Outside the Classroom

A Comprehensive Guide to a Year of Junior High School Events in Japan

**Notice from James**

This beast was completely not written by me, however guest poster and awesome blogger Muzuhashi. Take a look at extra of his awesome writing on his blog here and if you would like to dive deep into his tale of having insomnia while working in Japan examine that out right here. He’s additionally written about getting a direct hire position, so if that is something you need to do, here you go. The only thing I’ve finished with this article is add the pics and a few of my own notes about my experiences with these occasions. Thanks a lot Muzu!


Notably once you’ve simply turn out to be an ALT, being thrust with solely the bare minimal of training into a Japanese state faculty may be completely disorientating. You gained’t be told of many issues in advance, so the aim of this submit is to inform you what is likely to happen through the course of a typical faculty yr, what to do when it does, which occasions are worthy of further investigation, and which are frankly tedious and to be prevented in any respect costs.

Along the best way you might also learn how to earn some brownie factors together with your superiors, stay one step forward of your educating colleagues, and perhaps most necessary of all, know if you’re most probably to have the ability to loosen up in the employees room and watch cat videos.

In different words – and to paraphrase the ALT Insider Mission Assertion™ – I would like to aid you take pleasure in your time as an ALT and your time in Japan.


First off, a few things about junior highschool life which may be relevant to the knowledge that follows.

1) Schedule

Most of you’ll obtain a schedule detailing which lessons you’re to train together with your JTE, however this schedule is subject to change, typically on the last minute. The next are some examples of what they could appear to be:

(Thanks to Chickenarla and Pommes from the ALTInsider Discord (Invite Link) for the schedules! Examine them out y’all -> Chickenarla’s Insta and Twit – Pommes’ Insta)

The first thing that’s value figuring out is that the majority faculties have an A schedule and a B schedule (A日課, B日課 / Aにっか・Bにっか / A-nikka, B-nikka, or typically 通常日課・特別日課 / つうじょうにっか・とくべつにっか / tsuujoh-nikka, tokubetsu-nikka), the previous being a normal faculty day of six 50-minute courses, and the latter being one of six 45-minute courses. The B schedule can come into play for any number of reasons, for instance when there’s a particular event of some type, or when the scholars go residence sooner than typical.

There might be a blackboard in the employees room on which this type of info is posted, together with which academics are happening business trips (出張 / しゅっちょう / shucchoh – it could possibly be that one of your JTEs has a meeting or a seminar, which means you’ll be free and straightforward), and whether or not immediately’s schedule has been swapped for an additional’s – for example, if it’s Tuesday however the blackboard says, ‘月曜日課’ (げつようびにっか / getsuyohbi-nikka), meaning you need to refer to your schedule for Monday.

There will even be a blackboard or whiteboard outdoors the employees room for the benefit of the students, on which you must maintain an eye fixed out for timetable modifications (授業変更 / じゅぎょうへんこう / jugyoh-henkoh) – for example, when one of your English courses has been swapped for a totally different topic.

2) Day without work in lieu (振替休業日 / ふりかえきゅうぎょうじつ / furikaé-kyuh-gyoh-jitsu)

Whereas the workload of a typical ALT is nearly all the time ridiculously mild, you’ll typically be expected to work on a Saturday. The good news is that in case you do, you’ll get the following Monday off.

Saturday work days sometimes occur on open days, sports day, the culture pageant, and in different exceptional circumstances, similar to when a faculty trip takes place on a weekend, and those students and academics who aren’t involved work a Saturday so that everyone in the varsity gets the Monday off.

When you’re a dispatch company ALT, chances are you’ll get each the Saturday and Monday off, thereby leaving you with a three-day weekend. However, when you’re direct rent and don’t go to work on the Saturday with everybody else – either accidentally or by design – you’ll in all probability have to take a day’s paid holiday for the privilege.

three) Packed lunch (お弁当 / おべんとう / obentoh)

In case you have to work on a Saturday, or sometimes when the scholars go residence early on a weekday – for instance after the doorway ceremony or the graduation ceremony – you gained’t be served any lunch. Your choices in this case are to:

  • Deliver your personal (both one you’ve purchased on the best way to faculty, or perhaps some magical creation you woke at 4am to conjure up, and which features the face of Doraemon rendered in nori seaweed, sausages minimize into baby octopus shapes, greens arranged to seem like the cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro and so on.).
  • Pop to the outlets and purchase one (though be warned, as some vice-principals might not look kindly on their ALT leaving the premises, even for such an apparently reputable purpose).
  • Pay for one of the bento packing containers the academics can be ordering (these are often 5 or 600 yen, but might be costlier – for instance, I once parted with the perfect part of 1000 yen for a handmade sushi platter delivered from a native restaurant).

