Everyone is different in their reasoning for what might benefit their careers, fuel their interests, or what will be either more or less a vacation or an occupational burden. My time in Japan has luckily been a combination of many experiences, which I feel helped contribute to my decision to stay in Japan yet another year.
This will be the beginning of my 3rd year working for Hyogo Prefecture at two Senior High Schools. On average, I’d say I’ve taught about 16-17 classes per week on average throughout both years. It was gruelling when I started my position, because much of the teaching materials I use now were only a glimmer at the back of my mind. Much of my classes were a mess and I was never satisfied with my lesson plans. A problem with many ALTs is keeping that early motivation to improve and push forward while resisting the urge to succumb to stress of a new job right away.
I slowly adjusted, found lessons I liked and didn’t like, and created a system that worked well enough for me and my JTEs. Eventually, I could juggle other responsibilities while contributing enough to my lessons to feel stable. Later, I learned that many teachers didn’t always have the luxury to adjust. Sometimes the lesson load can be too irregular, bouncing from school to school, or too much, or even too little. The JETs I saw leaving had sometimes left because of boredom and under-use. While I felt a weight of work to sift through in the beginning, it was always manageable and I can only sympathize with those who were not given a fair amount of work.
In addition to the stable workload, having an array of interests, such as boxing at the local gym, music performance groups and live houses and bars, and the support of AJET events and local JET meetups, I’ve constantly had an amazing variety of opportunities to be among friends and create my own community here in Japan. Many of my friends include Japanese people, which I feel is essential in creating a firm community for oneself here, and not something that exists merely in the foreigner ‘void’ that we create between ourselves.
Having pushed to be part of a wide community, diving headfirst into my personal interests, and creating a manageable (maybe even fun) work environment for myself, has allowed me to truly enjoy my experience here. In the future, I have a few career opportunities I’m still exploring, including international positions with the U.S. government, or even furthering my education in a masters program.
But, I feel that my time here would be an even stronger investment and therefore an even stronger experience which shouldn’t be cut short too soon. My advice to others who would want to share in this investment should strive to feel appreciated and useful, to be active and involved in school life and the local community (either with foreign friends or Japanese, if possible), and to remind themselves of the reason they came here every day.
Living in Japan is a rare opportunity and one that may not last, so I hope to make the most of my time here.
Stephen Crafton, Third Year Kobe JET