oh also, one of my 5 year old students high fived me in the boob today. And I was all, oh great, they’re comfortable with me now. cue the groping >_< And then right after she did it, one of the boys went to do it and I was all NOPE and caught him before he got all the way through the swing ^_^;; Fool me once, shame on me :P

Alternatives to the JET Program

I should’ve written this post when the interview results first came out, so I’m sorry about how late it is. Anyways, if JET didn’t work out for whatever reason and you still want to teach English in Japan, here are some of the other options available. Disclaimer: I haven’t worked for any of these companies, so my knowledge is obviously very limited. Do your research, but don’t be put off about applying for private companies! There’s this weird elitism surrounding the JET Program, which I feel is mostly empty posturing. Don’t get me wrong, I love JET—but it’s not the only good choice.

The two main types of work you can get are ALT work and eikaiwa, so I’ll use those categories.

ALT (assistant language teacher)

This is literally the same job you’d get as a teacher on the JET Program, except you are contracted by a dispatch company, instead of a local government organization. Back when I was looking into options there was tons of stuff written about the pros vs. cons of working for a company, and even about how it’s a less satisfying job because it’s missing the grassroots internationalization aspect of JET or whatever, but now that I’m here, I feel like this is misleading. Your experience depends on you, your perspective, and what you’re willing to put into it, and also of course your situation in Japan. I can’t think of any way in which specifically being on JET has opened up more opportunities for cultural exchange. You can meet a lot of cool people on JET, but my AJET chapter welcomes non-JET expats and pretty much anyone who wants to join, and I think a lot of others do as well. Your job mostly depends on what schools you’re placed in, and that’s so varied and unpredictable that there’s no use comparing JET with private companies. You could end up in amazing or terrible schools with either.

The only really tangible difference is in the pay and vacation time. Admittedly money is a very important factor, so if you are supporting dependents, paying back student loans, etc., then it definitely might be worth waiting to reapply for JET, which pays a higher salary, covers your insurance, and sometimes subsidizes rent. But if you aren’t in a situation where you need the extra cushioning, think it through carefully. It’s easy to be attracted to higher pay for doing the exact same job (I was!), but now I kind of wish I had more vacation time to travel instead. The majority of JETs have to go to work during school vacations (summer vacation, etc.) and are paid for it, while most companies give their ALTs the time off (and don’t pay them). If you can stretch the cash out, it would be incredible to have entire weeks off to travel. You do, however, get more free vacation days with JET.

Here are some of the major companies:

  • Interac: I submitted an online application for Interac in April, got a phone call the next day to set up an interview, interviewed in June, and was sent an offer of employment at the beginning of July. It took less than half the time of my JET application process. If you apply now, it might be too late to start working this year, but that just depends on how many spots they’ve filled, so give it a shot! I found the entire process very professional, and if you’re the type who freezes up in interviews (me), the interview was much less stressful and interrogation-style than my JET interview was.
  • ALTIA, BorderlinkHeart. I have no experience with any of these companies, and can’t comment on them. The general consensus seems to be that all major ALT companies are very similar, and offer essentially the same deal.


Eikaiwa are private schools that operate outside of the public education system. Depending on the company, they offer cram-school type lessons to students looking for extra practice with English, lessons for adults who want to learn English, and even lessons for babies and toddlers whose parents want them to learn English. The most common complaint about eikaiwa is that they work their teachers to the bone. You have to plan and teach all your classes on your own, and teach many classes a day, possibly with no breaks and little time to plan on the job. I haven’t worked for an eikaiwa, but in Canada I worked briefly for a school with a very similar set-up (6 classes every day, each had to be a unique lesson plan, and planning done on your own time). It was crap pay for a demanding job, but I have to say: in terms of teaching English alone (not cultural experiences, relationships with students beyond the classroom, etc.), the two months I spent working there were immensely more rewarding than the nine months I’ve been an ALT. Getting a first-hand experience of the public education system here has been extremely valuable to me and I wouldn’t change it, but ALT work can be unchallenging and pointless. If you are serious about TEFL, and you want to help motivated students make real progress in their language learning, then eikaiwa is probably the way to go. 

Eikaiwa teachers have completely different schedules (outside of school hours, so typically evening work), are often paid a bit more than privately hired ALTs, and are unlikely to be placed in really rural locations. Take all that into consideration. Also, big companies have more flexibility regarding hiring/starting dates since they don’t hire based on the school year calendar, so you’d have a better chance of starting this year. 