If there’s one factor the Japanese – and by implication, Japanese institutions resembling faculties, boards of schooling and local authorities – like greater than anything, it’s a good, old fashioned ceremony, and whereas some could be culturally enlightening, others are tedious to the purpose where you may be falling asleep in your ft as you look on, half freezing to dying in the mid-winter chill of a darkish and draughty gymnasium.

1) Entrance ceremony for brand spanking new college students (入学式 / にゅうがくしき / nyuugaku-shiki)

Once I was a lad, for my first day at a new faculty I simply turned up, sat down in the designated classroom with my new homeroom instructor and classmates, and received on with the day. Not so here in Japan, the place first graders on their first day march into the health club, as their names are introduced by their new homeroom instructor and their mother and father look on.

Interest score: three/5
When does it happen? A weekday in early April.
How long does it final? A couple of hours in the morning.
Do I have to go? Sure when you’re at college that day.
What ought to I wear? A go well with, shirt and tie when you’re male / one thing similarly formal in the event you’re feminine.
Notice from James: One of my favourite ceremonies was this ceremony when it concerned Junior High School college students that I had taught in Elementary School. Its enjoyable to see the change in the students. From prime canine to freshman maggots in just a matter of weeks. You’ll have a bond with them like no one else in the varsity because you act as type of a bridge between the 2 worlds. Take benefit of it and have fun as hell courses with them!

2) Commencement ceremony (卒業式 / そつぎょうしき / sotsugyoh-shiki)

At the reverse finish of the tutorial yr, this is when the students in the top grade say goodbye to their faculty, their academics and their classmates. The primary part of the ceremony includes every scholar in flip being referred to as to the stage and handed their certificate of graduation by the principal, but there may also be speeches, songs (sung by the outgoing college students to those they’ll be abandoning and by ongoing students to the seniors to whom they’re saying goodbye) and tears all round – in reality, I defy even probably the most hard-hearted ALT not to shed a tear or two throughout a graduation ceremony.

Interest score: 5/5
When does it happen? A weekday in mid-March.
How long does it last? Most of the morning.
Do I’ve to go? Yes for those who’re at college that day, however even in case you’re not scheduled to be, it is best to take the time and ask both your JTE, vice-principal or dispatch firm if it’s OK to attend.
What should I wear? A go well with, shirt and tie for those who’re male / one thing equally formal should you’re female (the feminine homeroom academics, incidentally, typically put on kimonos).
Observe from James: The extra you spend time with the scholars, the more emotional this can be. Until you’ve been an ALT for years and not let yourself get emotionally hooked up to students to keep away from the inevitable pain, or is that just me?

3) Beginning / end of time period ceremonies (始業式・終業式・修了式 / しぎょうしき・しゅうぎょうしき・しゅうりょうしき / shigyohshiki, shuugyohshiki, shuuryohshiki)

Opening and closing ceremonies are little more than formalities, and as a consequence in all probability the least fascinating in the varsity yr. First of all, representatives from each grade, and typically a member of the scholar council, will take to the stage to speak about what they hope to achieve in the approaching time period (hand in their homework on time, follow more durable for his or her club activity, converse English to their ALT and so forth.). These speeches are fairly generic, as is the one which follows from the varsity principal, which is usually illustrated with a reference to a Japanese saying, a current information event, or a historic figure. As soon as the varsity track has been sung and the official business is over, one of the academics will speak to the students about what to remember of – or beware of – in the course of the coming time period or in the course of the coming vacation. This can be to take care when driving their bicycles in the snow, not speak to strangers on their sensible telephones, or refrain from swimming in the close by river / lake / storm drain.

Curiosity score: 1/5
When does it occur? The primary and final weekday morning of every of the three phrases through the faculty yr.
How long does it last? About an hour.
Do I have to go? Sure should you’re at college that day.
What should I put on? Some faculties will require you to gown formally, while others gained’t thoughts in the event you turn up in normal work clothes.
Word from James:These go by in a flash and also you do nothing. Feels like my prom night time.

four) Introduction to membership activities (部活動紹介 / ぶかつどうしょうかい / bukatsudoh-shohkai)

Till they graduate from elementary faculty, Japanese youngsters have it pretty straightforward (though most of them will already be doing a couple of after-school courses and clubs by this point – issues like piano classes, hip-hop dancing, soccer youth groups, and so forth.), but the bigger part of their three years at center faculty might be arguably the busiest of their lives, as virtually with out exception, they be a part of a club, from thereon in working towards for a couple of hours virtually every single day of the yr, often after faculty and at weekends, however typically in the morning earlier than classes start – and that’s not even including tournaments or follow matches. So the choice as to which club to be a part of is essential – in some instances life-changing – and the introduction to membership actions as enlightening for a beginner ALT as it’s for a fresh-faced first grader.

