your supervisor (remember to respect hierarchy). Outline your reasons clearly (write it down).
Watch for vocal and body language cues.
Think of some alternatives just in case!
I have a laptop at each school for my exclusive use. They both have internet access. Some ALTs don’t have computers, or don’t have internet access.
I also have a desk in the staff room among the other teachers at both schools. Some ALTs have a desk in the corner of the staff room, some have one in the English Room, some don’t have one at all.
The workplace is usually pretty quiet and “focused.” Don’t take this to mean people don’t want to know you.
Go to work parties! This is really where the getting-to-know you happens. You might be surprised by who knows a little English!
Feedback is important! Try and have regular, scheduled meetings with your JTLs, beyond regular class planning, where you set goals for yourself and evaluate how things are going. Once a month is usually fine. Set up a time when everyone is for the most part is free. Holly suggests doing it outside your contracted hours so that it’s clear you are going out of your way to meet with them - the JTLs will then also make an effort. Try and do it just between your JTLs and you at first, but it’s okay to ask the head English teacher or even the Kyoto-sensei to help set something up.
Being comfortable with your JTLs is also really important. Learn their work and classroom styles. Be accommodating. As mentioned before, teachers can be really busy. Good lessons take communication, though, so find a way that works for both of you (this could be different with different teachers). Also, teachers generally don’t get training on how to work with ALTs. It’s okay to train them a little!
HOWEVER. Your basic responsibility is to fulfill your contractual obligations:
•Be at work for 7 hours 5 days per week.
•Help prepare for and teach foreign language lessons.
•Guide and assist foreign language teachers.
•Guide and assist students in and out of class.
•Be a cultural ambassador in the school and in your community.
•Don’t act in a way that will discredit the JET programme or your school/BoE.
•Don’t take another paid position.
You might be expected to plan your own lessons and teach alone. You may be expected to be a human tape recorder. You may be given lots of freedom to try things with the students, or you may be expected to work within defined parameters. You might have an English Club to run. You might be asked not to run an English club.
Discipline is a little different. I see students sleeping, talking, or fooling around in class, and the JTL won’t do anything about it. Just roll with it.
However, if the students really mess up, they may get a serious dressing down in the teachers’ room. Best course of action is to actively not pay attention.
You’ll just have to see when you get there.
I have a language lab (LL) at both my schools. It has all this neat old-school AV equipment and a prep room attached! And when I told another ALT about it, he looked at me like I’d grown a second head.
Getting Down to It
Your personal life is all yours. The winters are long and dark here, though, so make sure you have one. Figure out ways to have fun, relax, recharge, vent, and whatever else you need to do to stay happy and healthy!
Your work relationships will make all the difference in your experience as an ALT. Luckily, they are something that you determine!
Relationships at School
Joining other clubs! This is a great way to enrich your life. Also the kids will love it. Ask the teacher in charge first. You can participate or help manage.
Common clubs include soccer, baseball, tennis, basketball, calligraphy, photography, tea ceremony, flower arranging, brass band, Japanese archery, kendo, karate, etc. but find out what your school has. They may even have a specialty!
Sitting in on classes (if it’s okay with the teacher).
Going on field trips.
Going to watch the ___ game and cheering.
Other things you can do include:
They plan lessons and teach classes!
They also run club activities, in fact they are required to run them even if they know nothing about that particular club activity.
They also sometimes run extra lessons before and after school, on weekends, and during school holidays.
They may also have other responsibilities, such as liaising with the PTA, printing the various newsletters, updating the website, all things IT, enforcing rules and dress code, planning school excursions, keeping track of stationary, etc…
So they can be really busy.
Character and numbers depend on your schools. Classes can have entirely different personalities with different JTLs.
If you only have a couple of schools, buy yourself a coffee cup and a pair of shoes for each one.
Pretend that there’s no communication between your base school and visiting schools. Tell them about holidays you’re taking, when you’re scheduled to visit or not visit, business trips, etc. Even better, put it in writing. For the most part communication was very good between my schools, but when I was transferred it became somewhat uneven.
Get a copy of the year-long calendar.
Get a copy of the seating chart for the staff room. Introduce yourself to the teachers, or ask a JTL to go through the chart with you, and write down their names in a way you can read them, as well as other details like which club they supervise, which subject they teach, and if they have any particular responsibilities.
Lots of schools have class lists with photographs. Ask for copies with the names written in characters you can read.
Preparation for school festival. Ask how you can participate.
Student council assembly (discuss club budgets)
Teachers and other staff find out if they are transferring to new schools. Contract and part-time instructors find out if they are rehired for another year.
Feb 25 - General exams for National universities.
First snow (usually).
More HAJET Welcome Parties!
Summer vacation. All-Japan high school club competitions.
Sept 16 and 23, Oct 14, Nov 3 (Nov 4), Dec 23, Jan 1, Jan 13, Feb 11, March 21, April 29 and May 3-6 (Golden Week), July 21.
Your school probably has the full year calendar laid out on one handy piece of paper!
Holidays, school trips, festivals, student council activities, all in one place!
Ask for a copy, and ask for help translating it.
Check with your V-P (through your supervisor) to find out if it's ok for you to take nenkyu while classes are running. If you get a new V-P in April, check again.