  • ECC: I was attracted to ECC because they seem to offer the best deal among eikaiwa re: pay and vacation time, which you can check out on their site. I ended up being upgraded for JET and cancelling my interview with them, but they also had a pretty quick response rate. Reviews for the company skew more to the positive side. 
  • AEON: One of the biggest (maybe the biggest?) eikaiwa companies. Reviews for them are really mixed, and ultimately I was put off by the amount of complaints about the businesslike pressure to always sell more books and courses to your students, whether or not you think they actually need it. They do offer a good salary (more working hours than ECC), so it would be a good option for someone who wants to make a living in a major city. 
  • Some others: Berlitz, NOVA, Gaba. Gaba is one-on-one classes. NOVA went bankrupt in 2007, but is now owned and operated by a different company. 

A third option is just to move to Japan and start looking for jobs on the ground. If you check out websites like Gaijinpot, you’ll see that there a lot of positions only open to people already in the country. The obvious advantage of this is that you have control over where in Japan you live, and the obvious disadvantage is the financial and psychological stress of moving to a different country (where you possibly don’t speak the language) without a job lined up.

Again, I have not worked for any of these companies and am just summarizing what I found while researching JET alternatives, but I hope this is helpful to someone. It’s best to get opinions from multiple sources, especially people who have worked more than one job in Japan. Glassdoor has reviews for most if not all of these companies, so that’s a good place to start. And if anyone reading this has more information to add, or wants to discuss their own experience, please do chime in!

Extra reading: Unofficial JET Program Guide with more links, breakdown of ALT vs. eikaiwa, and breakdown of JET vs. Interac.

As a last note, you are going to come across horror stories for everything, including JET. Take these seriously, but if they don’t make up the majority of the reviews, don’t let them scare you. There are downsides to everything, but if you come with an open mind you can make the most of many of the difficulties you face here, and you can always leave a really negative situation.

anonymous asked:

japanese children seems to be so cute! also those two in the cleaning time omg! must be so fun to work as teacher in there. Is it?

Haha, I’m gonna drop a quick truth bomb:

Children are pretty much the same in ANY country you go to. Sure, cultural differences account for some stuff, but in the big picture, children are children. Japanese kids are just like American kids, who are just like English kids, who are just like Russian kids. 

Some are sweet, some are shy, some will hold frogs and then try to wipe their frog-goo hands on their homeroom teacher’s new suit and chase him across the soccer field as he screams and runs away (no joke). Some will write you tiny notes and draw you pictures of cartoons and give them to you as presents. Some will cough directly into your face because they’re mad at you and don’t want to practice English. Can you tell which story happened in which country? No. You’ll never be able to tell. Because kids are just kids. 

That being said, I LOVE my job. It’s my first time actually working as a teacher. This is something I’ve dreamed about since high school, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to try it out, and now I know for a fact that it’s NOT just a silly wish, I actually WANT to be a teacher. I know what it’s like, and it’s hard, but I enjoy every moment of it. 

Teaching is just a great thing to do, because there’s SO MANY MOMENTS where you have the opportunity to make a connection. There’s SO MANY THINGS that you can say, and things you can tell the kids, and you can do SO MUCH for their self-esteem, and you can make them understand something, and you can make them laugh, and you can make them apologize when they pushed someone off of the swing, and you can watch them grow and become better, and become more themselves. 

Honestly, I couldn’t ask for much more. 


Today, I talked about “Adventure Time” and “Bee & Puppycat” with the few students who actually want to study English at my 2nd school. Since they’re allowed to have their cellphones during class, my JTE suggested that they go ahead and watch an episode.
Y’all should have seen the girls’ reaction to Puppycat!

"Shit My Japanese Students Say" Episode 4

Boy: Ms. Allie, *points at a girl* she is guilty.
Me: Oh? What did she do?
Boy: She…flew airplane. Into me.
Me: What? A paper airplane?
Boy: No. Big plane. Boeing.
Me: …Oh. Are you OK?
Boy: Yes, now OK. But I was in the hospital for 17.
Me: 17….months?
Boy: Days. I am strong boy.

I am not sure how credible his story is.

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a while, but I haven’t properly found the correct words to really express my reflections properly. 

A few weeks ago one of the part time JTEs at my school pulled me outside. She had a stack of photocopied papers stapled together and asked me if I had time if I would be interested in reading the papers. I immediately looked down and noticed that it was an account of a fifteen year old girl’s experience on August 6, 1945.

