101 Cool Things you can do on the JET Program (me)


Thanks to everyone at the JET conference, you were amazing!! The list of 101 activities that JETs had done proved really popular, so here it is complete with as many internet links as we can find!

Thousands of JETs (teachers on the Japanese Government's Japan Exchange and Teaching program) all over the country are involved in some amazing projects that really bring about the "grassroots internationalisation" that is part of this programme. At the same time many JETs feel they are under used by their schools or Boards of Educations. So to let people know some of the great work JETs are doing and to help give you a touch of inspiration in those free moments, ex-ALT Will Jasprizza and myself have collected together this series of cool things, some big, some small, that JETs have actually done, yes these are all things that JETs have actually put into practice!

Whether you teach at High School or Kindergarten, if you ever find you have a bit of time on your hands or need a few more ideas, have a try at some of these, you'll have lots of fun and it will be an amazing experience for your students!

1. Study Japanese
One of our 3 keys to success in Japan. The key is to buy a canon wordtank.

2. Do souji with the kids
Join in the cleaning time, great for relaxed chats with the kids.

3. Go on the CLAIR course and learn to teach Japanese

4. Create an English language newsletter

5. Create an English language noticeboard
Keep the content new and fresh, try the google image search. Great for motivating the kids even if you're not at the school all the time.

6. Keep a diary or blog
Or have a look at my Daily Diary.

7. Write lesson plans and send them to Genki English

That's one of the reasons I started the website, to share with other people great lessons that I could only use once myself. Pop them on the Readers Games page for all to see!

8. Grab the class photos and learn the name of every single kid in the school. .
It makes a huge difference if you know the kids names! You might need to get a teacher to write out the kids names in Romaji. Or try the high tech way and video all of the kids saying "My name is..." and then watch it over and over so you know them all!
9. Collect realia
Will amassed a collection of Maccas containers, aluminium cans and shopping catalogues (great for shopping games). I brought over hundreds of 1 pence stamps, they're great for the kids to take home and treasure and best of all is the price, only 1 pence!

10. Join club sport and learn a new sport or 2, or 3c
Great for building up friendly relations with the kids and teachers, and a bit of daily exercise never hurt anyone.

11. ECC the English Challenge Cup
This is a 1 million yen Hokkaido wide English video competition for JHS and SHS. Designed by ALTs to encourage communicative English and increase awareness of the role of ALTs in language education. Students train one-on-one, they video their performance and the winner gets a 10-14 day homestay worth up to 400,000 yen!

12. Do a school yearbook
Being from England I'm not entirely sure what these are, but apparently they make a good JET project

13. Do a JET yearbook
Remember all your fond days on the JET program.

14. Make a video to illustrate an English point

In Ochi "gun" (collection of towns and villages) every JET made a short video to illustrate each grammar point in the JHS textbooks. It was great fun to make and the kids loved seeing their ALTs using english in real life!

15. Get your kids to make a video to illustrate an English point
It's amazing how some of the shy kids come alive on camera! It's also great to show your students how much they have improved over the year.

16. Do the English voice over for your towns PR video

As done by Deb Simpson in Hokkaido.

17. Make a compost heap

18. Visit Kindergartens.

When my schools had holidays I had to go and teach in kindergarten everyday (no summer off in the office for me!). Many other JETs visit regularly. It's great for the kids but be prepared for the most tiring experience you'll ever have on JET!

19. Organize a homestay programme

Start out small and just send a few friends or students to stay with your parents. Then use the experience to plan a full on homestay. Many JETs have done this and really enjoyed giving something back to all the people who helped them in Japan.

20. Hold lunchtime or summer Eikaiwa classes for kids going abroad

21. Search for ideas on the web

Wefve heard that www.GenkiEnglish.com is rather good.

22. Act as interpreter for local visitors

Offer your newly found bilingual talents to your town! You'll get to meet lots of interesting people and if there is a big special event on you might find yourself hired by a TV network from back home (as many JETs found out during the Japan World Cup and the Nagano Olympics)

23. Catch and remove snakes from the school grounds

24. Make listening test tapes

Give the kids some extra listening practise and they can enjoy your beautiful voice everyday.

