Friday, June 12, 2009

Looking back, looking forward

So our new ALT is confirmed!! At first we thought she'd be coming with Group C (which is really late!) but it turns out she'll be coming with Group B, which is much better! Unfortunately, I won't be in Towada for the first five days or so after her arrival, but hopefully I can be sufficiently helpful afterwards. ^_^

(Out of curiosity, any new Aomori-bound JETs reading this?)

Some unsolicited advice to incoming ALTs (selections from and additions to my "So you're moving to Japan" and "More thoughts on moving to Japan" posts from last year):

- find and join your local JET community now! For Aomori-bound JETs, there's the Aomori Listserve and Aomori JETs Facebook group. A lot of people are selling cars now, and chances are (unless you're in a big city like Aomori City) you're going to want one!

- if you've renewed your passport within the past year, bring your old passport with you; ditto if your current driver's license is less than 3 years old (if you weren't allowed to keep your old license, consider getting a copy of your driving record to prove how long you've been driving) -- this will save you a LOT of hassle if you decide to stay for a second year and need to get a Japanese driver's license

- IF you can comfortably wear Japanese-size clothing (if you're tall, it might be difficult...) and you're NOT going to an ultra-rural town/village, only bring clothing that you REALLY like and always wear (the more versatile, the better) because chances are you're going to buy clothing in Japan and it's a pain to have to donate/throw away a lot of clothing when you're leaving

Rough Japanese Clothing Sizes (from Uniqlo, a fairly ubiquitous Japanese clothing store chain):
Length: 150-185 cm
Chest: 78-112 cm
Waist: 66-100 cm

Length: 149-166 cm
Bust: 74-98 cm
Waist: 57-81 cm
Hips: 82-106 cm

Shoe sizes are also comparatively limited:
MEN: 24-29 cm
WOMEN: 22-24.5 (Some stores may have L or LL sizes which go up to 26 cm, but the selection is generally quite limited.)

- for females, remember that deep-cut tops and clothes that ride up/down to expose skin are not so great for an office/school environment; people WILL comment, even if not to your face

End of advice. (Again, see previous posts for more detailed suggestions.)

As always, the onset of summer makes me remember being a newly arrived JET and feeling worried but excited and insecure but eager. I remember loving the school visits right from the get go, even though I always felt like I could be doing so much better.

And I remember talking to my parents a few weeks into teaching and telling them: "Sorry, but I think I'm going to stay here for two or three years." (Before I came I was positive I was going back after one year.)

It's a strange feeling, looking back, seeing how far I've come, and knowing that this next year will be my last.

After almost two years, I'm finally reaching the point where I don't have to spend a lot of time planning lessons and making materials before every single (elementary) school visit. Of course I still try to come up with new games, and I still have to make materials on occasion, but I'd say I can prepare for visits in 30 minutes or less at least 60% of the time now. (Even three months ago I'd probably have said I was spending 60 minutes or more preparing for 70% or more of my elementary visits...)

Now I'm more concerned about making documentation (bilingual lesson plans, school schedule translations, etc.) for my successor. Having benefited a lot from the various materials left by previous ALTs (and Andy, of course!), I want to pay it forward and leave my successor with as many game ideas and information about school life/events (mainly at Kirita) as possible.

That said, my goal since my first year has been to make life both easier and harder for my successor than it was for me. I'd like it to be easier in the sense that s/he will have even more information/materials available to use than I had when I first came. But I'd like to leave Towada having done such a good job and having made such a lasting impression in my work that whoever comes after me will really have to work hard to live up to the schools', teachers' and students' expectations.