September marked the beginning of many things for me. The most important of which was the beginning of the new semester. School was back in session and work officially began for me. My month long vacation was over, and now it was time to do what I came here for.
I work at two different junior high schools. My base school is a decently sized school. Each grade has four classes, so that makes 12 classes in total, and about 360 students. My base school is in my town and less than a five minute drive from where I live. I go to this school three days a week.
My visiting school is a small school with only two classes per grade, making a total of six classes, and about 130 students. My visiting school is in the neighboring town and about a 16 minute drive from my apartment. I go to my visiting school twice a week.
I was also given the option to work shorter days Monday through Friday or to work longer days Monday through Thursday, but only half a day on Friday. As the longer days only meant eight hour days (which is a typical American workday) I chose the second option.
My first day of real work was an easy one. The only thing I did that day was give my mini speech (mini because it was only about six sentence long) at the opening ceremony. I must admit I was nervous. My short speech was half in Japanese and half in English. Considering I don’t speak Japanese, I was worried I would completely butcher the first part of my speech.
Luckily everything went well and it was over fairly quickly. After that, I had the rest of the day to hang out in the teacher’s room and finish up my introduction lesson for the following week.
Once the introduction lessons began, my workdays became busy ones. My introduction lesson took up the entire class time, and each day I would have at least four classes. By the fifth or sixth time giving my introduction lesson, I was over the repetitiveness, but I did my best to put on a fresh face for each new class.
Once the introduction lessons were over, the real work started. And so did the ALT struggles. It’s been three months since I’ve started working at my two schools and these truths remain:
- I never know what my class schedule will be like.
- I still get classes added and cancelled at the last minute. And by the last minute I mean literally 1 minute before the class starts I’m asked to join it, or not.
- I never know where the students are in the book or what they are currently learning.
- Because I rarely, and I mean RARELY, ever get the chance to talk to my JTEs about my class schedule, I never know what we will be teaching in class that day. I’m usually informed somewhere between the morning of to 10 minutes before the class starts.
- Regardless of that, I am still expected to have an activity ready for whatever lesson we are currently doing.
- That’s right, those classes I was informed of 10 minutes before they started, I am still asked to prepare activities for them. Let’s just say I started pre-planning activities for every part of every unit to avoid needing to create last minute activities. And even like that, I’ve still been caught unprepared.
Aside from starting school, I also started my 4-week presentation over Nicaragua for the community. I was asked to do this by my town’s international English association, and at first I was really excited at the idea of getting involved in my community. It wasn’t until I found out that each presentation was to be an hour and a half long, that my excitement dwindled. Talking about Nicaragua for a total of six hour was something I didn’t even think was possible, until I actually did it. Despite all the work it took, and the stress it caused me, it was still a really great opportunity.
The last thing that I started in September was my Japanese classes. One of the classes I signed up for was in my town and the other was 40 minutes away. Both of the classes are taught by volunteers who happened to be retired women with some free time on their hands. As sweet as these ladies are, it is very true when they say that you get what you pay for. Let’s just say we’re still going over hiragana in one of my classes. -_-
September was the complete opposite of my blissfully relaxing month of August. September was the start of my stress. Of course, I did by best to combat the stress with weekend trips, visits to a bunny café, and lots of shopping. ^_~