Feb 22

 

 

By Mark Flanigan, Nagasaki (2000-04)

 

As a JET alumnus, I look back fondly on the four years I spent living and teaching in Nagasaki Prefecture. Serving on JET was, quite literally, one of those “life-changing” experiences, as it confirmed my career path in the direction of public service and global education. In the 15 years or so since my time in Nagasaki, I have been lucky to have had international roles in the U.S. government, in higher education, and at a private, Japan-focused non-profit foundation. I was even fortunate enough to return to Japan a second time, to earn my MA in Peace Studies in 2012 through the Rotary Peace Center at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo. Later, I served in a variety of roles in Manhattan with JETAANY between 2012-16.

My most recent career stage brought me back into the classroom, albeit in a different role and a new part of Asia for me. I am currently serving as a WorldTeach Fellow volunteer in Chittagong, Bangladesh, at the Asian University for Women (AUW). It has been both a challenging and rewarding transition back into teaching, as I felt a bit rusty in the beginning and took a bit of time to get back in the groove. Also, my main experiences with Asia had been almost entirely focused on Japan, China, and Korea. For me, South Asian history and culture was something I knew very little about up until a couple of years ago. Being here, I realized how comparatively little I knew about the diverse cultures of the Indian subcontinent of Asia. Nonetheless, it has proven to be an extremely rewarding transition, personally as well as professionally.

 

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Me with some of my Pathways students in Bangladesh

Through a friend in New York City, I had first learned about AUW back in 2015. She had been a WorldTeach Fellow here a few years before, volunteering and having a really significant educational and cultural experience. The more I heard about her time in Bangladesh, the more I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to get back in the classroom while making a positive contribution to education for women at a significant institution like AUW. While I definitely enjoyed my four years in Manhattan, working as a Program Director with the Japan ICU Foundation (日本国際基督教大学財団), I also felt ready to take on a new challenge. I applied and was happily accepted as a new volunteer with WorldTeach, and assigned to AUW for the 2016-17 academic year.

AUW was founded in 2008 as a regional hub to help educate underprivileged women throughout different regions of Asia and the Middle East. With a liberal arts curriculum that promotes critical thinking and women’s empowerment, it is a truly encouraging place for young women who have faced numerous challenges in life due to poverty, gender bias, and sectarian conflict. With 600 students (and over 400 alumnae) from 15 different countries, including Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and others, AUW is an amazingly diverse place. The dynamic environment, small class sizes, and daily interaction of people with many different ideas, perspectives, and cultures makes it an esteemed center of higher education in South Asia.

However, I almost missed my chance to be here. Less than one month before I was due to arrive at AUW, we heard the news of the terrible attack in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh. All I knew was that international residents of the city (and their local friends and colleagues) had been targeted specifically in a vicious terror strike. The attackers, while a definite minority in terms of the general population, were sending a very clear and deadly message. Although the attack did not take place in Chittagong, it was great cause for concern among both WorldTeach and AUW staff, as well as present and future volunteers. At that time, it was not clear whether we would still be able to serve in Bangladesh, or how the program might proceed. Many safety protocols would need to be analyzed and revised before a final decision could be made. In the end we were still given the option to come, which I was definitely happy to hear.

I have now been here for seven months, teaching two different groups of students over the autumn and now spring terms. My classes are part of the Pathways for Promise Program at AUW, which is the recently developed entry point for women who have not had as much formal preparation to succeed in higher education. Many of them have come as former workers from the garment factories of Bangladesh, while others are daughters of Grameen Bank loan recipients, refugees from the persecuted Rohingya community, as well as indigenous minorities from the Chittagong Hill tracts region. In addition to Bangladeshis, Pathways students have come from Afghanistan, Cambodia, and Myanmar. They will take classes for approximately one year in Reading and Writing as well as Listening and Speaking, and also study Math and IT while participating in Community Time and Social Mentoring workshops and events.

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A lovely display of Bengali cuisine

If they complete the Pathways Program successfully and meet all the exam requirements, they will advance to the one-year Access Academy and then an additional three years of undergraduate study at AUW. In all, the successful ones will graduate in five years with their bachelor’s degree in hand. Against all odds, this is their big chance to earn their college degree. Without the encouragement and funding support to match their own amazing dedication, it would most likely be impossible. It will not be easy for them. Many are far away from home and spend almost all of their time on the small but secure campus. They live in dormitories with 2-5 students per room, eat in the dining hall, and take all their classes together, so there is very little time for privacy or quiet reflection. Nonetheless, they are very eager to learn and make the most of this unique opportunity they have been granted.

It goes without saying that my students inspire me each and every day. Teaching them is really one of the biggest joys of my life here, and in many ways takes me back to my first experience teaching overseas in Japan. Although those two times are separated by about 15 years and many more miles, there are also some interesting parallels between them. Of the many things I have discovered over my time here thus far at AUW, one of the most interesting has been the surprising number of existing connections here between Bangladesh and Japan. As a former JET who later studied at ICU and worked to promote increased U.S.-Japan ties, it’s been a really pleasant surprise to find out about and help to build on these great bilateral bonds of friendship.

