I’m sitting at a McDonald’s eating vanilla soft serve, trying to take advantage of the free wifi – which I only have one hour of. I’ve discovered that wifi is almost impossible to find in Japan, and when it is available, there’s always a limit. I’m getting wifi installed in my apartment this upcoming Saturday, but for now, McDonald’s will have to suffice.
It’s only been a week since Tokyo Orientation, but so much has happened! I’ve set up a bank account, signed up for cell and internet service, moved into my new apartment and furnished it – all in a week. Today is the first free day that I’ve had to finally sit down and write, so I have a lot to catch up on.
I’ll start with last Saturday, the 24th: the first day of orientation in Tokyo.
The first day started off with breakfast at 7am. The food was classic Western brunch – bacon, sausage, egg, yogurt, soup and salad, and lots of coffee. The scrambled eggs were some of the best scrambled eggs I’ve ever had! They were super soft, kind of like mayonnaise. It sounds gross, I know, but it was amazing.
We moved to the ballroom after breakfast, making sure to be in our seats by 8:45. In Japan, being “on-time” actually means arriving 15 minutes early, which I’m not sure if I like or not. The ballroom filled up by 8:50. There were probably up to a thousand JET’s from all over the United States present, as well as JET’s from multiple countries around the world – including South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and Jamaica. Each country’s flag stood hanging on front stage, to the left and right of Japan’s.
The morning consisted of 3 lecture-style sessions on important information – about the JET program, the structure of the Japanese education system, and other essential things to know about living in Japan. The material was mainly review for me though, so I had trouble paying attention. I’m sure the other JET’s felt the same, because I saw quite a few dozing off in their seats.
Lunch was a 180 from breakfast’s Western-style spread: tofu stew with cabbage and bean sprouts, rice, and a wakame and carrot soup. (According to several conversations I overheard, lunch was definitely not as popular as breakfast.) I didn’t mind the food though – AND I happened to sit at the table with all of the Ireland JET’s, which probably doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I was super excited about it (fun fact: the Irish are probably the sweetest bunch of people you’ll ever meet). I have a feeling that I enjoyed lunch a little more than others.
After lunch, more sessions. These were school specific, so I went to the sessions on elementary school. I learned about the textbook that’s usually used in class – “Hi, Friend!” and lots of different games and activities that are typically used to help teach the lesson to Japanese children.
That was when I started to feel really overwhelmed by everything that was happening. I’d been a student my entire life, until only a month ago. I still felt like a student really, yet there I was learning how to become a teacher. A real teacher! The reality that I wouldn’t be sitting at a desk anymore finally hit me, the reality that in a month I’ll be standing in front of a class filled students all looking to me, all expecting to learn, and I’ll need to be ready to teach them something about English.
I didn’t know if I wanted to start dancing or burst into tears and book a ticket back to LAX. I sat through the session and kept taking notes, feeling afraid and excited and upset and happy all at the same time.
I woke up around 4am the next day. (Ah, jet-lag.) Got ready for breakfast, put on my business attire again. (Japan takes business attire very seriously – on the first day, the person in front of me didn’t have a suit jacket and he was escorted from the room.)
Breakfast was the same – I made sure to eat lots of the scrambled eggs.
The first session was a panel with three guest ALT’s who taught at elementary and junior high schools. They described their experiences teaching at their respective schools, gave advice, answered questions – probably the most useful session of the orientation. It was good to know what to expect for once, since I’ve been in the dark about what I’ll actually have to do on a day-to-day basis.
The rest of the day was a bunch of sessions on teaching techniques used in elementary schools, like using role-plays, telling stories, and making crafts – things that get the students engaged and involved in the material. It was all super overwhelming again, but I tried to reassure myself that once I actually start teaching, I’ll develop my own routine, and in time I’ll figure out what does and doesn’t work for me and my students. It’ll take a lot of practice, work, and quite a bit of trial and error, but eventually I plan to become the best elementary school English teacher I can be. ^_^