25. Join a cooking class or a PE class or a Japanese class, or any class

26. learn to play the guitar

Ever fancied being the center of attention when all the JETs gather round a summer bonfire. All schools have racks and racks of guitars just waiting to be played! It's easy!
Do a search for "how to play the guitar" on google.com!

27. learn to play the piano

The piano's also cool to learn to play, but not so good for campfire sing-a-longs!

28. Join a band

Get a group of mates together and form a band! I did this and we got quite a few gigs and it was a lot of fun!

29. Release a CD and get on TV

A JET band in Sendai called "Monkey Majik" did this, or you can find some of the songs my band made here.

30. Get 30 didgeridoos from Oz and hold a class in your town

Remember these are all true stories! A JET from Ehime, also called Richard, brought a load of didgeridoos over and taught classes in his city, it even got him into the local paper.

31. Learn Taiko and play at the opening of a superstore

Quite a popular instrument amongst JETs, get all that tension out by banging a big drum!

32. Learn okoto

I spent two years learning the o-koto, it sounds just soooo Japanese that it's mega cool. If you'd like to have a try, click here.

33. Write a book

JET is a cool job and people want to hear about it, have a look at Bruce Feiler's Learning to Bow
ALT Joel Bacha wrote his lesson ideas up in his "Teachers & Kids" book. And Nicholas Klar wrote "My Mother is a Tractor"

34. Mark papers. Put lots of ticks and watch the kids cry

In Japan the tick mark is used when you get something wrong! It's an interesting cultural point to teach!

35. Join the bunkasai and sing and dance.

Will did a Morning Musume number with the maths teacher. The kids will never forget that.

36. Learn at least one Japanese song

37. Sing it at Karaoke
Makes you popular with the teachers and makes great kanji practise!

38. Go on the school trip. If necessary beg.

39. Join a town ekiden team. Lose gracefully

40. Invite ALTs to your town for a big event
Lots of ALTs and CIRs do this, for example the Chippubetsu festival in Hokkaido, or the festival we attended in Akagi, Shimane.

41. Invite your family to your town and have them join classes.

42. Tap into your inner Mike Myers and create characters for use in class.

43. Invite your teachers over and cook them something spicy

44. Run extra Orientations for new JETs

This is a biggie, and probably the single biggest contributor to me having such a good time on JET. Basically the 2nd and 3rd year JETs got the phone numbers of all the new JETs in the area and gave them a ring on the 2nd day - it's so good to hear a friendly voice! They then organised a meal for us on the weekend and then the following week we had 2 days of workshops organised by the JETs. One was for JHS and one was for elementary school and we just spent the day going through ideas and stuff. It was so cool to do this and it meant that we ended up hitting the ground running in September.

You'll need one of the JETs BOEs to put their "hanko" on a letter to give to the other BOEs (mainly for insurance purposes), but if you agree to pay your own travel expenses it should be a doddle to set up. And of course, if it's an Elementary School workshop you're doing, why not invite us along for the day!

45. Organize welcome camp for new JETs

But it's not just seminars, Ehime JETs also organised a beach party and a trip down to the local gorge - great for getting to know everyone!

46. Learn a martial art

Kendo, Karate, Judo, Aikido, there are so many! Most teachers would love you to join and just think how cool it is to say to your mates back home "Oh yeah, I learnt Karate from a Japanese master"!

47. Or if you already know a martial art Teach it.

Will taught his kids at shogakko. An Ozzie teaching Japanese kids Karate, an interesting twist on the Internationalisation theme!

48. DJ at local radio station

If you fancy getting into the industry back home, get some practise for your CV! Local stations would be cool with a real foreign "talento" and some places might even be cool for you to do your set all in English!

49. DJ at a local night club

Obvious choices are JET parties, but a few ex-JETs have been known to head off to some top venues.

50. Teach an evening eikaiwa class and get Friday afternoons off

A lot of town/village ALTs teach adult English classes in the evening. As this is still part of your work, you should get time off in lieu (called "daikyu" in Japanese). I worked Wednesday evening and got Friday afternoon off and one JET friend in Ehime taught a few nights per week and also got a couple of hours off Monday morning, so he could go and surf in Kochi every weekend!

One thing with these classes, if the students don't seem too keen to actually learn anything, that's cool as many of the students just come for the social thing, it's a nice night out! And as it's probably free they'll be glad they don't have to pay the 3 or 4 thousand an hour lesson fee!