The first one, I discovered quite by accident. In the early part of the autumn semester, I was walking in the hallway outside of my office when I heard the distinct counts of “ICHI, NI, SAN, SHIIII!!” emanating from the level above. Intrigued, I climbed the staircase up to the next floor and was surprised to discover the gymnasium filled with perfect rows of students. They were in straight lines, balanced in strict stances, with fists alternately chambered by their side and then thrust forward in a crisp motion I instantly recognized. My mind wandered back to our small dojo in Hirado City, Nagasaki, where I spent countless hours drilling in those very same “kihon” movements. I was curious to find out more, so I made arrangements to return and observe a longer class in session.

It was then that I met Ms. Maria Chakraboty, their instructor, a remarkable woman from Bangladesh who has achieved her 5-Dan rank in Shotokan Karate. Maria serves as a real inspiration to her students, as AUW’s Associate Director of Physical Education and Karate instructor. Maria grew up in Chittagong, the same city where AUW is based, and faced hardships of her own due to people judging her negatively by her gender. She was strongly discouraged by others in her pursuit of Karate, but through the encouragement of her instructors, she has achieved a remarkable number of accomplishments. For her students, Maria is a living, breathing example of a successful adult woman, who has faced down discrimination and has continued her own personal growth through embracing the Japanese art of Karate. She has been able to impart her wisdom and experience to hundreds of young students through the years. Such is the wonderful environment of a cross-cultural, liberal arts university like AUW.

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Maria (Center) training with some of her AUW students

In addition to Karate,  there are other tangible bonds of kizuna between AUW and Japan. Attending the University’s Club Fair this past autumn, I was happy to learn that AUW students are involved in all kinds of social and academic club activities. Similar to Japan, students here balance their time between formal classes and organized clubs, like Model UN, Animal Welfare, a variety of sports, and other pursuits. Most interestingly to me, I discovered that there is a very active group of students on campus who are involved in the AUW Japan Circle Club! They are extremely genki and know an amazing amount of things regarding Japanese culture. They study Japanese on their own (as it is not taught here), read manga, watch anime, and even make their own kimono and other clothing by hand! Upon meeting them, I shared my experience as a JET alumnus and former ICU graduate student. They asked me to serve as their faculty advisor, to which I most happily agreed!

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With some of the AUW Japan Circle Club students (and their hand-made clothing)!

I have been very happy to be working with them on various projects here this term. Most specifically, we have planned and organized a Japanese book drive among some of my colleagues and friends in Japan and Hong Kong. Through their kind and generous help, we have now received about seven boxes full of manga, books, magazines, language textbooks, and Japanese-English dictionaries from abroad! All of these were donated to the AUW library, so students can access them freely anytime. As none of our students have been able to visit Japan as of yet, they really love the chance to see any kind of “hon mono” firsthand. One Tokyo friend in particular also sent a variety of delicious Japanese candies, which were a big hit with the students! We are still interested in receiving any other items from Japan, if anyone would like to donate. Additionally, the students performed a number of Japanese songs (in Japanese) and dances for our recent Lunar New Year Festival. We hope to develop exchange partnerships with AUW and universities in Japan, in order to offer study abroad opportunities in both directions. Interestingly, at least one ICU alumna is now studying in Japan, earning her Master’s degree at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo!

Lastly, there is a very robust level of support for AUW in Tokyo. As part of the global support network for AUW students, a number of highly-accomplished and very influential donors make up the “Friends of AUW Japan” organization. Among them is Ms. Kathy Matsui,Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs Japan,who has a long and deep connection to AUW. In 2007, she was chosen by the Wall Street Journal newspaper as one of the “10 Women to Watch in Asia” for her work on the “Womenomics” theme, and serves as a board member of the AUW Support Foundation. Ms. Matsui and her husband, Mr. Jesper Koll, have been major donors to AUW since its inception, and they continue to look for ways to promote exchange between AUW and Japanese universities and companies. In addition, First Lady Akie Abe serves as an official Patron of AUW and has been actively involved with a number of fundraising efforts on behalf of the university in Tokyo over the past few years. Lastly, AUW has enjoyed very generous support through the past several years from a number of Japanese companies like HITACHI, MITSUI & CO., TOSHIBA CORPORATION, and UNIQLO.

