Wow, I have a fair amount to write, considering how much of my weekend so far was spent on the Majestic Centre's 18th Floor.
Yesterday morning I had a Japanese oral test for JAPA111. I failed miserably at the ten questions in part one - it's not that I didn't understand what was being asked; I was just unable to voice coherent responses in time. Sometimes my brain doesn't want to function at high speeds :/ WTB 15,000 rpm BDD (brain disk drive) O.O
The second part of the oral test went ok, I think. I had practised (over and over) what I was going to say. Once I started, I kept at a reasonable pace (not too fast, but not dragging sentences out, either), and only stopped three or four times to try and remember what came next, as planned.
All in all, I think it was a very trying start to the day. I've been somewhat complacent with this Japanese paper, as I'm not terribly fussed whether I pass it or not. It's a sad attitude, I know, but I really want to expend as much effort as I can in doing well in the two papers that count towards this final part of my degree. The real Japanese learning starts when I set foot on Japanese soil ><
Friday afternoon, through evening, was spent at the Japan Information and Cultural Centre. We had a Q&A session throughout the afternoon, where we were given documentation, booklets and the like. Everything was covered, from what happens when we gather together to leave Wellington (there are 23 other JET applicants who are going over from here, not all of whom were at yesterday's or today's sessions), to the three days spent in Tokyo before we are dispersed to our respective prefectures, amidst the hundreds of other JET participants from around the world.
IRD spoke to us about tax and student loans and we had to fill in forms for the travel agent. In case anyone is wondering, JET, through the Japanese government, pays all travel and hotel expenses. Once you have reached your designated prefecture and city / town, having a little money available would be helpful, as you don't know how much of a bond you will have to pay, or how much rent in advance. However, the first month after you arrive, you will not be teaching, so will have a good chance to make friends and cajole money out of them (just kidding :p).
As far as placement is concerned: we still don't know where we are going! So, stop asking me ><
We also covered various teaching situations and heard about life in Japan as an ALT - or even as a foreigner in general. What really stuck in my mind are the following little things: firstly, when arriving at Narita airport in July, you will be met with sticky, uncomfortable heat, which will last somewhat throughout the rest of the Summer (I much prefer heat to cold). Secondly, shops don't use EFTPOS. I'm not kidding! Apparently people carry physical money around with them :o And they use paper money (as well as coins), which means that it can be torn easily (I guess). Which reminds me: I will try and remember to take over a $20 note to try and get students to rip it in half - good times :p Thirdly... well, there are a lot of things from both today and yesterday that I took from the sessions ;)
After the Q&A time with three ex-JET people (all three of whom spent a full three years teaching English in Japan, which is my intention - but, I'll see how the first year goes ^^), we had a break before a short reception, where we were able to mix with each other, eat fabulous Japanese food, and talk to a few of the JET / embassy staff.
Today was pretty full-on. With a ten o'clock start, we learned and practised basic Japanese. Fuke-sensei teaches Japanese at St Margaret's in Thorndon, and was a very enthusiastic, humourous and engaging teacher. We all enjoyed the sessions that she took (and got somewhat carried away with at times, sharing various anecdotes to keep us all engaged, and, at times, laughing in our seats). The DVD snippets that we saw were interesting - and had a couple of kawaii cartoon characters ^.^ I hope I will get a chance to ride the bullet train (shinkansen) at some point, despite its horrendous price ($140 Tokyo to Osaka, apparently).
The Japanese learning and practice lasted through the day. I had subway during our lunch break. It was good to get out.
After a short break at the end of the afternoon, we had a time of learning about some games, introducing ourselves as ALTs to our class, and the importance of having good rapport with JTEs (Japanese Teachers of Engrish; no matter what you personally think of them). Daniel Hrstich, who was one of the ex-JETs from yesterday, took us all through a few games. He actually runs a website that contains a lot of cool, insightful stuff. I've added http://daniel.hrstich.googlepages.com/ to my links (labelled "Daniel's English Teaching Tips").
After having a bit of fun with those games, another ex-JET gave an example of a pretty indepth introduction, complete with photos and props. So yeah, it pays to have some imagery on the old micro drive (which you can print out and EXPAND rather cheaply once in Japan) and maybe a kiwi bird toy and something "All Blacky" to engage the students that you introduce yourself to that much more.
Finally, a young Scottish lady who had recently married the Japanese PE teacher in one of her schools, did tag-team teaching with her new husband. They showed us a good example of an ALT interacting with the JTE to engage the class and take an English lesson (Chinese whispers, anyone?).
All in all, 'twas a long couple of days, but I'm highly glad that I came away even more excited about going over than I was before this weekend. Don't listen to the horror stories but be positive about anything that you set your mind to doing.
I am going to Japan on 27 July 2008 and all that stands in my way is finishing my degree on time. However, worrying about such time constraints is just extra work. And since I'm a lazy Kiwi, I don't want that added burden of stress :p