Today was my last day at my current assignment. I was only there for 10 weeks, but I was really settled in and comfortable. The regular teachers were great, and the students delightful. I’m going to miss it.

So what’s next? I’m going to visit an elementary school tomorrow morning, and find out what it’s all about. My previous job was at what is referred to as a ’junior high school’, although I reckon that ’middle school’ might be a better translation (both semantically and literally).

To clarify, here’s a brief explanation of the Japanese school system:

  • Elementary school [小学校 shōgakkō] (6 years, age 6-12)
  • Junior High School [中学校 chūgakkō] (3 years, age 12-15)
  • High School [高校 kōkō] (3 years, age 15-18)

I think that’s correct, anyway... My job up until now has been as an Assistant English Teacher (aka AET). That means that I’ve been working with the regular teachers, (trying!) to come up with ideas to make the lessons interesting and to work on the students’ spoken English—obviously a specialist area for me as a native speaker of the language. For the most part, I feel that I’ve succeeded. In terms of workload, I’ve had two to four classes each day, with plenty of time to prepare, plan, and rest and recuperate after the more exhausting classes. Sometimes too much free time, but a pretty good deal, overall.

The next job is at an elementary school. Actually, several elementary schools; a different one each day. I’d have to teach six classes a day, not as an assistant teacher but as the main teacher. Worst of all is the fact that several of these schools are located far from the train stations, requiring a time-consuming bus ride on top of the train journey. And believe me, Japanese buses are absolutely bloody horrible. Let me put it this way: if there was a crash, you wouldn’t get a whiplash injury, for the simple reason that you can’t move that much. On top of all this, I’d have to be at each school for 08.30. That means some really early mornings...

More than the early rising, however, the part that really concerns me is a. a lack of preparation time with such a heavy schedule, and b. can I do it? It’s a big step from teaching adults and working as an assistant teacher of children to teaching young children as the main teacher. They obviously don’t speak English to any functional level, and although I can speak Japanese well enough, I have doubts about how well I will be able to communicate with this particular group. With so many different schools and classes, it will be difficult even to remember their names, let alone to make any personal connection with the students.

Well, I’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I can observe some classes, and hopefully find out what it’s really like.