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 First Lady Akie Abe (center) and Ms. Kathy Matsui (second from right)

In conclusion, I would say my time here in Bangladesh has been a wonderful journey thus far. In many ways, it’s a completely new (and sometimes bumpy) experience for me, living in South Asia and in a developing, Muslim-majority country for the first time. Culturally, it’s much different than what I was used to, but that’s been a good opportunity to broaden my own horizons and question my preconceived notions about life as well. My students in the Pathways for Promise Program specifically, and AUW students in general, have taught me so much and really inspired me through their own energy, resilience, and desire to learn. As a nice coincidence, this latest chapter in my career also brings me back to teaching and to Japan in many ways. I am happy to have so many “natsukashii” moments here, to help teach these remarkable young women, and also to be in a position to try and advance the relationships between people in Bangladesh and Japan. In some ways, it’s the most unexpected yet personally satisfying addition to my time here at AUW. I’m happy to make the most of all these fortuitous connections during my time here in Bangladesh and beyond.

 

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Mark Flanigan is currently a WorldTeach Fellow volunteer in Chittagong, Bangladesh, at the Asian University for Women (AUW). Mark served as an ALT in Nagasaki Prefecture from 2000-4, and later studied for his MA in Peace Studies as a Rotary Peace Fellow at the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo from 2010-12. After graduating from ICU in 2012, he spent four years working for the Japan ICU Foundation in NYC. He has also held leadership roles in the JET Alumni Associations of both New York and Washington, DC. He can be reached at markinmitaka(at)gmail.com

mark-in-bangladesh


Feb 14

********************

Hello fellow JET alums!  My name is Stephanie Hupp, and I was an ALT in Akita Prefecture from 2011-2015.  I worked in a wonderful little town called Yurihonjo.  I don’t miss the brutal winters but I do miss living and working in Japan!

However, I have decided to come back to school to get my masters in Communication, specifically in Intercultural Communication. Based on my many years in Japan, I am writing about life for American ALTs in Japan and some of the potentially negative experiences they might have faced (or maybe they experienced none!).  I am specifically looking at microaggressions and how they might relate to job satisfaction and satisfaction with co-workers.  A microaggression is defied as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”  While this definition regards people of color, I am investigating to see if these same experiences happen with Americans as more and more Americans work abroad.  A common one many of you might have heard is the compliment “You are good at using chopsticks!”  or maybe a restaurant or bar was seemingly nervous because of a potential language barrier.

Unfortunately, my study is only open to American JETs (sorry my UK/Aussie/Kiwi JETs!).  I have compiled a short survey (it should take about 20 minutes to complete) as well as a section at the end where you can put an e-mail if you wish to be contacted for an interview.  Any help I can get is greatly appreciated, and if you know someone that would like to participate please pass them this message!  The link is mobile friendly.  You can take the survey here.  I hope the results of this survey will help JETs have a better understanding of their experiences, as well as potentially help future JETs fully prepare for life and work abroad.

http://uark.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_57PuZEMiukOKlal

All the best in your endeavors!

Stephanie Hupp

University of Arkansas Department of Communication

Public Speaking Instructor and TA

shupp@uark.edu


Oct 5

Nathaniel Simmons (Nara-ken, 2007-2009) is currently a communication professor at Western Governors University and lives in Columbus, OH, USA. He teaches a variety of intercultural, interpersonal, and health communication courses. He has researched and published several scholarly articles regarding privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers in Japan and is currently working on turning his research into a book.

What makes a good or bad medical professional?

From school medical checks to hospital visits, the average ALT has several medical encounters throughout their year(s) in Japan.  Intrigued by my own experiences within the Japanese medical world, I interviewed 49 foreign English teachers in Japan about their healthcare experiences, and here’s what they said (in a much more condensed format):

Bad providers violate patients’ cultural expectations 

ALTs perceived providers that “violated,” and/or did not perform culturally expected practices as “bad” providers.  In other words, if a Japanese medical profession didn’t act as expected, the ALT perceived the experience and the medical provider as negative, or “bad.”  As an example, one English teacher characterized the difference between a “good” and “bad” doctor.  The following is an excerpt that distinguished between two physicians this English teacher encountered while seeking treatment for bronchitis.

“I walk into his [the doctor’s] office and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re not healthy I can hear you from outside.  This isn’t just a cold is it?’ ‘No.’  Just from hearing me cough he knew that I wasn’t well.  He says to me, ‘You either have bronchitis or pneumonia.  We’re going to take an x-ray and blood tests to find out.’  Difference in doctor right there! One of them [the bad one] just hands out a diagnosis and is like I think you might need antibiotics and the other [the good one] is like I want to do a blood test and do an x-ray to make sure you need the antibiotics and if they’re the right kind.  So that doctor, the good doctor, figures out all the information I needed.  The bad doctor, is like, ‘I’m going to give you medicine now.  Goodbye.  Give me ¥600.’”

This ALT’s experience with an array of Japanese medical professionals within Japan allowed the ALT to construct a comparison and contrast of “good” and “bad” doctors.  According to this ALT, good doctors either knew quickly what was wrong with a patient or took immediate action to determine what was causing the patient illness or discomfort as well as how to alleviate it.  The “good” doctor sought to understand the patient’s perspective and the illness versus simply handing out an antibiotic which may not treat the illness for a fee.

