The JET Interview

This post I should have posted sooner I know, but I knew it would be posted someday– And here it is! Yea!

My big hang up from posting this was due to the fact that I wasn’t sure how much to post. Luckily a former professor of mine asked me to tell him, in detail, what it was like…

So for his benefit, and for the benefit of my readers, I wrote a lengthy email— which I’m going to relay here for anyone who wanted a ‘play by play’ of the event with what they and I said (roughly):


Date: Fri, Feb 13, 2009

Subject: The Jet Interview debriefing

Yesterday was “The Interview”…

I started by checking in with my voucher and I was ushered into a lounge area with other well dressed JET Applicants.. After 10-15 minutes of waiting someone came out and asked me to follow them in. This person turned out to be the Former ALT Interviewer… In my panel (panel 2 out of 3) was a COLLEGE Japanese Language professor, a Japanese Consulate Official, and a former JET.

What Happened:

I left the lobby and walked in and greeted everybody and introduced myself. The first thing they wanted to know was specifically, “What first interested you in Japan?” This question is a vast opener question where I was given the opportunity to lay out my core interest and experience… I made sure to state specifics for follow up questions (Important!).

Next they asked if I had any “Classroom Teaching Experience outside my experience as a Boy Scout” (I had put down my time in BSA for teaching experience). I replied “YES” and related my experience as a High School Coach… yada yada (Seemed to be a good response). A note here is that I felt they were fishing to see if I was just a regular College Joe or someone who could legitimacy help a school. (be careful)

The next series of questions had to do with me and my Exchange Experience in Japan..(COLLEGE PROFESSOR) “I see you lived in Sapporo, what challenges did you experience?” My response was along the lines of my (lack of) preparedness for a “non-car lifestyle” as well as the drastic change in climate (to ‘bitter’ cold).

After that the College Professor moved on to a very complex long hypothetical that I’ll try to remember:

(COLLEGE PROFESSOR) “Josh, imagine you are an Alt (pronounced “alt” as in “alt-ernative” o_O?) and you are teaching with a teacher who is sort of ’set’ in their ways of teaching.. Perhaps an older man who teaches English in a lecture mode and makes students simply ‘repeat’ sentences from the book.. Now you happen to teach 1 out of (say) 8 Classes in which you’re given full range of the class.. One day there was a student who spoke in very good English.. In the hallway he approached you saying (in a perfect US accent) that he enjoyed Your Classes but didn’t enjoy Mr (English) Sensei’s (Your Teaching Partner) class because A.) he teaches in a mono-tone and B.) Never Calls on me (the student approaching you with good English)… My Question is what would you do to make the student feel involved in the class, while not offending your English Teacher Partner?(This, by the way, is a political question requiring some careful thinking)

My response was that I would first meet with the Teacher after school to ask if he/she knew of the student-in-question’s ability in English, and if they did, ask politely why he/she hasn’t involved the student more in their classes. Then I suggested that during my turn in Class I would try to recruit the student as my assistant to help assist (the ALT) teach the class as a team-teacher/helper sort of deal for extra credit perhaps. Finally, I suggested, that if the school was OK with it, I would start an English Club or a Poetry Club as the adviser and appoint this student as club leader so that he could recruit friends. (They seemed fine with that answer). The reason for my answer was that I gave at least a plan A, plan B, and plan C to show that in these cases more then one approach to a problem may be required.

Next, the Former ALT announced “Show Time” .. Her question was, “OK, you’re an ALT and you’ve just been invited to an Elementary School with about 1 hour’s notice.. The principal vaguely knew you were coming yesterday, but really there’s no time to ‘prepare’… You arrive and you find out that no one in the elementary school class (much less the School Staff) knows English… We (pointing to the Interviewers) are going to pretend to be elementary school kids and you are going to give us your self introduction in a way us elementary kids could understand — GO!”

The key, I hypothesized, was that I was going to need to supplement my English words with big comical hand gestures and faces.. Also I would need to repeat myself slowly for maximum effect..

Also… I knew I couldn’t do this sitting down either so…

I jumped up out of my chair and with big wide gestures said:
(THEM) (somewhat hallariously in a Japanese-y Elementary Voice) Jooo-SHOE-AHHH?
(THEM) po-ru-toe-ran-do..??
(ME) “GooooooD!! (clap clap) ” “DO YOU KNOW WHERE PORTLAND IS?”
(THEM) iie… no… iie…. iie…
(THEM) ICHIRO!!!! (they said… everyone in Japan should know Japanese Major League Players)
(ME) OK PORTLAND (using the wall as a make-believe map) IS BETWEENICHIRO HERE IN SEATTLE (Pointing at a blank white wall) AND DISNEYLAND! (Pointing Lower and indicating where the two met in the middle [Salem probably] was roughly where I came from.)

they eventually stopped me because they were having quite a time keeping their composure as elementary students… (Great fun.. with lots ‘o’ laughs)

The next question was similar to the “Good English Student” question.. The Former ALT asked, “In Japan, Jr. High School students have to learn English how would you make it interesting and exciting?” I responded that I believed that my role as an ALT wasn’t to teach the Book-based English Lessons, as much as  more importantly to show my students that English is a commonly used language– that “living English is useful to know.” I also mentioned that I would use my enthusiasm (demonstrated in the self intro) to keep the students awake and interested…

The next section I was totally UNprepared for… The COLLEGE PROFESSOR said, “For students who knew some Japanese we do a small portion of Japanese to gauge where you are and where you would be placed… Some BoE’s request ALT’s with a working level of Japanese and that’s why we do this…” then he proceeded asking how long I studied Japanese (in Nihongo), where I studied, where I lived in Japan… Then consulate person, who remained quietly engaged, finally asked what I liked to eat in Japan and if I liked Natto… I’ll admit… I wasn’t prepared, but I did my very best and it was enough to keep everybody smiling and laughing.. (whew..) I’m actually pretty good, but under stress the mind warps you know. (This btw has NObering on whether you’re good or not, only where they would place you hypothetically).

Lastly they asked if I had a question for them… I didn’t want to ask just the Former ALT a question so I asked a broader question, “Obviously the first time you went to Japan you must have had a goal in mind that you wanted to accomplish.. First, What was that goal? and Second, Did you feel that you accomplished it?” They responded with various answers and I found them useful. They asked if I had anything else, but for the sake of time I said that my ‘biggest’ question was answered.

We finished with some administrative questions and I was asked if I, after JET, would continue to be involved with the consulate and what would I like to do? I said YES, and would enjoy to be involved with International Relations the consulate does after JET…

With that we shook hands, bowed, and it was over… The whole shebang lasting about 30 or so minutes….

Now comes the ‘wait game’ again to find out if all that was enough… ;-D

So there you have it…. A ‘glossing over’ my gut wrenching interview that day.

Relax, Express Yourself Clearly and Thoughtfully, and try to answer their questions rather then cramming in need-to-know factoids about yourself.


Posted February 18, 2009 on