Primarily, what occurs is that everyone gathers in the health club, and the prevailing members of each membership reveal what they do and urge the primary graders to be a part of up. Group sports can get fairly chaotic, as baseballs and basketballs fly round in all instructions, but martial arts corresponding to kendo and judo are maybe extra fascinating, and even the demos for music and art clubs could be value watching if the prevailing members aren’t – as is usually the case – painfully shy.

Interest score: three/5
When does it occur? A weekday in April.
How lengthy does it final? An hour or two in the afternoon.
Do I have to go? No.
What ought to I put on? Normal work clothes.
Observe from James: Often a fun time. Even if they inform you that you simply don’t have to go, go.

5) Rousing send-off (壮行会 / そうこうかい / sohkohkai)

If there’s anything that might be stated to be unique concerning the Japanese faculty yr, it’s the sohkohkai, a word that I’ve unilaterally determined to translate as ‘rousing send-off’. Sohkohkai take place in the days before massive sports tournaments (of which extra later), and at first are nothing to write residence about, as the members of each club speak about how motivated they are and the way their purpose is to make it to the second round / last / regional event and so forth.

For the second part of the ceremony, nevertheless, a group of college students who gained’t be participating in the event in question instantly run into the room sporting hachimaki (鉢巻 / はちまき / Japanese-style bandanas) and white gloves, as one of their number beats time on a bass drum. They’ll then line up in formation and yell phrases of encouragement to each membership group in flip, whereas at the similar time performing a collection of arm-waving gestures moderately like those guys you see at airports directing planes to and from the gates. The general impact is unmistakably militaristic, and as I just lately discovered, sohkohkai occurred during WWII earlier than troops set off for the frontline. It has to be stated that relying on the varsity, some sohkohkai are more spectacular than others, but for sheer novelty worth, I might advocate that you simply witness one for your self.

Curiosity score: four/5
When does it happen? Often in mid-June and mid-September.
How long does it final? An hour or so on a weekday afternoon.
Do I have to go? No.
What ought to I put on? Regular work clothes.
Word from James: A Japanese pep rally. And as Muzu stated, if you need to see an example of what happened before soldiers have been despatched to conflict, verify this out.

6) Welcoming ceremony for brand spanking new academics (着任式 / ちゃくにんしき / chakuninnshiki)

This takes place earlier than the primary time period has properly begun, and as such is probably probably the most relaxed ceremony of all. As a rule, academics in Japan work at a specific faculty for about six years, before being placed in their next educating position fairly arbitrarily by BOEs, who reshuffle their pack of employees playing cards originally of every faculty yr. So in the course of the welcoming ceremony, academics who’ve been allocated to work at a specific faculty will introduce themselves in front of their new colleagues, and maybe extra importantly, the scholars will study who is to be their homeroom instructor for the yr, and who will take cost of their club actions (often a coach and deputy coach for every). As a result of courses haven’t but begun, the probabilities are you is probably not at college for this, however in case you are, you’ll in all probability be expected to line up at the entrance of the health club with the other academics and introduce yourself.

Interest score: 2/5
When does it happen? A weekday in early April.
How lengthy does it last? An hour or so in the morning.
Do I have to go? Sure should you’re at college that day.
What should I put on? Normal work garments.
Word from James: In case you are a half of this, be ready to say a sentence or two. Nothing major and you are able to do it in English. Typically they gained’t even ask you to participate, however I encourage you to achieve this when you have a selection.

7) Ceremony for departing academics (辞任式・辞令式・離任式 / じにんしき・じれいしき・りにんしき / ji-ninshiki, ji-reishiki, ri-ninshiki)

I’ve to admit I’ve only ever been to one of these, nevertheless it was somewhat nice because it was for one of the more competent and genial English academics I had worked with, and who was not solely leaving the varsity but in addition retiring. So the scholars made speeches, sang a music and gave her a bunch of flowers and a present, all in a very informal and spontaneous approach.

Curiosity score: 2/5
When does it happen? Late March or early April.
How long does it final? An hour or so on a weekday.
Do I have to go? No.
What ought to I wear? Regular work garments.
Notice from James: Not a lot to do right here, however yuo should say hey to the new academics after it’s over. This occurs initially of the brand new yr, so you usually gained’t be a half of these, even in case you are departing.