My JTE told me her mother had written it about her experience on that day and had given a copy of it to her when she was fifteen (it was later published in a book). I realized instantly how precious and dear to my JTE’s heart this was and how special it was that she was reaching out and asking if I’d be interested in knowing or hearing her mother’s personal account and how the bomb changed her life completely in a matter of seconds. 

While I don’t feel comfortable summarizing the beautiful English her mother used (turns out her mother was a JTE as well)- I was blown away completely by her account. I couldn’t imagine how terrifying not only experiencing the bomb so closely, but then having to walk through one of the most destroyed parts of the city to get home – and all at the age of fifteen. Yet her mother didn’t sound bitter, nor did she sound upset; - after witnessing all those terrible things the overall message was for peace – and that absolutely floored me.

It floored me that while she wrote about all her classmates dying either immediately after the bomb or due to radiation diseases in the following years- that all she asked was why God would allow her to live while her classmates and friends died. It blew me away.

I read through her mothers account quietly at my desk. I remembered my trip to the Peace Memorial Museum when I had visited Hiroshima for the first time two years ago (can be found here) and those emotions I felt came flooding back. 

I cannot properly express the feelings I had while reading my JTE’s mother’s account of the events that took place on that day into words. I felt very special in a way that my JTE wanted to share that aspect of her own personal life with me, and I’m still struggling with how to properly respond and show how much that actually meant to me that she included me and shared it with me.

 I often consider this JTE to be like my Japanese mother, even though she’s only part time – she looks after me better than anyone in the school and has gone out of her way to make sure I have the basic things I needed. (We also have both lived in Germany and love Miyazaki movies; so we initially bonded over that.) But I am so grateful to have her at my school, and hopefully continue to have a close relationship with her during my years on JET. 

It’s people like this who have made me realize how fortunate and lucky I am to be in this program. 


I was doing some much needed sorting of junk and I found my JET application notebook. I thought I would share this with the tumblr world. I really did my research before applying for JET and you can see it in each page of this notebook. I even used this notebook after getting accepted the second time I applied and when I arrived in Japan. I’ll post some of the interesting anecdotes I wrote after arriving in Japan. Don’t judge my messy handwriting or errors please.

The strangest thing just happened.

I was cooking dinner when the doorbell rang.

Outside (with my neighbor) was one of my 6th grade boys. At first I thought that my neighbor must be his mother, but after a few sentences she checked her mail and left.

He came all by himself just to talk to me!

Today I had my last visit to his homeroom before I finish my time on the JET Program. We played some games, took a picture, and said goodbye.

Standing outside my door, we had a deep conversation despite my poor Japanese skills.

He asked me what message I would like to leave behind for him and his peers. I said that they should be kind to each other. It is one of my biggest regrets that I was not a kinder person in grade school. 

He pointed out that when other teachers leave, it is likely that the students will see them again around town. But since I’m moving away, he’ll probably never see me again.

He was a little sad to hear that the next ALT will be a girl. “It’s always girls,” he said. I asked him to help her out at school when she gets here.

He also wondered why his classmates were not as upset as him about my leaving. He said that when other teachers left, they all cried. But not for me. Secretly, that was how I planned my departure. No tears, just smiles. Once I start crying I can’t stop. I told him that losing me was not all sad because that meant they get to make a new friend with the new teacher. If I have to make a speech to the school at an assembly before I leave though, there will definitely be tears.

He was happy that I could remember his name. So was I :D

Finally I told him that I will see him again next week because I will be teaching the 5th graders their last lessons. He promised to come visit me again to talk.

I love that he came to see me, because more than their formulaic thank you letters that they all have to write, it tells me that at least one student was affected by my work.

I had to write this as soon as he left so I wouldn’t forget. I will treasure this memory always.

For this month’s English Corner bulletin board, it is all about New Year’s, so I have a section for the students to write their resolutions in English… and, well, just look at the results so far. I am really amused! XD I hope I actually see that level of dedication when it comes to English in the classroom this year! Though, I am just glad to see them having fun with English! :)

For aspiring JETs prepping for their interview, you might be asked which kind of school you prefer to work in (elementary, junior high, or senior high). So if you’re curious about ES, get ready for a long post.

