Planning for My Successor

As it is almost the end of the school year, I have started planning next year’s curriculum.  I have a lot of ideas for games and lessons from this years’ Midyear Conference that I want to try out.  I am having a lot of fun writing all 20 lessons needed for year.  (Sometimes planning the lessons is much more fun than putting them into practice.)  As I was working on the plan, however, I realized that more than half of the lessons I am writing will be taught by someone else.

In fact, they might not be taught at all.  The person who replaces me might be a fully certified teacher.  She might come in, realize all my lessons are awful, and scrap the whole thing.  On the other hand, she might know as little as I did when I started and she will be thankful for the pre-made lessons.  I am not sure how my JTEs will handle working with the new ALT.  They might expect her to jump straight in and lead all the classes herself with very little input from them (as I do now).  Or they might expect her to be too overwhelmed at first and have her be little more than a human tape recorder they sometimes activate or ask to make games (as I was when I first got here).

I think, more than likely, the JTEs will expect the new ALT to take the lead right away as none of them were here when I started.  They are all used to my current style of ALT-ing, including my weak points.  One thing I need to work on is being a better team-teacher.  I am fine leading a class by myself, but I have fallen into the bad habit of only asking for the teacher’s input when I need help translating.  Ideally, we should be equal partners in teaching.  I mentioned this to one of my JTEs and he outright said, “No.  Don’t do that.”  This is a teacher who, when we first started teaching together, would simply leave the classroom and chill in the hallway for a while.  He sometimes would go back to his office to do work.

Now that all three of my JTEs are basically as passive as he is, it is all too easy for me to forget they are there.  Some of my old JTEs and I had such a good flow that I did not even have to prep them before I asked for their help or for them to do a sample dialogue with me.  Since the first time I have turned to one of my newer JTEs, expecting them to know that this is the point in the lesson where they do the dialogue with me, and they admitted they hadn’t even read my lesson plan, I have stopped even trying.  This is something I need to correct in the future.  It is very difficult to make many plans for this school year without knowing what my successor will be like.  Even if I leave the most detailed lesson plans known to man, they might not understand what I am suggesting.  It might take them a while to find the right level of activities for the students so most are being challenged without being overwhelmed.  It has taken me three years to figure that out, and I still have lessons that flop.

Beyond trying to leave my job in a place where it is easy for the next ALT to slip in, I must think about what to sell and what to keep in my apartment.  My successor is not going to live in my apartment.  All ALTs in our city must live in teacher’s housing unless they choose to move into private housing.  Therefore, I have to sell all of my furniture, or pay for moving costs.  I can try to sell some things to my successor, but I don’t find out who they are until about a month before they arrive.  That does not give me much time to figure out what they want to buy.  And if they decide they do not want to buy anything, I do not have much time to get rid of it.  I will give them all the things my successor gave me, but for the rest, all the things I have had to buy, I am already selling things off or trying to find people who will be interested when the time comes.

I still have five months, but my mind is already on the next great adventure.  It is hard for me to keep focused and engaged.  After three and a half years here, five months feels like no time at all.  It’s an eighth of my time in Japan (if I am doing the math correctly, which I probably am not).  And the fact that the school office wants me to start filling out the paperwork for leaving / my plane ticket home already is making it so much harder.  I am trying to combat that feeling by revisiting my policy from my first year: don’t say no.  Every trip proposed, I’m there.  Every random event, I’m there.  Every volunteer chance?  You guessed it.

I’m spending money on some special things that I normally would not have (like wearing a kimono at the graduation or getting some major traveling done during Golden Week) because I have no idea where I’ll be in the future.


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