1) Sports activities day (体育祭 / たいいくさい / tai-ikusai)

You may assume that sports activities day can be fulfilling, but I’ll be trustworthy right here and say that it’s the event in the varsity calendar I dread probably the most. The primary cause for this is that as an ALT I’ve virtually nothing to do from the second I arrive till the moment I depart, and the spotlight for me is helping tidy away the gazebos, chairs and plant pots at the end of the day. Not only that, but everyone else is so preoccupied that they haven’t any time to interact in conversation, and in contrast to the homeroom academics, college students and their families, having no vested curiosity in the results – i.e. which scholar will win a specific race, or which class will win the prize for greatest in their grade – makes the entire thing completely anticlimactic.

There’s one event which will allow you to take an lively half in proceedings, and that’s the karibito-kyohsoh or karimono-kyohsoh (借り人競争・借り物競走 / かりびときょうそう・かりものきょうそう), a relay in which the scholars are directed to discover ‘A person wearing glasses’, ‘A maths teacher’, or – and this is where you come in – ‘A person with blonde hair’ or ‘A person from abroad’ to run with. But this respite from the relentless boredom and indifference is all too temporary, as even in case you do occur to be dragged out of the gang to run twenty or thirty metres with one of your students, that will be the full extent of your participation, and also you’ll quickly be dumped back onto the sidelines to twiddle your thumbs and long for the entire thing to come to an finish.

A aspect observe: while some faculty sports activities days at the moment are held in spring or autumn to keep away from the worst of the warmth and humidity, they historically happen initially of September. As such, and since you’ll be out of doors from about eight in the morning till two or three in the afternoon, keep in mind to convey a hat and a few sunblock.

Interest score: 1/5
When does it happen? Often a Saturday in early September,  though some faculties to this at totally different occasions of yr
How long does it last? From approximately eight.30am until 2.30pm.
Do I have to go? For those who’re a JET or direct-hire ALT, virtually definitely / when you’re a dispatch firm ALT, not necessarily.
What ought to I put on? Sports gear – for example, shorts and t-shirts are perfectly acceptable.
Notice from James: In contrast to Muzuhashii, I beloved sports day probably the most. I went all out. I select a aspect, wore their colours proudly and was actually into each occasion. As the years went on I misplaced some of my zeal, but I on the very least would select a aspect and cheer for my group, though not as vocally as I did in my youthful days of ALTing.

2) Tradition pageant (文化祭 / ぶんかさい), aka faculty pageant

Apart from faculty journeys and sports activities day, this is the occasion in the varsity calendar the scholars look forward to probably the most, but far more fascinating than the latter, mainly because it incorporates as its principal attraction the chorus contest (合唱コンクール / がっしょうこんくうる / gasshoh-konkuuru).

For the refrain contest, every class sings two songs – one they’ve chosen for themselves and one that each class in their grade sings – and competes towards the opposite courses for first prize (in smaller faculties, the courses from all three grades typically compete collectively). The amount of apply the scholars put in is astonishing – it isn’t unusual for them to sing a track a hundred occasions or extra in the weeks leading up to the tradition pageant – and on the day, their performances could be technically sensible and genuinely shifting, not to mention team-orientated, as even the students who both can’t sing or don’t want to have to discover their place in the combination.

The sense of aid when it’s throughout is palpable, and after lunch, each college students and academics placed on a stage show (舞台発表 / ぶたいはっぴょう / butai-happ-yoh), which options dancing, movies, speeches, comedy, quizzes, and most of the time, no less than one or two male academics and students dressing up in ladies’s clothing.

Curiosity score: four/5
When does it occur? A Saturday in mid-October.
How long does it final? From approximately eight.30am until 4pm.
Do I’ve to go? In the event you’re a JET or direct-hire ALT, virtually definitely / in case you’re a dispatch firm ALT, not essentially, although like the commencement ceremony, this is one of those events that it’s value giving up some of your free time to attend, if only for the morning.
What should I wear? A go well with and tie / formal clothes in the morning, but I’ve found that it’s OK to gown down a little in the afternoon.
Notice from James: Typically there will probably be an English speech portion that you’ll usually have to help the scholars apply for. I liked those apply periods because it provides you usually get to make a actual reference to a scholar by means of making an attempt to make them enhance as much as they will. All the time was fun to see individuals enhance (besides when they’re pressured into doing it and don’t want to do it, as occurred to one poor soul for me). Some faculties let mother and father come for this as properly, and a few faculties even have students do totally different actions in totally different lecture rooms. As regular, ESID.