In my case, I went in with JLPT 2 Japanese and had worked with elementary school kids during after school programs. During the interview, I said that I’d like to be with younger kids and was given a role play scenario where I had to pretend like I was teaching 4th graders. I now teach at several elementary schools and make visits to kindergarten once a week. I sometimes go to JHS, but those times are few and far between. From what I’ve heard, having Japanese prior to JET may help get you elementary school since you’ll be teaching on your own and the other teachers probably won’t know a lot of English. 

5th and 6th graders use Hi Friends textbooks  which covers self introductions, likes and dislikes, shapes, colors, subjects, and time, things that should help them transition to JHS English. Grades 1-4 is more about playing games, simple vocab and singing songs

In my case, some of my schools have me teach all grades on my own and some have me help out the homeroom teacher with the 5th and 6th graders. For the most part though, it’s all me.

I feel like a lot of ES ALTs can relate with me on this but even with being told that the ALT is more of the main teacher at ES, getting to class, standing in front of 30 kids and being told ‘go’ was kind of a shock and it took a few months to adjust and get a handle on it. While English at Elementary school is still in the early-ish stages, there are some pros and cons to how it’s set up.

ALTing at ES Pros:

  • the kids are, for the majority, enthusiastic about playing with English and enjoy learning about different cultures. You’re encouraged to introduce holidays, music, food, etc.
  • With the freedom to be the main teacher, you don’t have to stick to the textbook all the time. You can make up games, show photos, introduce phonics, and use crafts. You can even bring the kids into the gym or outside which I’ve done a lot in the warm weather. I also use a lot of phonics songs in my younger classes and like to have the kids draw pictures in group games. Very rarely I’ll use a PPT but that’s only to supplement a textbook lesson and it doesn’t last longer than 5-10 minutes.
  • There are no tests or quizzes so there’s more emphasis on just getting them used to English. It’s more about being communicative rather than writing/reading. Some ALTs have their younger students learning the alphabet and reading but I’m not at the same schools all the time and can only do that with 5th and 6th grade since I’m with them the most.


  • Not having a clear set of goals expected of you for the younger grades. My predecessors made a curriculum for each schools’ 1-4th graders and the other ALT and I have added to it, changed it but in some cases you start from scratch.
  • Teaching alone with no help. English isn’t really English so much as it’s called Foreign Language Activity and from what I’ve heard/read, the textbooks for 5th and 6th grade have only been used for the past 4-5 years. Some teachers are into English and will help while you teach alone or team-teach with you. Some will stand in the back, grade papers. With multiple classes, sometimes you get help, sometimes you don’t. You have to roll with the punches but it takes a while to adjust and sometimes in the classes where you’re totally on your own, look to the teacher for some support and get none, it can be rough. 

I heard about the stereotypical ALT-used-as-a-cd player scenarios and that has never been the case for me but on the opposite end, it’s a lot of work planning lessons and making materials from scratch for such a broad range of ages. What 2nd graders like 3rd graders might not. What might be easy for one class of 4th graders might not be for the 4th graders next door. Some of the kids take English lessons outside so they can read while their classmates mix up their alphabet. It took me months to get used to the different abilities in the classes in each school, figure out what works and what doesn’t. No one tells you so it’s trial and error which means some kids love it, some don’t. Some kids are into dancing and singing but you may have one child who starts to cry. You’re with kids aged 6-12 each day so it goes without saying you have to adjust how you speak and interact with them. You need patience, energy, but you should love being with kids. As far as materials online, most websites are geared for JHS and SHS, I can sometimes take something and tweak it a lot but mostly it doesn’t apply to my classes. On the times I do go to JHS, I’m so used to elementary school that it takes a while to get back into the JHS environment but then I’m back to ES again for the next few months. 

Overall, I really enjoy teaching elementary school and it has been pretty much a positive experience for me. For anyone that thinks they would be suited for teaching the younger levels, don’t be afraid to bring it up in your interview and if you can, get some experience tutoring that age group. 

If anyone has any questions about being an ES ALT, feel free to message me. 

When you speak to foreign English educators in Japan, one thing becomes crystal clear: English education in Japan isn’t working.…

This is an interesting read for anyone wondering about the English education system in Japan and what really goes on in an English classroom. 

Major success in my most difficult sixth grade classes today!

In our warmup games they used to stall out and not answer to try to drag out as many questions as possible, or they just wouldn’t pay attention and would ignore the game completely - I remediated this in two ways.

one, I brought a ball. My method was this: Ask question. Chuck ball at student. When they were sufficiently surprised enough after catching the ball (most students at that age have the reflexes to catch the ball) ask question again. Answer GET.