51. Teach French

I got another French speaking ALT to pop along to my adult class one week and we taught them French! It's not something they'd get the chance to do everyday and so they jumped at the chance

52. Teach/Learn Chinese

If you don't speak it, why not learn it? Starting another language from scratch puts you in your students shoes - great experience!

53. Teach Korean

Similar to above!

54. Do email exchanges.
Check out the email exchange projects I have on the GenkiEnglish.com site for Elementary School - pets project, school lunch project.
My Junior High school kids were once studying about Korea, so I set up an exchange where every kid would write a question and we'd send them to a class in Korea. One of the kids wrote "What do Korean people think of Japan?" and the answer came back "Many Koreans hate Japan, but I think it's quite nice". My student then asked "Why does she say many Koreans hate Japan?"..... a nice topic for the social studies teacher I feel!

55. Do a live webchat with a school abroad

Find a school with epals.com, choose a topic to talk about and use Yahoo messenger to do a video phone chat. It's free!!

56. Set up your own sports club

Many JETs are masters of a whole range of sports. Try introducing your passion to the kids.

57. Get an MA

Distance learning programmes are quite popular amongst JETs.

58. Do English classes for your teachers (especially in shogakkou)
Quite a few JETs do this and report it increases the relations with their teachers immensely. You may have to stay back after school for an hour or so but the benefits are worth it.

59. Teach a songwriting class

Many schools have special optional classes (called "sentaku" in Japanese) where the kids can learn a whole range of different classes. Some JETs use this to teach purely conversational English, and I used it to teach the kids how to learn songwriting. They got together in groups, wrote a song each, recorded it on my recording gear made a CD and performed them at the towns cultural festival. For a 15 year old, having your own song on CD is pretty cool!

60. Write a comic strip and get it published.

Earth Bennets hilarious "Every Situation Is Different" column is very popular, check it out here.

61. Set up a football team and play against schoolkids.

Here we have the Nagasaki team Champon United. In the words of member Peter Plamping:
"We're so talented that we've managed to lose against junior and senior high schools throughout Nagasaki-ken. Sometimes things don't follow the script and we actually win a game - I think the kids take pity on us, or something. In any case, everyone always has a good time and the kids really enjoy it. They get a chance to practice all that eigo they learnt during the world cup (doubt if they learnt any in our classes..) We get all sorts of weird and wonderful ALTs playing for us (as you can see from the photos). We allow just about anyone to play, with the exception of Manchester United supporters. Oh, alright, we even let them play too."

62. Do an exchange with another ALT.
I exchanged jobs with the next town's ALT for a week or so. It was a lot of organising, but the kids got a kick out of seeing someone from a different country.

If only we could do this with JTEs...

63. Teach yourself how to use a computer

If you don't have computer skills, now is the time to learn!

64. Teach yourself how to use a Japanese computer.

Knowing the kanji for "delete" is very very useful! (I learnt it the hard way)

65. Hold a computer training class for teachers

Many teachers would love to use the net, but don't know how. Why not set up a simple after school seminar to show them some of the tricks of the trade. Even showing them very basic stuff could get you a lot of brownie points!

66. Write the school website

I decided I wanted to learn how to write a website. So for one week (during exams) I sat down everyday from 8 till when the kyoto sensei had gone home and in a week I had a basic wesbite! I felt very proud!

67. Wire up a network so your teachers can get on the net from the staff room.
Ryan Harvey in Sendai has a degree in computers and isnft afraid to use it. He wired up the staffroom and in his words: gIt's extra work, but the benefit is good and it earned me a lot of respect here at school.

68. Organize your own Mid Year Conference and invite Genki English

Many prefectures (such as Ehime) only have one conference every year. But some, including Aomori, Nagasaki and Hokkaido have several! They organise it themselves and not only get another great party session, but learn a heck of a lot of new ideas as well. And of course, please feel to invite us along to either do the key note speech and/or the Elementary School Workshop.

69. Give your keitai email to your students and exchange emails
We got this idea from Millie Linville in Ibaraki. The deal is if the students email the ALT in English, she'll reply! Great for shy kids

70. Answer phone lesson plan

This is a cool idea of Will's. You teach the kids answerphone English and for homework they have to ring up your machine and leave a message! The kids get a real kick out of hearing their voices on the tape!