3) School journey (修学旅行・校外学習・宿泊学習 / shuugaku-ryokoh, kohgai-gakushuu, shukuhaku-gakushuu)

It’s a regulation decreed because the starting of time that each third grade middle faculty scholar in your complete country shall go to Kyoto on a faculty journey, and while as an ALT you will not be invited along, what this means is that for three days in late spring there can be no third grade courses to train, and afterwards you’ll have to assist the students with their homework (most of the time, their challenge for the journey is to seize a foreigner, ask them some questions in English, take their photograph after which write concerning the expertise).

The primary and second graders may even go on trips, typically for the day to a zoo or an aquarium, and typically for two or three days to a ski resort – or in the event that they’re really fortunate, a theme park – and these, too, provides you with ample time to ‘make teaching materials’ in the employees room.

When does it occur? Often in late spring / early summer time.
How long does it final? Three days.
Do I have to go? Sadly you’ll be able to’t, however since you’re a foreigner in Japan, you’ve already been to Kyoto, proper?
Observe from James: I’ve heard of RARE instances where ALTs can tag along with these, so ask your faculty in case you are interested, however be prepared to be informed that it’s inconceivable, until you’re extremely lucky. ESID.

4) Sports activities tournaments

There are two fundamental sports activities tournaments in the course of the faculty yr. The first is referred to as ‘sohtai’ (総体 / そうたい), which roughly interprets as ‘general tournament’, and may function membership members from all three grades. By the point the second comes around – ‘shinjinsen’ (新人戦 / しんじんせん / actually, ‘new people battle’) – the third graders have give up their golf equipment to think about learning for high school entrance exams (of which more later), leaving newer members (therefore the identify) with the duty of representing their faculties.

Principally, that is another opportunity to sit at your desk and surf YouTube. Additionally, because so many college students shall be absent during these tournaments, there are sometimes a lot of faculty lunch leftovers to be had, so now’s your probability to scoff two luggage of ramen noodles, three tubs of natto, or sixteen kinako-agé-pan, while not having to feel guilty that you may be depriving the scholars of their justifiable share.

Notably when you work at a faculty with a robust sporting custom, the varied teams will then progress from the preliminary local event (地区大会 / ちくたいかい / chiku-taikai) by way of the regional one (中央地区大会 / ちゅうおうちくたいかい / chuu-oh chiku-taikai) to the prefectural (県大会 / けんたいかい / kentaikai), and so on and so forth, until if they’re notably good they make all of it the best way to the nationwide event (全国大会 / ぜんこくたいかい / zenkoku-taikai), all of which leads to additional lessons being cancelled due to a lack of college students, and additional opportunities for you to examine Facebook or, er, write visitor articles for ALT Insider.

When does it happen? Basic event – mid-June onwards / event for brand spanking new members – late September onwards.
How lengthy does it final? Two or three days / longer if teams progress to the subsequent levels.
Do I’ve to go? Partly for insurance functions you’re unlikely to have the opportunity to, although I’ve recognized ALTs who have been given a experience by one of the academics to baseball / tennis matches and so on.
Word from James: In case you are up for it and have the free time, these have been all the time a lot of fun for me. I didn’t go to them an excessive amount of, but once I knew I obtained along properly with a membership and the coaches, I often would attempt to catch a tourny or two per yr.

5) High faculty entrance exams (入試 / にゅうし / nyuushi)

These aren’t an occasion as such, however I’m together with them right here because enabling your students to cross them is your ultimate aim as an ALT. Miserable as it might sound, crucial thing to keep in mind concerning the English half of an entrance examination is that it includes reading, writing and listening, however no talking. Plans are afoot to have a speaking component in college entrance exams, with a view, one assumes, to ultimately doing the identical for the high school version. Additionally, on the faculties where I work, for the previous couple of years the second graders have sat a speaking check that includes each scholar having their voice recorded onto an iPad-style tablet and then pc analysed (you’ll be interested to know that I sat this check masquerading as a scholar and didn’t get 100%). But the simple reality stays that whether or not we like it or not, and regardless of what number of talking actions we’ve the students do in our courses, finally those same college students can get a place at, say, Tokyo University (the Japanese equal of Harvard or Oxbridge), with full marks in the English part, but without even having the ability to utter the immortal words, ‘I’m nice, thanks, and also you?’