Dates vary at different schools. Usually done at your base school.
Urine test, chest X-ray, blood pressure, blood test, height and weight.
The school nurse may talk over the results with you.
They are otherwise confidential.
Staff Medical Checks
Usually you'll have the day off. If not, or if a holiday falls on a Sunday, you'll have a substitute day off.
You must be at the office unless you take nenkyu.
Dress during holidays is less formal - tracksuits are the norm at my schools.
You may be expected to teach at one school while your other one is on holidays. Keep this in mind for winter break.
Timing and number can vary.
Classes compete against each other in various athletic events, and the overall winners are announced at the end.
Wear athletic gear to school.
You may be asked to join in!
Runs April to March,
but we'll start
In charge of the daily administration of the school.
Approves time off, business trips, etc.
Like a figurehead for the school.
They give speeches.
They negotiate with the BoE.
School Clerks aka Jimmu
Handle the paperwork and administrative details of the school.
Most relevant to you, they keep track of your working days, business trips, rent, pay, etc.
Keep everyone healthy, fix them up when they’re not.
They also arrange for the student and staff medical checks.
Principal (Headmaster) aka Kocho Sensei
Vice Principal aka Kyoto Sensei
Men: Suit with a dress shirt and tie.
Women: skirt or slacks, dress shirt, and usually a jacket or a cardigan.
My co-workers wear their jackets in the hallways, but take them off in the classrooms or teachers rooms.
Which classes are taught to which grade is determined by the school to some extent.
Foreign Language studies are broken into grammar, reading, writing, and communication classes.
These ideally cover the four fundamental skills of language learning: speaking, listening, reading and writing.
The textbooks are chosen by the school from a list authorized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Every situation is different!
Bring yourself into your classes.
Use “free time” to plan lessons or big projects.
Make an effort and make it obvious. Your pay is higher than a starting fully-trained teacher*. Make their investment in you worth it.
Welcome Parties! At your school and HAJET.
Admissions Office Exams begin for 3rd graders and run until October. These are special exams, often presentations, to get special admittance to universities and skip the general entrance exams.
Open Campus for Junior High School students. They come listen to the teachers, observe club activities, and maybe have trial lessons.
You may visit your other schools around this time.
Many self introduction classes.
ALT’s introduction to the staff.
Ceremony to reopen the school after summer break. You will probably have to give a speech in front of everyone. Don't be scared!
September 23rd - Autumnal Equinox holiday.
September 16th - Respect for the Aged Day.
3rd graders applying for jobs straight out of high school take entrance exams.
Student Council Elections. Some classes cancelled.
First term ends. Exams. This probably means some days of sitting in the office.
October 14th - Health and Sports Day.
2nd graders school trip to Honshu (usually Tokyo/Kyoto/Okinawa/Osaka/Hiroshima for 4-6 days).
Can also happen in November.
November 3 - National Culture Day (substitute holiday is Monday November 4).
Recommendation exams - 3rd grade students who are recommended to specific universities by teachers go through entrance exams. These are interviews or short essays, and if passed the students skip the general entrance exams.
December 23 - Emperor’s Birthday.
Winter break starts.
January 13 - Coming of Age Day.
January 1 - New Years Day.
3rd Saturday and Sunday - Central (national) university entrance exams. According to their results, 3rd grade students apply to universities.
3rd graders are now finished school until graduation. Some will come to school for extra lessons or to study for entrance exams.
Winter break ends.
2nd term examinations for 1st and 2nd graders
Private university general entrance exams
February 11 - National Foundation Day
March 1 - Graduation ceremony for 3rd graders. Dress formally.
Your school may have a ski trip or skiing lessons! You might get to go too!
Junior High School students come to high school to take entrance exams (two days), during which time there are no classes.
March 21 - Vernal Equinox.
End of school year. Spring Vacation is about two weeks long and runs into April. During this time, plan things and rearrange the office to the new seating plan.
Closing Ceremony and Farewell Ceremony for the transferred or retiring staff.
April 29 - Showa Day (beginning of Golden Week)
1st graders have a school trip to give them a chance to bond and make new friends. Maybe camping, hiking, Rusutsu...
Student medical checkups.
If you are working with 1st graders, lots of self-introduction classes. Maybe integrate team-building or getting-to-know-each-other activities into your lessons. They might be very shy and hesitant.
New year begins (everyone is really busy)
Transferred teachers move to their new schools, new teachers come to your school.
Opening Ceremony and Welcome Ceremony for new staff.
May 6 - Substitute Holiday for May 5 (end of Golden Week)
May 5 - Children’s Day
May 4 - Greenery Day
May 3 - Constitution Memorial Day
Inter-school tournaments (end of the month). School clubs participate in competitions over the space of a week. The winners go on to the all-Hokkaido competitions and hopefully the all-Japan ones. This is the last chance for the 3rd year students to participate – after this they usually resign from club activities to focus on exams. You classes will probably have lots of absences and you might all get to go cheer one of the teams!
Pep rally to prepare for the inter-school tournaments.
1st midterm examinations.
All-Hokkaido preliminary competitions for school clubs.
ALTs find out if they are transferring to new schools come August.
School winds down
Summer vacation (club activities and extra classes continue)