IF they didn’t answer still, or started to stall, I gave them a countdown. After fifteen seconds (and then ten seconds when they got the gist of it) if they didn’t answer, they got pulled to the front to do five pushups.


  1. I got answers 99% of the time! Once the kids realized they had no idea who’d get the ball next they all started paying attention, and they ALL ended up understanding the grammar. We practiced “do you have a ball?” and it worked perfectly.
  2. Sometimes I’d fake out a student, NOT throw the ball, and then ask “do you have a ball?” They’d then respond “No I don’t.” In this way, I made sure they weren’t just regurgitating answers, and actually had to think about whether or not they had the ball.
  3. Once they were comfortable with the above, I introduced two more balls, and the subsequent question “How many balls?” So the method was: Throw balls, one at a time. Ask “do you have a ball?” wait for “Yes I do.” Then, “How many balls?” They could have between zero and three balls.
  4. Some of the kids didn’t actually believe me about the pushups and they DID try to push that boundary. YOU MUST BE STRONG. You must ACTUALLY MAKE THEM DO PUSHUPS. Have the other kids in the class count how many they do (in English, obviously). BELIEVE ME, THE STALLING STOPPED FAST.

Remarkably? The kids seemed to LOVE this method of teaching, and I’m going to have to figure out more ways to work races, physical activity, and lots of pop quizzes into my lessons. They are a demanding, demanding class and one that’s been described as “absolutely awful” (zettai dame) by my town’s board of education - but I got honest results out of them today, and it was great.

And since they were so good, I juggled for them at the end of class, and they were FLOORED.

So, what have I learned?

  • Keep them moving.
  • Don’t give them time to think about anything other than the lesson at hand.
  • Ball = game, even if it isn’t really a game.
  • Stickers are great, but only when paired up with a punishment. Stickers for good behavior, pushups for bad behavior.
  • For some reason the pushups were really funny and the kids actually kind of liked that. I think this relates to a popular kind of Japanese gameshow called a Batsu-game (punishment game.) Turn your class into a Batsu-game and the kids WILL respond.
  • Surprise them with a hidden talent. Who knew circus would come in handy?!

What Japanese people know about South Africa:

1) penguins

2) It is not a safety* country.

3) Invictus and Blood Diamond**

* My students never say Japan is a safe country. It’s always Japan is a safety country.

** It’s immaterial that Blood Diamond takes place in Sierra Leone and Leonardo DiCaprio plays a Rhodesian gunrunner with a truly atrocious accent. Africa is a country, right?

This post is just an excuse to post another pengling picture for theconsultingtranslator.

Today's Teacher Update
  • Lehrer:fell asleep, snored for 20mins
  • Onigiri sensei:tried to make me poke Lehrer. I refrained, because I have a ton of restraint.
  • Dudebro sensei:spent a full minute letting out a groan like a slow leak in a balloon, because he was stretching but also did not want to teach his next class
  • Fave sensei:met with me for 30mins to discuss the results of the term test, our games, and the structure of the listening quizzes I made up for the ichinensei (DID I MENTION SHE IS FAVE)
  • Preggers sensei:IS HAVING A BOYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY she met with me today too to tell me the great news but also to talk about lesson rescheduling
  • Silent sensei:actually did not meet with me but expected me to plan a lesson and be ready today. Good thing for her that I did. We had a chat. I get the impression that my "I will make all the things and cater all the things and scaffold all the things" style makes her uncomfortable, because she confessed that she never DOESNT use a textbook in a lesson. She told me she doesn't know how I do it from my head. We had a bit of a good talk until we were interrupted by a student crying in the bathroom that needed to be seen. Poor dear.
  • Supervisor:absent. I messaged her saying we needed to reschedule the class she just forgot about Monday, she goes "thanks" ... mmk.
  • Visit School Aniki:he so nice and cool and awesome and he emails me a week before we have lessons together so that he can discuss plans with me and tell me grammar points.
  • Visit School Awks:sigh. can't win em all.
  • Note-kun:came to get my rent, I didn't have exact change. He smiled and went, "That's okay" and looked up all questioning and braces-smiles wanting to know if that was the right English. Yes hun, it totally is.
  • Me:I'm doin' damn good, I want to make shakshuka tonight for dinner, and I ran this morning!