However anyway, one of your duties as an ALT is to familiarise your self with entrance exams: the better multiple selection questions, the harder studying and writing sections, the listening check recordings, and so forth (in the event you can, ask your JTE to present you some previous papers – the studying comprehension passages are notably enlightening, in that they can be very lengthy and sometimes make no sense at all). That approach, from the very first time you train a new first grade class in early April, you’ll remember of what they need to know to achieve their final objective of moving into high school.

Another necessary thing to word is that there are two sorts of highschool, public (公立 / こうりつ / kohritsu, aka 都立 / 県立 / 道立 / 府立 and so on.) and private (私立 / しりつ / shiritsu). The check for public (i.e. state-run) faculties is identical for everybody in a specific space, and depending on a scholar’s rating, they’ll both get into a prestigious highschool for brainy youngsters, or a not-so-prestigious highschool for not-so-brainy youngsters. When it comes to personal excessive faculties, nevertheless, every makes its personal check, with the more prestigious ones setting harder questions and vice versa.

The public high school entrance exam takes place in early March, and relying on where you’re, the outcomes will not be introduced until after the commencement ceremony. The personal exams, however, happen in mid-January, with the outcomes announced not lengthy after, in order that some third graders already know what high school they may enter by mid-February, and as a consequence can give up learning altogether (the dilemma for folks, although, is that a personal highschool will value a lot extra to ship their youngster to).

6) Residence visits (家庭訪問 / かていほうもん / katei-hohmon)

One other memory from my childhood is what’s recognized in the UK as the mother and father’ evening, for which mums and dads go to their youngster’s faculty as soon as a yr to speak with homeroom and / or topic academics. In Japan, though, as an alternative of mother and father going to faculty, each first grade homeroom instructor personally visits the home of each of their college students – i.e. as many as thirty-plus households spread over the varsity’s catchment area. These visits take place on weekday afternoons in April, and what they imply for us is – sure, you guessed it – some conveniently giant chunks of free time. For the homeroom academics, then again, they mean having to gown in respectable garments for once (as opposed to the tracksuit they often wear), get lost making an attempt to locate the extra hard-to-find houses on their listing, drink approximately ten cups of green tea in a day, and eat just as many rice crackers, cookies and muffins (which isn’t so dangerous whenever you come to assume of it).

7) Dad or mum / scholar interviews (三者面談 / さんしゃめんだん / sansha-mendan)

As the varsity yr progresses, your interactions with third graders will develop into even fewer and further between, as they end the textbook and spend more time revising and taking checks. One sign that their time at center faculty is nearly over is the father or mother / scholar interview, for which – and as opposed to residence visits – mother and father come to the varsity to talk about which high school(s) their baby is aiming to get into. The interviews, that are more than likely to occur from about November onwards, may have no direct effect on you as an ALT, however they’ll grant you yet one more opportunity to skive off, as classes for all grades are sometimes cancelled for several afternoons on the trot.

8) Scholar trade (交換留学 / こうかんりゅうがく / kohkan-ryuugaku)

Trips to overseas nations – often exchanges throughout which students stay in the home of a local household – are extra widespread in excessive faculties, but if, like me, you happen to work at a junior high school that has one, you need to attempt to take as lively a position in the proceedings as potential. In my case, for a week or so every June I act as interpreter for a group of ten college students and two academics from Tennessee, one thing that includes sightseeing, time on the seashore and at the local mall, free meals, origami, calligraphy and the tea ceremony, in addition to meet-and-greets with the mayor, head of the board of schooling, local councillors and so forth.

The trade can also be a distinctive opportunity to organise some English lessons which involve your college students conversing (nicely, trying to converse) with real native audio system, so if a class like that is in the offing, be certain that to recommend some enjoyable, communicative actions in advance (this may increasingly sound like stating the apparent, however I have on multiple occasion witnessed JTEs do the standard boring, all-Japanese-all-the-time, read-and-repeat English classes, as American college students and / or academics sit on the back of the classroom, silent and bored).

9) Scholar council elections ( / せいとそうかい / seito-sohkai)

At between twelve and fifteen years previous, most of your students – bless their little hearts – are usually not the most effective at public talking, and nor are they possible to turn what is actually a political event into one thing enjoyable or showbizzy, so having attended a couple of these in my early years as an ALT, I now make a level of avoiding them.

