In Te Reo Maori, there is the word “ako”. In a basic sense, “ako” translates to “teaching/learning”. The interesting thing about the word is its implied conceptual meaning: that teaching and learning are not separate acts, but exist in a reciprocal relationship with one another. It highlights the fact that there is often just as much to be learned from the student as from the teacher. This is one lesson from my culture as a New Zealander which I believe the JET Programme recognises, and aims to convey. As an ALT, it would be my responsibility to embrace “ako” as I communicate my knowledge of my language and culture, whilst also learning from my students, colleagues, and friends about Japanese language and culture.
Throughout my years as a student, I have participated in a number of activities which have led to the development of my skills and personality. By joining a number of sports teams such as dragon boating and table tennis in high school, I learned the importance of teamwork. This has become important when working with colleagues later in life, as I am comfortable working in groups to identify a common goal, and the required action to achieve it. My participation in a graduate diploma of primary teaching has strengthened many of my skills, such as pedagogical knowledge, lesson planning and creativity, and most importantly in my opinion, my confidence in front of the classroom and my natural ability to bond with and relate to students of all cultures. I now know how to put my personality to use in the classroom; my positive yet calm manner makes students feel safe to be themselves. They appreciate my sense of humour and my friendly, adaptable nature, whilst also respecting me as a knowledgeable and authoritative figure.
By being accepted into the JET Programme, I hope to introduce and share my knowledge of New Zealand’s history, geography, culture, languages and more with Japan. Simultaneously, I would aim to learn the same about Japan, and make many new friends in the process. I know that as someone who loves their country yet has a passionate interest in Japan, I can use my knowledge to encourage internationalism in Japan. I expect to feel the satisfaction that comes from challenging myself to take on new and exciting opportunities, as well as developing my teaching and learning skills.
I believe that as a teacher, you face new challenges daily; but this is what I enjoy about the job. I always have to think on my feet, whether I am regaining interest of a distracted student, managing my lesson and planning time effectively, communicating an idea in many different ways for those who are struggling, or even just adapting a P.E lesson because it has started to rain. I have a strong desire to seek challenges, and to encourage my students to do the same; by exposing ourselves to new experiences and opportunities, we grow. Although my travel experience is slightly limited, I have also faced challenges to do with internationalisation. My job in customer service means I interact from people of all cultures every day, and it is my responsibility to make sure these people feel comfortable and assisted in every way possible. When it comes to being a tourist myself, I have often found that my friendly and positive nature allows me to get around easily, and ask for help when needed. I make a point of exploring the culture and history in every country I visit, such as watching traditional Pacific Island dance in Rarotonga, and visiting the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii.
I believe the JET Programme is an amazing way to expose the people of Japan to those from other countries and cultures. In my opinion, this experience is especially beneficial for the young students involved. Through my study of pedagogical research, and my experiences on teaching practicum, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most influential factors on a student’s learning is their relationship with their teacher(s). I hope as an ALT to build meaningful relationships with my students, and through these, to encourage a lifelong passion for learning of all kinds, especially of the English language. I also believe the JET Programme puts into practice an imperative aspect of language learning; the need for language learning to be authentic and meaningful. To my students, I can be the face of what their studies lead to – interaction and “ako” with an English speaker who has their own unique culture, ideas, and experiences.
Well, that's my essay. Like I said, I changed a number of things before submitting this, but the overall idea and most of the points I made remained the same. In the end I felt (and still feel) that it really reflected my beliefs and goals, whilst also answering the questions the JET Programme proposed.