Throughout interviews with ALTs, “bad” providers were described as:

  • Ignited fear within the patient(s) by thinking out-loud and muttering possible diagnoses.
  • Provided no verbal or nonverbal cues, especially on invasive exams like pap smears.
  • Did not provide an “appropriate/adequate” diagnosis.

Good providers attend to the patients’ cultural expectations

ALTs believed that “good” providers should attend to their cultural expectations (i.e., all of those standards and norms for practice in one’s home culture).  In other words, “good doctors” should behave and act like one might expect in their home country.  For instance, when discussing a positive time with a doctor, one English teacher said:

People here don’t always smile when they meet you and things like that.  As a westerner you think, ‘Oh you don’t like me,’ but no it’s just because Japanese don’t smile.  When he [the doctor] first met me, he smiled at me, he introduced himself [in English], and so far it’s all been working out.”

Overall, “good” providers were described in interviews as:

  • “Very nice and understanding.”
  • “Similar to what I’d experience back home.”
  • Had “appropriate” body language.
  • Exceeded expectations on providing medical education, understanding, and comprehension to patients.

What next?

This study raises the importance of intercultural health communication training.  More programs need it.  English teachers are placed throughout Japan by numerous organizations and boards of education and are expected to live well.  However, that “living well” can be complicated when foreigners expect intercultural interactions to progress flawlessly and as according to their own culture.  Some ALTs even chose to not re-contract due to their health care experiences in Japan (and not necessarily because they are in poor health).  Scholars argue about “who should adapt to whom,” but that doesn’t really help us in the day-to-day life of a foreigner navigating a medical system (in Japan).

Here are some suggestions, what others do you have?

  1. Expect difference.
  2. Do your homework.
    1. Research the Japanese medical system.
      1. What similarities, if any, exist between Japan and your home country?
      2. What differences, if any, exist between Japan and your home country?
    2. Google Japanese words for common symptoms and your current prescriptions.
    3. Ask questions to a friend, other English teachers, and co-workers (if you feel comfortable).
      1. What should I expect when I go to the doctor/dentist/hospital?
      2. What surprised you about the Japanese medical world? (to other foreigners).
      3. What over the counter medicine do you find works best for _____?
  3. Laughter helps.
  4. Remember that Japanese medical professionals are trained professionals.
  5. Insert your tips here ______________!

This blog post is an adaptation of the scholarly article:

Simmons, N. (2016). (De-)legitimizing medical professional discourses: Evaluations from foreign English teachers in Japan. Language & Intercultural Communication, 16(2), 1-18. doi:10.1080/14708477.2015.1113984

Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14708477.2015.1113984?journalCode=rmli20 

 


Apr 10
Bahia discusses the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 at Florida International University, March 8, 2016. (Courtesy of Bahia Simons-Lane)

Bahia discusses the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 at Florida International University, March 8, 2016. (Courtesy of Bahia Simons-Lane)

By Bahia Simons-Lane (Gunma-ken, 2005-07) for JQ magazine. Bahia taught at an all-girls’ high school on JET, and following her time on the program she held the position of ALT Advisor for the Gunma Board of Education from 2007-08. Bahia earned her master’s degree in International and Intercultural Education and certificate in Asian Studies from Florida International University in 2014, and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, Language, Literacy, and Culture. She is president of the Florida chapter of the JET Alumni Association.

On March 11, 2011, I woke up like it was any other day, but minutes after I walked downstairs I realized it wasn’t. Two of my friends were staying with me at the time. When we came downstairs the first thing they said to us was, “Did you hear about what happened in Japan?” We spent the rest of the day glued to the Internet and TV, horrified and shaken by the devastation caused by the earthquake and tsunami. That was five years ago.

This March 11 marked the five-year anniversary of the triple disaster that devastated the Tohoku region of Japan. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami killed thousands of people with many more displaced from their homes. Yet, like with many disasters over time, people stop thinking about what happened and it fades into the background. With the five-year anniversary approaching, I realized that I hadn’t heard a lot about how the Tohoku recovery was progressing. I knew that those without strong ties to Japan had probably forgotten all about the disaster entirely. It was time to look into how the recovery had progressed and share it with students at Florida International University who may not know much about the disaster, so I pitched the idea to the organizer of the Tuesdays Times Roundtables (TTRs) and it was agreed that it would be a great addition to the spring lineup.

FIU’s Office of Global Learning presents TTRs every week in conjunction with the New York Times. I proposed the talk for the March 8 roundtable, which seemed like perfect timing to discuss the 3/11 earthquake. The TTRs are a series of talks that focus on news items published in the New York Times and offers a closer look at some of the articles and the issues they address. The TTRs are usually well attended, and my talk was no exception, with approximately 40 people in attendance. Mostly students, they were avid listeners who asked interesting questions and made insightful comments (view the video of the complete presentation for more).