Curiosity score: 1/5
When does it happen? Firstly of the varsity yr.
How lengthy does it final? A couple of hours on a weekday afternoon.
Do I have to go? No.
What should I put on? Normal work garments.
Word from James: BORRRIIINNNGGG

10) Visitor lecturers (講演会 / こうえんかい / koh-enkai)

A couple of occasions a yr the varsity will invite visitor lecturers to speak to the scholars on numerous subjects: for instance, drug and alcohol abuse or visitors security. It very much will depend on how charismatic – or otherwise – the lecturer is, but in case you don’t have one thing extra essential to do in the employees room, these might be value testing, if solely as a result of they make for good Japanese listening follow. I’ve seen lectures that merely concerned an previous man reading from a script and clicking by way of an ineptly produced Powerpoint presentation, but however, I as soon as attended a lecture by a lady whose son had dedicated suicide – not straightforward listening, for positive, however a fascinating perception into a facet of Japanese society that isn’t normally discussed.

Curiosity score: 2/5
How long does it last? An hour or two on a weekday afternoon.
Do I have to go? No.
What ought to I put on? Regular work garments.
Observe from James: B O R I N G


1) Open day (授業参観 / じゅぎょうさんかん / jugyoh-sankan)

That is one other one of those occasions when you will (in all probability) be anticipated to go to work on a Saturday, after which (in all probability) get the following Monday off. It’s additionally one of the very few occasions in the varsity yr that your JTE will go all-out to create a super-duper, activity-filled English class, producing all types of laminated flashcards, difficult worksheets, full-colour posters, slideshows, and so on and so forth.

The day itself will begin off ordinarily sufficient, with a regular morning of four courses and doubtless a bento lunch, but as the afternoon and fifth period strategy, mother and father, grandparents, and siblings will begin to arrive, and shall be standing at the again of the classroom or milling round in the hall when the class begins. Once fifth period is over you’ll be able to loosen up and fairly probably go house early, as everybody else will disappear to take part in a PTA assembly.

In addition to one or two open days in the course of the course of the varsity yr, there will even be occasions when bigwigs from the BOE flip up to ‘observe’ courses on a weekday, one thing that’s referred to as a ‘planned visit’ (計画訪問 / けいかくほうもん / keikaku-hohmon). Your JTE will in all probability make much more of a fuss – and placed on even more of a efficiency – for these, but as a result of the bigwigs in question typically visit every single class in the varsity during a single fifty-minute period, what invariably happens is that a) they seem in your classroom for about thirty seconds before shifting on to the subsequent one, and b) you haven’t any method of predicting at what point in the class this can occur, so are doing one thing really tedious – like studying and repeating from the textbook – when it does.

Interest score: three/5
When does it happen? A Saturday in mid-April, and typically again later in the varsity yr.
How long does it final? The open class itself is just one period in the afternoon, but you’ll be anticipated to work the entire day.
Do I have to go? In all probability, but probably not when you’re a dispatch ALT.
What ought to I put on? Normal work garments, however attempt to look as presentable as you’ll be able to.
Observe from James: I’ve had instructor literally apply the class beforehand from begin to finish, including rehearsing which college students will increase their arms for which questions. Assume of it more of a performance than an actual class.

2) Evacuation drill (避難訓練 / ひなんくんれん / hinan-kunren)

In a country cursed with so many natural disasters – earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, flooding, avalanches and so on. – the evacuation drill might be crucial event in the varsity yr. If there’s a real disaster, of course, you’ll get no warning of the need to evacuate, however for the drill you ought to be informed in advance and – for instance, if it’s the center of winter – can have some warm clothes to hand earlier than you’re requested to run outdoors and line up in the playground.

An necessary word: in the course of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, a vital number of individuals have been washed away by the tsunami both while they have been nonetheless lined up in faculty playgrounds, or because that they had been advised they not wanted to line up in the varsity playground and could go back to their business. As such, when you reside near the coast and there’s a tsunami warning and / or a giant earthquake, regardless of what anybody around you is saying or doing, evacuate to larger ground (if attainable no less than twenty or thirty metres above sea degree), on foot and as shortly as you probably can.

Interest score: 4/5
When does it occur? Two or 3 times a yr, often on a weekday afternoon.
How long does it last? 20 or 30 minutes.
Do I’ve to go? Sure.
What ought to I put on? Whatever you’ve gotten on on the time (though see above).
Observe from James: Until its freezing outdoors, these are nice little breaks in your schedule that may probably take away out of your regular class occasions. N

3) Checks

The Japanese love their checks virtually as much as they love their ceremonies, so there are a liberal sprinkling of these all through the varsity yr, most of which feed you with yet extra helpings of free time (though you will typically be requested to mark the check papers, which may spoil the enjoyable considerably). The primary flavours of check it is best to maintain an eye fixed out for are as follows:

  • Mid-term check (中間テスト / ちゅうかんてすと / chuukan-tesuto)
  • End-of-term check (期末テスト / きまつてすと / kimatsu-tesuto)
  • Finish-of-year check (学年末テスト / がくねんまつてすと / gakunenmatsu-tesuto)
  • Educational potential check (実力テスト / じつりょくてすと / jitsuryoku-tesuto – no less than in the world where I work, third graders take a tutorial capability check as soon as a month, which is one more reason why I rarely see them.)

