Nov 13


JETAANY held its annual Career Forum/Welcome Back Reception on Saturday at the Nippon Club in NYC.  And in addition to the usual combination of useful advice, networking, natsukashii talk and reconnecting in general, this year’s Welcome Back Reception was notable for one other reason:  It was attended by approximately 25 participants in Japan’s new Japan-U.S. Training Training and Exchange Program for English Language Teachers (JUSTE) program, sometimes referred to as the “Reverse JET” program.

The program selected 96 Japanese teachers of English to spend 6 months in the U.S. studying ESL teaching methodology–in English–at 6 different universities across the U.S.:  Rutgers University (NJ), University of Delaware, University of Michigan, University of Texas, University of Iowa, UC Irvine and UC Davis.  The teachers are in turn supposed to bring back their learning and share it with their respective school systems as part of an effort to improve English ability of Japanese students.

The Reverse JETs attending on Saturday came up from Rutgers and the University of Delaware.  It was a terrific opportunity to get to know them and learn more about the program.  Following a brief intro by all of the returning JETs, the Reverse JETs were asked to do the same.  And as they said their names and prefectures, there was an almost instant connection as JET alums from various prefectures cheered when the Reverse JETs called out their own home prefecture.

It was also apparent that these were top rate teachers–the really genki, creative and engaged teachers you remember from your JET days.  (We all were fortunate to have had at least one of these if not more.)  This was made rather apparent when the Delaware contingency decided to forego the traditional introduction style and instead go with a teaching game they had all learned in class the day before.  (See video below.)

Throughout the reception and the nijikai at Faces & Names, JET alumni found the Reverse JETs extremely friendly and easy to talk to.  And it was interesting to hear about their situations and the parallels with our own first time experiences in Japan.  For example:

  • While the Rutgers participants are all living on campus in a dormitory for foreign students, the Delaware participants are all living with homestay families and generally need to rely on them for transportation to and from the campus (as they’re not permitted to drive while in the U.S.)
  • Most participants were surprised to have been selected for the program.  That’s because most of them hadn’t even known of the program’s existence until their principals called them into their offices and asked them if they’d like to go to the U.S. for 6 months.  In same cases, participants only had hours to contact their spouse and decide whether to say yes.  Though in everyone’s eyes, this was too good an opportunity to pass up, not to mention a terrific honor.  They realized they had been 1 of 96 selected out of a total pool of 50,000 English teachers in Japan.  It sounds like each prefecture is permitted to select a few school systems, and then the Board of Ed in those school systems chooses the teacher.  Interestingly, some schools apparently passed on the opportunity because they didn’t feel they could afford to be without one of their top teachers for 6 months.  And in some prefectures, the selection process is different and teachers can actually apply to be a participant.
  • The teachers seemed to be aware of the costs involved in sending them to the U.S. and expressed a strong sense of obligation to study hard and share their learning upon return.  Though one confessed to worrying about maintaining a delicate balance of sharing knowledge while also not wanting to be the nail that sticks up.
  • And perhaps most interesting of all, in talking with one of the participants from Aichi (my JET prefecture), I learned that she grew up in Inuyama City and had JET alum and Inuyama City Council Member Anthony Bianchi (Aichi-ken, Inuyama-shi, 1988-89) as her ALT when she was a student!  Now that’s full circle.  (If anyone knows a good Japanese kotowaza for that idea, please share.)

Hopefully, the Reverse JETs through the U.S. will be able to find JET alumni in their area.  And it would be really terrific if JETAA chapters as well as the JET alumni community in general could do its best to reach out to the participants wherever they are.  They truly appreciate getting to spend time with the New York JET alumni on Saturday.  Imagine how great it must feel to be from Tottori-ken and find an American who is also familiar with Tottori.

Unfortunately, they’re only here through January.  So now is the time to reach out.  In addition to meeting some great people, you’ll also be helping to support a very unique Japanese education program that we hope will continue in the future and grow to meet the English learning needs of Japan’s society.

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