Read More


Feb 22

Passed on by Eden Law JETAA NSW President and Australian Country Representative.

The Global Science Course (GSC) is a new undergraduate 2 year-long transfer program. It was designed to enhance cross-cultural interactions among young minds from around the world coming together to learn science. All GSC classes are conducted in English by world-leading professors who are pursuing cutting-edge research in the most advanced fields, while also focusing on the fostering of students who will lead the next generation in science communities.

By giving students the opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo, they will not only get the chance to make the most of our world renowned facilities but will also be able to experience Japanese lifestyle and culture first-hand. This is an invaluable opportunity for those looking to expand their worldviews and experience something unique during their time as an undergraduate student.

Furthermore, successful applicants to our program are rewarded with a generous scholarship. This includes 150,000 Japanese yen per month to aid in paying tuition fees and support living expenses. It additionally includes fully supported rent.

Here is a link to the course website: http://www.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/GSC/

Here is a link to our informational booklet: http://www.s.u-tokyo.ac.jp/GSC/about/files/booklet.pdf

Information about our program can also be shared through Facebook and Twitter:
https://www.facebook.com/globalsciencecourse/
https://twitter.com/GSC_UTokyo

Good luck!


Jan 16

Nathaniel Simmons (Nara-ken, 2007-2009) is currently a communication professor at Western Governors University and lives in Columbus, OH, USA. He teaches a variety of intercultural, interpersonal, and health communication courses. He has researched and published several scholarly articles regarding privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers in Japan and is currently working on turning his research into a book.

What is private in Japan?

If I tell my co-workers I have hemorrhoids, diarrhea, or need to go to the OBGYN will they tell everyone else?

These may not be questions JETs think about when they first go to Japan. It also may not be something JETs consider when they are ill and trying to gain medical care or just discussing information (i.e., relationship status) about themselves with their co-workers.

The reality is Japanese cultural conceptions of privacy might be different than many JETs’ expectations. Depending upon how individualist or collectivist your home country is will influence how privacy is interpreted, expected, and maintained. The concept of “what is private” or “privacy” differs cross-culturally, as do the ways in which privacy values are expressed.

Japan is no exception.

Japan has been largely classified as a collectivistic culture. As you know from your own experiences in Japan, the group matters more than the individual. In other words, in Japan the “we” wants and goals come before the “I” or “me” wants and goals. For collectivists, the very notion of privacy might be viewed as selfish due to an individual’s wants and goals taking precedent over the group’s desires.

Ever notice that privacy is in katakana, the Japanese syllabary used for foreign words? Puraibashi, or プライバシー, is taken directly from the English word for “privacy.” Since traditional Japanese language has no word for privacy, a unique cultural conception of privacy emerged. For example, the idea that one has “the right to be left alone” might signal a lack of cooperativeness with the group and an inability to work well with others. Additionally, controlling one’s privacy information might be perceived as an excess of mistrust. Even Japanese scholars have commented that gaijin might perceive the group interdependence of Japanese people as “suffocating.”

Japanese language use two distinct, yet interrelated meanings of Japanese privacy: shakai ( 社会), or “public,” and seken (世間), or “world/society.” Such terms stress the importance of relationships, interdependence, and group harmony. Shakai contributes to negative aspects of crimes being withheld from the media in order to protect victims and their families. If one was to “break shakai” it would involve speaking publically about private matters which might harm another’s reputation. Seken emphasizes human relations and allows Japanese people the ability to “understand” or at least “explain” what went wrong in a given situation. To the foreign eye, this might look intrusive, or like “gossip,” as one tries to understand one’s home life or culture to explain a tragic event.

As JETs operate on differing values of privacy, this might result in individuals feeling “violated” or “exposed.” Perceived privacy violations can lead to relationship withdrawal, isolation, and negative assumptions/stereotypes about one’s co-worker or Japan in general. Throughout my research, gaijin English teachers reported feeling that their co-workers invaded/violated their privacy expectations. In other words, if they told someone something, it was then told to someone else, who then told someone else…etc. You get the point. In my research, gaijin felt victimized when people knew things about them that they didn’t disclose (i.e., So and so sensei told me you went to the doctor and are on X medication), even if it was something positive (i.e., I heard your dental checkup went well!). My participants felt like “celebrities” because “everyone (i.e., Japanese people)” in their communities knew “everything” about them.

Critics of my participants’ stories have said “Well, they should know it will be different from their home country.” It is easy to say “expect things to be different.” To what extent should this responsibility be shared? No recruiting organizations discuss privacy in their trainings. Perhaps privacy is something so engrained in one’s culture that it is perceived to be “common sense?” Perhaps that “common sense” is where the most difficulties exist when what one “commonly” thinks doesn’t work.

