I managed to dig up the essay I wrote when applying for the JET Programme. There are some flow issues, but considering I wrote it while teaching high school English full-time, I think I did a pretty decent job. Plus I was accepted into the program, so I guess it was good enough for the selection committee. =P
Anyway, here is the complete, unedited version:
A Passion for Teaching and Japan
My teaching experience, passion for English, and interest in Japanese culture make me an excellent candidate for The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme. My education and experiences since graduating from high school reflect two enduring passions: English and Japanese studies. In university I majored in English to become an English teacher, but I also majored in East Asian Studies to learn more about Japanese language, culture and history. Outside of class I tutored students in English, joined the campus anime club and volunteered at the Anime North convention. While I taught English for my first teaching placement during teachers’ college, I also volunteered to teach weekly conversational Japanese lessons to students in the school anime club. Now as a high school English teacher I have learned that manga not only provides me with a means to connect with students who already enjoy it but also with a means to develop a love of reading in reluctant readers. Thus the JET Programme provides an ideal way to combine my passion for teaching English and my desire to learn more about Japan.
Although I have not lived abroad for an extended period of time, my experience teaching high school English has given me a well-developed ability to adapt and adjust to new situations, as I am constantly forced to alter my lessons to suit ever-changing classroom dynamics. This is particularly true of my Grade 10 Applied-Level English class where one day the students will work very well independently, and the next they will resist my every effort to get them to settle down and to work. As a result, I am constantly experimenting with different teaching strategies to engage the students and to enable them to best demonstrate their learning. I have also had to make accommodations for students’ various learning and behavioural exceptionalities. As a highly motivated, diligent and independent learner, I have found it challenging to teach students who are not interested in school and do not demonstrate good study skills, but at the same time I have learned to be more flexible and considerate of the needs of my students.
Along with being flexible and using a variety of teaching strategies, I have found that in teaching English it is particularly important to encourage students to speak in class. To do this I make sure that I give students sufficient time to prepare or even to write down answers before calling on them in group discussions. To affirm a student’s contribution while modeling the language and skills they should be developing, rather than correcting a student’s grammatical mistakes when he or she speaks, I try to repeat the answer he or she gave using proper grammar. If an answer is not as in-depth as I would like, I encourage them to extend their responses by asking prompting questions rather than saying that they are wrong or moving onto another student. I want students to develop their confidence in English so that they will share their both their answers and questions in class. More than once I have admitted my uncertainty about answers to students’ questions and have suggested that we look into it together in the hopes that they would see that it is okay to not have all the answers.
Along with the planning I do before class and the strategies I use in class, my approachable personality enables me to be an effective teacher. Students know that I want to do whatever I can to help them succeed because I make it a point to check on students while they are working and to ask them if they have any questions or concerns about an assignment. I also often stay behind after class giving further explanations and suggestions to students who require extra help. It is my responsibility and desire as a teacher to ensure that students have all the assistance they need to learn.
As a teacher in the Peel District School Board, I believe the JET Programme will give me valuable experience teaching English as a second language which is important because the Board serves an incredibly diverse population of students whose first language often is not English. It will also give me a range of experience outside of my middle-class Canadian upbringing. Although my studies of Japanese culture will hopefully enable me to adapt relatively quickly to life in Japan, I believe the experience of “culture shock” will help me to become more sensitive to the needs and feelings of students whose cultures and experiences are different from my own. Thus I intend to learn as much as possible from the JET Programme experience while contributing my teaching experience to the Programme in return.