Day in the Life of a JET
time I woke up was entirely dependent on what school I was
teaching at that week, but I would usually wake up around
6:45am. . I taught at four junior high schools, each with
a certain distance and accessibility. Towa JHS was a short
15 minute bike ride away. Takatsumi JHS was a 5 minute ride
to the train station, a 10 minute train ride, and a 10 minute
walk after that. Isao JHS was the 5 minute bike, 10 minute
train ride, but a 20-25 minute walk up a short mountain.
To get to my last school, Seiwa JHS was a 25 minute bike
ride. I wasn't allowed to drive a car while in Japan, but
I didn't really mind it so much; cycling is very convenient
and inexpensive and the trains are very efficient.
I got to work I would make a beeline for the teachers' room.
The teachers' room is a large room that holds all the teachers'
desks and materials as well as the vice-pricipal's desk.
It was there that the morning meeting was held at 8:30am.
Every day before classes start, the principal and vice-principal
greet all the teachers give them any annoucements or inform
them of any upcoming events. If the meeting is particularly
long (i.e. if there are a lot of announcements or if there
is a crisis that the teachers need to discuss) the teachers
are late for their first class.
this meeting, the teachers go to their first class and start
lessons. The first class starts at about 8:50am. The bell
for class is not a "you must be in class at this exact
second" type of bell that is common in the West. The
teachers are almost always still in the teachers' room drinking
tea, talking or some such and then they make their way to
the classrooms when the bell sounds. Each class is 45 or
50 minutes long.
the bell rang for lessons to start I would either follow
my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) to the class we would
team-teach in, or I would stay in the teachers' room. As
long as you stay in the teachers' room and maintain a low
profile, the allowance for your activities is pretty liberal.
They always love it if you study Japanese, but you could
also read a book or a newspaper, use a computer, work on
lessons, talk to other teachers, or plan a class with one
of your JTEs.
each class is a 10 minute break. The teachers always go
back to the teachers' room to exchange books and materials
and then make their way to the next class. During break
times, students would usually come around my desk to chat,
ask questions, or just stare at me.
teacher teaches about 5 classes a day. As an ALT, I would
teach anywhere from one class (a light day) to five classes
(a very heavy day) with an average of three classes per
day. Most of my classes would involve a particular grammar
concept, with a certain amount of time to practice the concept.
Sometimes I would talk about a particular holiday or aspect
of Western life that is not present in Japan.
is a 45 minute break for lunch. I would almost always pack
a Western-style lunch (sanwich, potato chips, fruit, and
maybe a soft drink) despite the school taboos of no potato
chips or soft drinks allowed at school (for the students,
anyway). The students always loved to come and watch me
eat it. Sometimes I let them sample something I had if it
was particularly Western or American (like Pop Tarts or
Root Beer). The teachers never put up much of a fuss about
this because the students almost always hated it when they
tried it and it's a neat opportunity to learn what these
foods (so hard to find in Japan) actually taste like. Normally,
though, I would rush eating my lunch so when the students
came around (as they always did) for the last half of the
lunch period to talk, I was available.
lunch there are two more class periods. After that students
either go home, go to juku, or stay for club activities.
I would usually hang out if any students wanted to chat
after school, go home, or stay and hold a meeting of our
English Club or Penpal Club. Sometimes I would hang out
with one of the sports teams, shoot hoops with the basketball
team or practice with the volleyball team or kendo
Day in the Life of a JHS Student
usually arrive at school between 7:50am and 8:20am. Students
are rarely dropped off at school by a parent, but rather
walk or ride bicycles.
high school student's life revolves around his/her classroom.
Unlike many schools in the West, students in Japan do not
change classrooms; they stay in their assigned classroom
and it is the teachers who rotate between those classrooms.
During the breaks between class they can wander the hall
and visit other classrooms and during lunch they can play
outside, but for the most part they are in their classrooms.
There are no lockers; all school supplies are kept inside
the students' desks.
have six lessons a day between 45-50 minutes each. Depending
on what year in school the student is, his/her class list
remain in the classrooms while eating lunch; there is usually
no cafeteria in junior high schools. After lunch, students
wander around the schools, play a quick sports game outside,
visit the teachers eating in the teachers' room, or talk
amongst themselves in their classrooms.
two more classes, the school day ends. Afterschool activities
include: judo, kendo, basketball, baseball, track and field,
volleball, tennis, softball or culture-oriented clubs like
student doesn't have an afterschool sport or club, odds
are they will be going to juku. Juku is a cram school where
many students go to get supplementary lessons. Many are
geared towards helping the students pass the high school
or college entrance examinations.
Japanese students who are college-bound are kept very busy.
Their schedules don't allow them much down-time. The school
year starts in the first week of April and ends mid-March.
They get six weeks break for summer, two weeks each for
winter and spring break (one break between each quarter).