Regardless, this is a collective issue that requires further dialogue and research to better understand how to cultivate meaningful relationships. Several of my participants chose to cut their contracts short or to not renew because of their interpersonal privacy experiences.

That’s costly – it costs financially and personally.

This blog post is an adaptation of the scholarly article: Simmons, N. (2012). The tales of gaijin: Health privacy perspectives of foreign English teachers in Japan. Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research, 11, 17-38. Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/3/


Dec 14
"Some in government suggest that the path to citizenship includes learning English. What we intend to do is provide all of our apps to these learners, but entirely for free.  It is a big dream of mine to give back to society in such a way." (Courtesy of James Rogers)

“Some in government suggest that the path to citizenship includes learning English. What we intend to do is provide all of our apps to these learners, but entirely for free. It is a big dream of mine to give back to society in such a way.” (Courtesy of James Rogers)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

For many of us, our time teaching Japanese people the finer aspects of English was limited to…well, the JET Program. But that hasn’t been the case for James Rogers (Aichi-ken, 2003-06).

As the president of Kyoto JALT and the founder and editor of the Kyoto JALT Review, Rogers has utilized his comprehensive knowledge of English-language education to develop Smart Smart, a series of apps containing materials geared towards Japanese learners of English and vice versa (as well as other language learners). Among their features, the apps contain more than 100,000 words of content, a textbook using modern music to study English, and pronunciation exercises for native Chinese, Korean and Japanese speakers.

To learn more about how Smart Smart has thrived and what’s ahead, JQ caught up with Rogers, who also happens to be a Ph.D. candidate doing corpus linguistics research.

How did your experience as a JET inspire you to launch Smart Smart?

The JET Program certainly was my first foot in the door in regards to English education in Japan—without it, I do not think any of this would have been possible. So, in that regard, I view my experience on JET as an essential aspect to my current successes with Smart Smart and my career teaching English at the university level. I think the JET Program is a wonderful opportunity for foreign teachers and Japanese students.

What inspired you to create Smart Smart?

Well, we really are still just in the beginning stages of really taking advantage of technology in education, and I just looked at what is currently available and realized that I could totally improve upon it drastically.  Also, since I am a real teacher/researcher and do not depend on this to make a living, I could provide it for nearly ten times cheaper than some technology that is currently available. For example, over 30 volunteer researchers and translators helped me to create the content for over five years. Just the apps existing and the papers we’ve all published together helps all of our careers, so that is the benefit for the team. In addition, some team members already have tenure and Ph.D.s and just wanted to be part of something that truly had the potential to improve upon English education. Since I didn’t need to pay anyone to create the resources, the price we can sell them at can be kept at the bare minimum. Originally, I intended to actually release everything for free, but then I had the opportunity to collaborate with Ernie Thomason, the creator of the best-selling Flashcards Deluxe, and realized that not only can I provide the best quality content, but also the most cutting edge technology as well for mere pocket change. Without Ernie, none of this could have been possible.

Your apps contain well over 150,000 words of content. How often is the content updated?

We update the apps themselves—in fact, just last week we added a great new feature to the quiz function in the app. But the content, other than finding typos, is fixed. For example, the app 英語マスター1万/English Master 10,000 itself has over 100,000 words of example sentences. Each sentence highlights how to use one of the chunks it teaches (all chunks and sentences have translations as well). My Ph.D. research looked at years’ worth of corpus data from the Corpus of Contemporary American English to identify these chunks. So, basically, these are the high-frequency chunks of English according to the corpus. That’s a fact that doesn’t change, and thus no updating of content is really necessary. You know, chunks like “along those lines,” or “to make a statement,” or “a big deal”…these chunks aren’t going anywhere.

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Aug 14

Nathaniel Simmons (Nara-ken, 2007-2009) is currently is currently a communication faculty member at Western Governors University and lives in Columbus, OH, USA.  He teaches a variety of intercultural, interpersonal, and health communication courses. He has researched and published several scholarly articles regarding privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers in Japan.

“Something of and in Japan, [is that] it doesn’t matter about who you are. Your health is never private.  They [Japanese] don’t see health as a privacy thing.  So you know, if you want to keep it private, don’t talk to anyone about it.” – Alice

After having my own interesting health experiences in Japan, I remained curious as to what other ALTs experienced.  Therefore, I went back to Japan and interviewed 10 ALTs (5 women and 5 men) about their medical encounters.  I quickly learned that it wasn’t “just me.”  I heard a lot of strong comments such as Alice’s.  In fact, everyone managed their medical privacy to some extent.  I share one story below:

“There were no barriers. Every person in the village, every school, you know everyone in the Board of Education, the whole school knew that I broke my leg and what days I was going to the hospital, and medication I’ve been given.  There’s no quiet, patient confidentiality.”

Meet “Jamie.”