Incidentally, academics will typically spend a whole fifty-minute class informing the students of their check results and analysing the answers. This is called tesuto-kaéshi (テスト返し / てすとかえし), and principally means another hour of downtime for you.

4) Employees meetings (職員会議 / しょくいんかいぎ / shoku-in-kaigi)

Employees conferences are very not often fascinating even for those who do assume of them as Japanese listening apply (the exception, perhaps, being if the academics talk about drawback students or drawback mother and father), and in the event you’re lucky, your JTE, principal or vice-principal will allow you to go residence earlier than they start. When you’re unfortunate you’ll have to sit by way of the meeting until your official house time, but as soon as that arrives, in my opinion you’re completely inside your rights to collect your issues collectively and tiptoe out of the employees room with an apologetic bow.

Curiosity score: 1/5
When does it happen? Often on the primary Monday of the month at about 3 or 4pm, but this could differ.
How long does it final? Anything from ten minutes to a couple of hours.
Do I’ve to go? Typically no, however typically you’ll be obliged to.
What ought to I put on? Regular work garments.
Observe from James: Construct up a good relationship together with your Principal/handler and you have to be in a position to depart before these start. That may take work although -> Leaving Early as an ALT (opens in a new window)

4) Morning meeting (全校朝会 / ぜんこうちょうかい / zenkoh-chohkai)

For those who turn up for work in the morning to discover the employees room empty aside from the varsity secretary, this in all probability means there’s a morning assembly happening in the sports corridor. Morning assemblies are the exception somewhat than the rule, so this often signifies that one thing uncommon has occurred, like somebody being involved in an accident on the best way to faculty, or coming in joint-fifth place in the regional hearth prevention poster making contest (prize, certificates and trophy giving, by the way, are generally known as hyoh-shoh / 表彰 / ひょうしょう).

Curiosity score: 1/5
When does it happen? Before courses begin on a weekday morning.
How long does it last? 15 or 20 minutes.
Do I have to go? No.
What should I put on? Normal work garments.
Word from James: You’ll not often be informed when these are going to happen, in order Muzu said, be prepared to go to faculty after which marvel in case you are the final human on earth a minimum of once a yr.

5) Employees parties

A number of occasions a yr the academics will go out collectively for a meal and a drink, and you’ll typically be invited along. You’re definitely not obliged to go, and in case you do it might value a truthful amount of cash – say, 5000 yen for two or three hours of all-you-can-eat / all-you-can-drink (食べ放題・飲み放題 / たべほうだい・のみほうだい / tabéhohdai, nomihohdai) – however it may be a nice method of getting to know your colleagues in a more relaxed, non-work context.

Amongst different issues, such occasions are referred to as enkai (宴会 / えんかい), nomikai (飲み会 / のみかい), hanseikai (反省会 / はんせいかい), if it’s the top of the calendar yr, bohnenkai (忘年会 / ぼうねんかい), …or if it’s the top of the tutorial yr, owakarékai or sohbetsukai (お別れ会 ・送別会 / おわかれかい・そうべつかい).

Interest score: Depending on the circumstances, anything from 1/5 to 5/5.
When does it occur? Numerous occasions of the yr.
How long does it last? The preliminary celebration gained’t go on very late, so from approximately 6pm till 9pm, but some or all academics might stay out later and move on to a totally different venue.
Do I have to go? No.
What should I wear? Whatever you need.
Observe from James: Have enjoyable. Don’t get sloppy. Don’t go in case you can’t afford to.  The Artwork of the “Kai” (opens in a new window)


In order that’s about it. In scripting this publish, I’ve assumed that what goes on in junior excessive faculties elsewhere in Japan is analogous and even similar to what I’ve skilled here in Ibaraki, but when your personal experience differs or in the event you assume I’m talking a load of previous rubbish, be happy to say so in the feedback. In the meantime, I hope you’re now higher in a position to anticipate what is going to occur through the faculty yr, higher ready to make the most of your time as an ALT, and searching forward to all of that employees room cat video leisure time you’ll soon have at your disposal.

**Observe from James**

Thanks Muzuhashi. What a beast. Go take a look at his blog right now. Also thanks for Munakata Junior High for letting me use tons of footage!

Ultimate Notes

Thanks for studying!


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