Saturday, 31 May 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Last update: 31 May

What is JET?
JET, the Japan Teaching and Exchange programme exists to see foreigners go into Japan to further international relations between Japan and the home countries of those foreigners. The teaching side of JET is just one part of it. You can find more information at the Official Site.

What are ALT, JTE and CIR?
ALT stands for Assistant Language Teacher. This will be my position in Japan. An ALT is a native English speaker who works alongside a JTE. JTE stands for Japanese Teacher of English - a Japanese school teacher who takes English lessons in Japanese schools. CIR stands for Coordinator for International Relations. They are fluent Japanese speakers from other countries who work for an international branch of the government (such as the Board of Education for schools in a district who cater to ALTs).

What is this blog about?
This blog began as a record of my preparation for going to Japan to teach as an ALT. It records every step, from interest in teaching English overseas to being accepted and preparing to leave for Japan. It will continue to be a record of my arrival in Japan, adjustment to life in a foreign culture and my experiences as I learn Japanese, interact with Japanese students and explore many facets of Japanese life.

Ok, so why JET?
Go to the website and you will better understand why I chose this particular programme. Not only does the support while you are in Japan sound exactly what a frail foreigner needs, but because it is backed so solidly by the Japanese government, once accepted, you are guaranteed to find yourself placed in a school somewhere in Japan ready to become an ALT.

I want to join the JET programme. Where do I start?
So you're interested in going to Japan to teach. A good place to start would be the FAQ of the official homepage of JET; if you're a Kiwi like me, the NZ Jet homepage might be better. You could also start at the beginning of this blog and read the first few entries, as they explain in detail exactly what I did to get where I am today. The only two requirements to becoming an ALT in Japan are an enthusiastic approach to going to Japan to assistant teach, and making sure that you have at least a three year bachelor's degree from a tertiary institution (or will have completed it before you leave, like me).

Do I need a qualification for teaching English or a degree that focuses on English?
No, and no. You don't need an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) qualification to teach as an ALT in Japan. Because this is a position that requires you to assist your JTE(s) you don't need any teaching time under your belt; nor do you need to be qualified as an English teacher. In the same vein, you do not need to have an English (or Japanese) based degree in order to apply or be accepted into JET. I just happen to have got a CELTA (Certificate of English Language Teaching to Adults) a few years back in the interests of eventually pursuing my dream of becoming an English teacher to foreign language speakers. And I just happen to have (almost) got an English Literature degree - simply because I have always appreciated literature and felt that this field of study fit me best. IMO, study what you want to study.

What's so great about Japan? Don't people make more money in other countries?
I don't know how true the money side of it is because, personally, I'm not in it for the money - and I can say that the other JETs I've spoken to have as much passion for experiencing Japan as me, rather than being fiscally focused. I've enjoyed interacting with international students for a good portion of my life. Both my parents were English teachers to students of other languages for a few years and continue to be high school teachers here in New Zealand. You could say that teaching is in my blood (my grandfather was also a school teacher), and therefore it is one vocation I would like to eventually pursue in all its fulness. However, I have had a keen interest in Japan for a long time and see this as my best opportunity to pursue my current dreams. If you want a better glimpse of my reasoning behind choosing JET, read my first post.

An explanation of the links:
  • Japanese Language - This is a direct link to a good language resource. It is not imperative that you learn Japanese before going over, but it sure will help a lot to be prepared with at least a little bit of the language.
  • Daniel's English Teaching Tips - Read this entry for a better understanding of why this link exists.
  • Dave's ESL Café - I have infrequently checked this site since first getting my ESOL qualification in 2003. It is a large community of English teachers to students of foreign languages and frequently posts current job vacancies for teaching English in many foreign countries.
  • Embassy of Japan in New Zealand - for all those Kiwis that want an official doorway to Japan. These are the people that you will get your visa, etc through. However, JET handles everything, so you may never have to visit this parent site.
  • Japan-Zone - firstly, see this post. Check this site out if you want to be better prepared for going over to Japan long-term.
  • Jet Christian Fellowship - what do you do if you go to Japan and can't find a Christian church? This website has links and is the offical website of all Christian JETs. Read my post for when I added this link.
  • JET Programme New Zealand - The Kiwi version of the JET website.
  • My Old Blog - the title says it all. It is no longer updated, but there are over 180 entries there, documenting a past portion of my life. I will do much more frequent updates (possibly even daily ones) here on the Japan Journey blog once I am settled in Japan. It will double as a personal blog once that part of my life kicks off.
  • Victoria University Wellington - my choice of tertiary study institutions. If you want to study in New Zealand, the best place is the major university of our fabulous capital city. Call me biased, but Vic was a great place to study.
Please forward any other questions that you have to geckomayhem [at] gmail [dot] com. I'll do my best to see that they are answered, and possibly even condensed and added to this FAQ. Expect my own additions to the FAQ as things are brought to my attention and as I venture to Japan and begin the next stage of my journey.


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