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Friday, February 20, 2009

--HE SHOOTS, HE...!--

Won't know if he scored until the end of April!

So I had my JET interview today up in Little Tokyo. All in all, not a bad day. Traffic going up was nice, coming back was slow but not terrible. Here's a summary I wrote up while I could still remember. Beware: it is quite long and probably not all that interesting. But maybe anyone else interviewing in LA next week will find something useful in here.

First of all, if you're coming from the east side of LA, around the 101, DON'T take 1st street. The bridge was closed when I got there and I had to skip down to 4th street and come back up.

Anyway, I got there on time and the former JETs there were really friendly and easy-going, so everything was fine. No JET video playing, by the way. The interesting thing about my panel was that, unless I'm mistaken, there was no former JET in the room. They were all Japanese, two middle-aged women and one younger (early 30s?) man. The man and one woman had slight accents, and the third woman was a USC professor. I freely admit that I might be wrong, as my mind was busy gearing up for interview mode.

So my panel was really friendly and there was no sort of good-cop/stone-face/see-if-he-cracks attitude at all. They were sitting at one of those fold-out buffet-style tables, and i was maybe 3 feet away sitting in a tiny cushioned fold-out chair. Onto the questions, in no particular order!

-Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in Japan. (Basic life summary here, did okay as a history lesson but I could have sold my qualities harder).

-If you had to do a lesson about a holiday, and a lesson about an American historical event, what would it be? (I was SO glad when she said this instead of "please do a sample lesson". I picked Halloween, which I'm sure they'd heard plenty. For the history lesson, I told them I would teach about the civil rights movement because it shows the very best and worst of what can happen in a highly diverse society. I think they liked that answer a lot, and there was much note-taking.)

-It seems like you have a stable, fun job. Considering the economy, why would you choose to leave in order to join JET? (I expected this so I was prepared and gave a sappy-sweet (although totally true) answer about how pursuing my own happiness is more important than money, and how despite the economy it was the perfect time for me personally to try something new. Another good response from them.)

-You marked on your application that you would not prefer working with children. Why is that? (Part of the reason I'm doing this is because I'm thinking of becoming a high school teacher here in America, so Japanese high schoolers would be a better test. I do enjoy kids, I just didn't want them to think that was my first preference.)

-You studied some Japanese in college. Do you remember any of it? Could you do a short self-introduction in Japanese? (Thankfully they were sympathetic and seemed happy that I even had one prepared. I stumbled through it but in an entertaining way and got a couple chuckles from them. I did forget a verb and stupidly left off 'yoroshiku onegaishimasu' at the end though. D'oh!)

-What kind of after-school activities would you be interested in running or participating in? (I mentioned obvious stuff like English Club, and also I'd enjoy doing something with American films or something. I was vague but oh well. Also mentioned the standard kendo-taiko-archery stuff.)

-Looking at your application, your placement preferences are all fairly urban (Numazu in Shizuoka, Osaka prefecture, Saitama prefecture). Do you have any good reasons for choosing these locations? Note: This was one of only a couple questions the male interviewer asked, and when he said it he had this sly smile on his face that basically said "Come on, we know what you're trying to pull. But go ahead and feed us the BS". (I explained sister city stuff, and how I'm really interested in non-standard regional dialects and would love to live in the Kansai area to learn more about the dialect. Nothing super impressive, but it was something.)

-Do you have any teaching experience? (Part 1 of the Two Questions of Death. In fact, I have NO formal teaching experience, nothing even close. The best I could do was talk about how it was common for me to tutor friends in college, and also help teach my younger cousins various things. Extremely weak answer though, and if I don't get in I blame this and the next question.)

-What experience do you have traveling abroad? (Part 2 of the Two Questions of Death. Aside from a week in Tokyo on business, NO experience abroad. I tried to make up for it by explaining how much traveling I've done within the states, from the sprawling LA metropolis to the internet-less backwoods of Arkansas. Another very weak answer, however.)

-While visiting Tokyo, were you shocked or surprised by anything? (I honestly wasn't really, because I don't shock easily, so I told them that. The only thing I could come up with is that stuff in Japan is very...small. Weak answer, but one lady laughed and said "yeah, very true". So better than nothing!)

-Do you have any health problems/allergies? Are you single? Do you have a criminal record? (These all came from the man, who spent most of the interview thumbing through my application. No idea why he wanted to confirm them with me out loud. Stupidly, I mentioned my childhood asthma and how sometimes in really cold weather my breathing can be affected.)

-What can you tell us about the purpose of the JET program? (Standard answer about grassroots, local-level internationalization here.)

-And what kind of cultural significance do you think you can bring to the program? (I answered this one *okay*, but I left out a couple of major themes I'd meant to incorporate. I tried to play off of the fact that I come from a tiny town in Michigan but also made my way in the mammoth SoCal expanse. But I focused too much on what I've been through and not enough on why that makes me a "good candidate". Oh well.)

-Sometimes it’s common in Japanese culture for younger female staffers to pour tea, etc. for older staffers. If you saw this, how would you respond? (I honestly didn't understand this question, and my first thought was "I'm not a girl, why do I care?" So I explained that I've seen my (Japanese) coworkers do it for my boss, and it's part of the culture and doesn't really bother me. Hopefully that's what they wanted.)

So that's basically it. The interview lasted almost exactly 20 minutes, and they were backed up so that's the max any of them went I think. I didn't ask any questions since as far as I know none of them were JETs, and those were the only questions I'd prepared. Notably, they didn't ask for an actual lesson demonstration, no singing, no current events, no follow-up questions in Japanese, no "what one thing would you bring/represent America with", no "what would you do if students/teachers didn't respect you", no really difficult questions at all. Which is kind of bad in a way, cuz while I didn't blow any questions, I'm not sure I did enough to "wow" them and give them reason to rank me in the top 25% to get a placement.

But it's over now, and I don't have anything to worry about till April. If I don't get in, I'll definitely chalk it up to lack of teaching/international experience and try to get as much of that in before applying again next year.

Now that the interview is over, my next post is gonna have my Statement of Purpose and pertinent info from my application, so you guys can get an idea of what it took to actually get to the interview stage. Ta ta!

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At 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you were interviewing for the ALT position? I spent 2 years as a CIR in rural Shikoku, and it was a great experience. Good luck! I'm sure you'll have a blast.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger Krampus said...

hi, i'm aka meelynnmurder. sounds like your interview was solid - you should be fine!

At 11:32 AM, Blogger A. Shark said...

Aaron - it was indeed for the ALT position. I've been reading your blog too, and it sounds like you've got a pretty nice setup. I've always wanted to visit Yokohama. Thanks!

Meelynn - I hope so! I don't know what I'll do if I can't get over there and let you harrass me during orientation!

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Eira-ITIL said...

I think it sounds like you did great! Your questions of death sound like you handled them well, so I wouldn't worry about it. Also, if the guy really was expecting you to have a BS answer for your placement requests, I think your reasoning sounds legit and sincere. Anyway, I wish you luck! Doesn't sound like you'll need it though :3


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