An ALT in rural Japan like most of the ALTs employed by ALT organizations.  She loved her job, teachers, and students.  She worked hard and was enthusiastic about English education.

After breaking her leg, everyone knew.  But how?  She explained:

“It starts off with the supervisor who tells the Board of Education, they then informed the schools, and well, the schools tell the teachers, and the students ask, they tell the students, the students tell the parents, the parents go to the restaurant down the road and tell them, and the whole village knows.”

For Jamie, living in rural Japan meant that she wasn’t able to obtain her desired privacy levels.  Suddenly, she was not just the “foreigner,” but the “foreigner with the broken leg.”  She was the talk of the town.  Even her prescribed medication wasn’t a secret.  At the same time, Jamie was a “good sport.”  She laughed about the spectacle of her situation.  However, this somewhat uncomfortable experience influenced later health encounters.

After having appendicitis, Jamie didn’t want to go to the hospital as her doctor suggested.  She told her Board of Education (BOE) that she just needed to go home and “sleep it off.”  However, her tale doesn’t end there.

“I got a phone call from my Board of Education! [The] Doctor called the hospital when I didn’t turn up.  So, the doctor then called the Board of Education and told them everything, what he thought, and that I needed to go to the hospital.  The Board of Education called me and I said “No, I just want to sleep,” and they are like, “It’s too late. Your supervisor is coming to your house to pick you up, to take you to the hospital.”

Although somewhat comical to Jamie, she saw this as a privacy violation.  After-all, this isn’t a situation Jamie would have experienced in her home country.  People now knew information she didn’t want them to know.  She attempted to not have her school involved, but things didn’t go the way she planned.  In reality, the doctor’s decision potentially saved her life, but, at the same time, Jamie perceived her privacy to be violated.

This sentiment was echoed throughout stories of ALTs’ health experiences.  Someone told someone, who told someone else…and before they knew it, everyone knew information about them and, yet, they didn’t know much about anyone else.

How did ALTs manage their privacy in this study?

Withdrawing from workplace relationships (i.e., not talking to co-workers), lying, intentionally or through omission, and relying on the help of a non-workplace related friend (i.e., another ALT, Japanese friend, etc.) were the three most common strategies shared.  For example, if an ALT was on medication that they didn’t want their co-workers to know about, they might say it was an “allergy” pill.  If any ALT felt their privacy was violated, they stopped talking to co-workers…sometimes about everything.

Questions for you:

  • To what extent was privacy a concern for you?  Why/why not?
  • How did you protect your secrets?  (It doesn’t just have to be health!)
  • What do you recommend to current ALTs regarding their private health information?  Future ALTs?  Do you agree with Alice?

This blog post is an adaptation of the scholarly article: Simmons, N. (2012). The tales of gaijin: Health privacy perspectives of foreign English teachers in Japan. Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research, 11, 17-38. Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/3/


Apr 14

A great summary of the long-term value of the JET Program (i.e., Return on JET-vestment) by University of Indiana journalism professor (and JET alum) Emily Metzgar:

The JET Program and the US-Japan Relationship:  Alumni of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program are an important part of bilateral ties.

As official Washington prepares for the late April visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his scheduled address to a joint session of Congress, many aspects of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Japan will rightly be feted, including a robust strategic alliance and significant economic ties between the two nations. The visit also presents an opportunity to consider a less discussed but increasingly important aspect of the U.S.-Japan relationship writ large: The extensive – and growing – network of American alumni of Japan’s long-standing Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.

Click here to read the rest of the op-ed:  http://thediplomat.com/2015/04/the-jet-program-and-the-us-japan-relationship/

 


Apr 6
JETwit is very excited to share the below message from Emily Metzgar (Shimane-1993-95), Professor of Journalism at University of Indiana who has already published prior research on the JET Program and alumni community. To help Emily with the book, read below and click this link:  http://bit.ly/1Fvjvof
*********************

Dear American JET Alumni,

I’m writing a book about American alumni of the JET Program and the growing influence of this community on the broader US-Japan relationship. I’m a professor at Indiana University and a JET alum (Shimane, 1993-1995). I’ve already published some research  about American alumni of JET and the tremendous potential of this pool of college educated people with on-the-ground experience in Japan. My book will document that influence in a variety of contexts — political, cultural, educational, corporate, etc.

As I work on this book I need your help. I’m interested in talking with American alumni about the various ways they remain involved with Japan after finishing their tenure with JET. Would you be willing to be interviewed for this project?

I’ve set up an online data collection site and am asking that alumni who are willing to be interviewed use that link to provide a few details about themselves so I can determine whom to contact and when, based on my research timeline. This project is authorized by my university’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) and as the first item at the link below indicates, all safeguards associated with such university-approved research are in place.

If you’re willing to share your post-JET experiences and your insights about the growing influence of the American JET alumni community please click on this link (http://bit.ly/1Fvjvof) and provide the requested information (name, contact info, years & position on JET, current job, and nature of continued involvement with Japan). I will follow up with you soon to set up a phone or Skype interview.