71. Get a groups of ALTs together and visit an orphanage on your day off.

A bunch of Ehime JETs do this once a month. For those kids it is the best day they have all month

72. Get a groups of ALTs together and visit a special needs school on your day off.

We did a show at a special needs school where 25 Shizuoka JETs gave up their Saturday to spend time with the kids

73. Get together a group of mates and bicycle from Hokkaido to Kyushu to raise environmental concerns. (
Without going to a single convenience store.)
A great project, why not join this year's ride?

74. Hold a pottery exhibition

Gunma JET Anitra Donald studies Japanese pottery and has exhibited her work in galleries in Gunma prefecture.

75. Hold a photo exhibition

As organised by Kagoshima ALT John Gunn and Aichi ALT RaeGina Covington

76. Hold film festival.
Paul Reid down in Fukuoka runs the Tagawa International Short-film Matsuri
Over the last 2 years they have shown 277 short films from over 22 countries!

77. Invite Genki English to your school

I'll show your Elem School Teachers a fantastic seminar ( in Japanese) and for the kids great show (even if it's a mega tiny, or mega huge school.)

78. Join AJET or become an AJET officer
- It's FREE!
AJET do some really cool stuff from organising great events, to publishing books to helping out with social gigs at conferences. It's free to join the national AJET, and if you'd like a challenge and something cool for your resume, become an officer!

79. Do the go en campaign

This is a brilliant project that raises money by teaching about issues in developing countries and collecting strings of 5 yen coins.

80. Do habitat for humanity

Build houses in the Philippines

81. Go and do a teacher training workshop in Thailand
- 100% recommended
I did this in July 2002 and it was a brilliant experience. The teachers really want to learn new techniques and appreciate the time you give so much. It's volunteer based, you pay your own air fare and many JETs have joined in in the past.
http://www.vol-ednet.com (see if you can spot me in the photos on the site! : )

82. Go and build a school library in Thailand

For the final day in Thailand we helped out with this project to build a school library! If teacher training's not your thing, maybe you can give this a shot!

83. Write and perform a play in English for kids
Or perform one of the classics. The Hokkaido players did Westside Story

84. Get your own weekly TV show

We know two CIRs, one in Ehime and one in Shimane who have their own show on local TV and alongside several other ALTs I used to appear every week on NHKs "Teregoji" programme. That was great fun and thoroughly recommended if you fancy a career in TV!

85. Write a sociolinguistic study of the JET community as a precursor to a masters thesis

86. Do a cooking lesson

Something simple as a break for the kids

87. Enter a sumo tournament

Very popular amongst JETs!

88. Have your students do a quiz show.

Kumamoto JETs English club did their own Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

89. Clean a beach

Organise it yourself or join in one!

90. Start up a phone company and become a millionaire.

JET. Freetime. Millionaire. You do the math.

91. Become arm wrestling champion of Shikoku

Ehime JET Frank did just that!

92. Teach a science class

If science is your major, why not use it in class, the teacher maybe glad of a little specialist knowledge. I taught about the planets in Elementary school and did the NASA Moonlink project in Junior High School.

93. Teach an art class

There are so many talented JET artists out there, and maybe of them use their talents to give the kids another perspective on their art lessons

94. Hold a taste testing competition

Get some weird foods, blindfold the kids and they have to guess what they are.

95. Develop a new thing called gEigorobicsh

Courtesy of ALT Cheyne Sandercoe

96. Set up your own Education company and do a tour of Japan in a campervan

Nah, this would never work.

97. Form a theatre group and tour around performing a play in the local dialect.

The Kochi Genki Seinenkai performs plays in Tosa-ben all over Kochi. The JETs have a ball and the locals get off hearing a bunch of JETs speak in dialect.

98. Start your own Morris Dancing Club

A group of hard drinking, British JETs did this and toured the country with it!

99. Get your local McDonalds to do everything in English

Matsuyama ALT Andy organised for his kids to visit McDonalds and order everything in English. It took a lot of hard work, but was well worth it.

100. Do an internet science project with NASA and get a minor planet named after your town

Yep, this ones mine. And here's the proof of Tamagawa getting minor planet status! (it's number 13207)

101. Write a list of 101 things a JET can do and present it at the Kobe Recontracting Conference.

Or help me compile the next list of 101 cool things!

Be genki!

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