Three years ago this week, I was fully entrenched in my new life as an assistant language teacher in Japan. Today, again in the U.S., I look back at the statement of purpose that helped to get me there.
A ten-year-old boy dances out of bed and hurries down the hall; light flickers across his face as the TV screen comes to life, and he is immersed into a world of ninja, katana blades, nunchaku, and mutant turtles. In high school that same boy writes a picturesque adventure story about heroes who live in a world of silk and chrysanthemum, ruled by mighty shoguns and daimyos all of which are loyal to the will of Tokugawa. In college, he studies intently the many colors and cultures of the world—from the science of music and food, to the heart of history—thrilled by them all but drawn time and again to the majestic traditions of Nippon. Fond as they are, these are only memories, and though I have come to learn much about this island of Japan, my true knowledge of it is no less foggy.
Long as I can remember, I have had a love affair with the world of Japan, both its fact and its fiction. Like others of my generation, I have grown up enjoying Japanese anime, eating noodles, rice, and egg rolls, practicing karate, and saving up for when I could afford an authentic samurai sword to hang on my wall. As with learning a second language, you have to go to the place of origin if you really want to master it. Fortunately, I have grown very comfortable using the English language (in speaking, in writing, in storytelling, etc.), and now I see a great opportunity to take my language and my talents to a place I have often only fantasized about, and share them with a people who are eager to learn, and who will no doubt teach me even more.
I am the ideal candidate for a position as an ALT with the JET Program(me) because I am an “every day person.” By that I mean every day I try to make good use of myself. Every day I examine what is around me and figure out how I fit in. Every day I look to find the value of something new, something old, or to take something old and make it new. I know when words are important, and when its better to remain silent. And every day, I try to place myself in a setting that complements my abilities, and strive to make sure my abilities complement others. As such, my teaching experience is extensive for someone of my age, boasting hundreds of days of in-class work with students from kindergarten to senior high school. Primarily, my strengths as a student and teacher lie in the humanities, namely social sciences, literary analysis, reading and writing, history, and religion (though I am capable in all areas, including math and science). My teaching style is low-key and calm, where I am much more likely to wait and listen while observing a situation before moving to act. Though when action is needed I tend to be decisive while exercising discretion. My experience in public speaking and working in many different classroom settings has well prepared me for group instruction, having little stage fright. As a camp counselor and one-on-one tutor I have learned effective ways of mediating disputes in a social setting, by myself or in concert with others. And my work has not been limited only to the local level, as I have thrice served as part of the back stage crew as a member of the Future Farmers of America at national leadership conventions, meeting and escorting celebrities and keynote speakers and coordinating staff and equipment. Thus too, I have tested experience working as a member of a team, as teachers at a school must do.
During my stay in Japan, I would hope to create a personal and meaningful relationship with the school and the community that supports it. I would hope to take part in after-school programs to better acquaint myself with the students I teach, and to work closely and gainfully with the teachers to whom I am assigned. In general, my aim would be to make life-long friends with whomever I came in contact, ensuring our friendship would not end after my contract has run out. In the future, employers would see my experience working with JET as a high-water mark for consideration in hiring me. And, though it would not supersede my responsibilities as an ALT, my hope is that through the inevitable cultural exchange that would follow, further opportunities to pursue my interests in anthropology and archaeology would arise as well.