If you have any questions about this request or if you’d just like to know more about this book project — I’m always happy to talk about it! — please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks so much for any insights you can share. I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Emily

Emily Metzgar, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Journalism
The Media School @ Indiana University
emetzgar@indiana.edu
***************
Note:  Do not post your responses to Emily in the comment field below.  She won’t see them there.  You must click the link above.

Mar 3

JALT and AJET have teamed up bring you the JALT Shinshu-AJET Conference in Matsumoto City, Japan.

Featuring lectures from Morten Hunke and Yumiko Miyamoto the conference will focus on Can-do Statements & Assessment in a Japanese Context.

Many teachers are under immense pressure to prepare Can-Do statements that specify what aspects of communicative competence their courses are designed to develop, and clarify how students are assessed in relation to these statements. To explore this issue, Morten Hunke will discuss how the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) can be applied at the university level in Japan, and Yumiko Miyamoto will discuss assessment at the Senior High School level.

When:Sat 18th of April, 2015.14:00-17:00
Venue: Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture
Price:JALT members: Free; Non-members 1000 yen

For latest details, see JALT.org event page.
For any inquiries please contact:
Chris Low(AJET Director of Professional and educational Development)
or Gregory Birch (JALT)


Sep 22

Posted by Sean Pavlik (Fukui-ken, 2010-12), International Programs Officer for the DC-based Congressional Study Group on Japan. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.


 

DePaul University in Chicago, IL, is currently accepting applications for the position of Program Manager within our Study Abroad Program Office.

Please visit https://jobs-depaul.icims.com/jobs/18278/program-manager/job for the full position description and application details.

Brief Position Summary: The Program Manager (PM) position manages a program portfolio of faculty-led programs and serves as the primary point of contact for faculty directors, students, vendors, providers, and other key stakeholders. The PM develops and implements regular program assessment procedures in collaboration with staff and faculty, and also evaluates the viability of new programs with the Associate Director Program Management. This position also participates in first level crisis response, led by the Associate Director Program Management, within the study abroad office. This position has both administrative and management responsibilities and plays a key role to ensure the success of program implementation for both students and faculty.


Sep 22

Posted by Sean Pavlik (Fukui-ken, 2010-12), International Programs Officer for the DC-based Congressional Study Group on Japan. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.


 

San Diego State University’s College of Extended Studies is continuing the search for an advisor for faculty-led study abroad programs. The successful candidate will join a dynamic team and be directly responsible for designing, developing, implementing, and evaluating a full range of services and programs to meet the international objectives of the university and the needs of students seeking, engaged in, or who have returned from education abroad programs. Application review will begin on October 6th.
You can view this posting at:
https://cmsweb.cms.sdsu.edu/psp/HSDPRDF/EMPLOYEE/HRMS/c/HRS_HRAM.HRS_CE.GBL?Page=HRS_CE_JOB_DTL&Action=A&JobOpeningId=5353&SiteId=1&PostingSeq=1

Please direct questions to SDSU’s Center for Human Resources rather than to the hiring department.


Sep 13

Posted by Sean Pavlik (Fukui-ken, 2010-12), International Programs Officer for the DC-based Congressional Study Group on Japan. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.


 

An opening in the Study Abroad Office at North Carolina State University for a full-time Regional Coordinator for Latin-America and Sub-Saharan Africa. A full job description can be found at https://jobs.ncsu.edu/postings/42118.

*RESPONSIBILITIES*
In designated geographic regions (currently the Americas, Caribbean, and Sub-Saharan Africa), serve as the lead contact and advisor for NC State study abroad programs. Manage student exchange agreements for designated region, including facilitating renewals and initiating new agreements, as well as maintaining balance of enrollment numbers. Research programs and communicate with colleagues at partner institutions and program providers in the United States and abroad regarding academic opportunities, costs, housing options, support services, and exchange agreements.

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Sep 13

Posted by Sean Pavlik (Fukui-ken, 2010-12), International Programs Officer for the DC-based Congressional Study Group on Japan. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.


 

Stanford University is pleased to announce the following position:

*Special Programs Coordinator (64192), BING Overseas Studies Program*

The Special Programs Coordinator is responsible for managing and coordinating overseas seminars and other short-term, faculty-initiated programs. The Special Programs Coordinator exercises a high degree of independence and judgment in solving problems, executing and completing projects, interacting with colleagues and managers throughout the University, as well as faculty, students, and parents.

To Apply*:
– Access the Stanford Careers website at http://stanfordcareers.stanford.edu
– Click on Job Search
– Enter “64192” the Job Number Search field (the search result will appear)

**Please Note: *Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume via the Stanford University website. Applications submitted directly to BING Overseas Studies Program office will not be considered.


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