School Policies

The following is a list of important policies relating to life at SHS:

School Discipline

    • Part-time work. Whether or not students are allowed to work part-time, after school or on holidays, depends on the high school in question. Ask your supervisor about this and be prepared to report students you notice working when they aren’t supposed to.
    • Smoking. The age for smoking cigarettes is 20 in Japan.
    • Driving. Students are not usually allowed to drive. Correspondence schools may allow it, though.
    • Other inappropriate stuff.
      • It is probably not a good idea to tell your students where you live.
      • Be aware of seeing your students outside of school especially in bars etc... Consider reporting them if you feel that they shouldn’t be in a place or situation you see them in.

 Guests to the School

If you want to invite a guest to the school for whatever reason, talk to your supervisor. You will need to fill out a form giving the date, time and reason for their visit.  If you want to invite someone as a guest teacher, JET and non-JETs are treated differently. Both require paper work by your school administers, but you will have to let your school know much earlier in the school year if you want to invite a non-JET to teach a class.


Student confidentiality is a big thing. Be aware that you aren’t meant to advertise things that come across your way like student grades, student photos, or other personal things about students. Of course, posting pictures of students or samples of student work on the internet is to be avoided. If, on the off chance, you do want to publish a photo of a student or use it on a website or blog, ask both the student in question and your supervisor.

 Working outside your school/ Part-time work

Working part-time for profit outside your school duties is not allowed on the JET program according to our contracts. This is covered under IV.24:

Without receiving the School Principal’s permission, the ALT shall neither become a member of the board of any organization, nor be employed by any party other than the Prefecture, nor become involved in any enterprise or business from which the ALT receives remuneration, other than that of the Prefecture.”

The following is CLAIR’s view on the subject (found in their Q&A section of their advice to contracting organizations):

"Based on the objectives of the JET Programme, it is not desirable for a JET to work at profit-making businesses in addition to his/her work. This provision was based on a similar provision included in the Local Public Servants Act and must be exercised with great care, as should be the case for general employees of each institution. From the perspective of promoting this Programme, we recommend that you avoid allowing JETs to work for profit-making businesses."


Yearly Events

Some yearly events may cause your classes to be canceled, and other may require that you work on a Saturday and/or Sunday.  Please note that if your school meets over the weekend, everyone in the school will be given a compensation day off.  Your school will inform you of the compensation day.

School Festival: The annual school festivals usually take place over three days in late August or early September. Two days of “Bunka-sai,” or cultural festival, and one day of “Undo-kai.,” or Sports Day.  Classes prepare various things such as costumes, class panels, chorus performances and classroom activities, which could be a game, a haunted house, or anything the students can create.  Third graders will often do drama performances instead of a class activity. Culture clubs, like the koto clubs, tea ceremony club, photography club, etc, will hold activities for the public as well.  Students who like to perform get a chance for the spotlight with dance groups and bands taking the stage.  The Sports Day is a chance for a day in the sun filled with relays and games.  The School Festival is arguably the biggest event of the year for the school.  No classes!

Midterm and Final Exams:There are three terms in the school year with a midterm and final exam for each.  The exact dates of the term may vary slightly in each school. 1st grade and 2nd grade students will have exams for all three terms, but 3rd grade students will finish after the second term.  During these exams, you may be in charge of a listening test.  Exams last 3-4 days, and are held in the morning.  The afternoons are usually free for teachers to mark tests.   

              First Term: Early April~Mid July              Second Term: Late August~Early December              Third Term: Early January~Late March

National Center Test (Daigaku Nyūshi Sentā Shiken): The National Center Test for University Admissions is a standardized test used by public universities and some private universities. It is held annually during a weekend in mid-January over a period of two days. There are no make-up exams for absence and the test is only given once a year. Therefore, it is very competitive and students study very hard all year for this exam.  Especially in academic schools, you will notice more and more practice exams as the test draws near, and students may have special lessons to prepare for it. 

“Kentei Shiken”: These are specialization exams that can be taken by anyone for a range of fields and skills such as English, kanji, industrial chemistry, architecture, word processor, sewing and cooking.  These tests usually have many levels and are given a few times a year according to the test.  Almost all tests will be offered the first week in February for high school graduates to take as well.  Some specialization classes may require students to study for these tests.  As an ALT, you may have students taking the English test—Eigo Kentei Shiken—and students may ask you to help prepare them for the speaking portion.  Your schools will most likely have study materials for this.

Student Interviews and Parent-Teacher Conferences:  At various points during the year homeroom teachers conduct interviews to check in with their students.  These often have the purpose of providing counseling for students and helping them decide what academic paths to chose in preparation for university and/or their future careers.  Another type of interview is the parent-teacher conference.  These are similar to student interviews, but will take place in the classrooms.  All interviews are usually scheduled in the afternoons with classes being cancelled.  Please check them on your yearly calendar so you know when your classes are not meeting.  Given that each homeroom teacher must see every student and/or parent, these interviews can take up to three days.

School Breaks: These breaks are around two weeks long after each term.  Summer break may be longer, but most schools will have special lessons occurring during the start of summer break and students will come to school to prepare for the School Festival as well.  Club activities sometimes meet over school breaks.  During this time, high school ALTs must be at school.

Graduation: At the beginning of March and is held at school.  In the days approaching, some lessons may be canceled for 1st and 2nd graders to prepare.  On the day, teachers wear suits to school.  The formal ceremony is usually held in the gym, and there may be some kind of class gathering afterwards. Following the class gatherings, students are free to walk around, taking pictures with each other and wishing each other well.  Clubs can often be seen waiting for the 3rd graders to come out of their classrooms in order to take pictures with them and present them with some kind of gift.  While there are some obvious differences to western graduations, it is mostly the same in that it is a day to celebrate and honor the departing students.  Don’t forget your camera!!

High School Entrance Exams: From late January to mid February are a very serious time at school.  There are two parts: the written test and the interviews.  The day before testing teachers and students will be cleaning and preparing the classrooms.  Teachers may ask you to check answer sheets for the test.  There are no classes during the exam.  Junior high students will come to the school in large groups to take the written test.  On these days, there are strict rules in place about leaving the school grounds.  Lunch will probably be provided for teachers by the school at a small cost.  Once the tests are completed, teachers will have to mark the exams quickly, possibly coming in for the weekend.  You may also be asked to work this weekend, meaning you would be eligible for “furikae” (overtime), but always ask your school about furikae before assuming you have earned it.  After the written test, students that pass will return for interviews.  ALTs usually do not take part in the interviews.  High schools occasionally do not get enough applicants to fill the school. Your school may schedule another round of testing should this occur. 

Orientation: Naturally, new students need to go through an orientation period.  Although the school year starts in early April, you may not have class with 1st graders until late April.  During that time, however, there may be small events at school that you can join, such as a class excursion, which will give you the chance to meet the new kids and bond a little. Excursion can be as big as a trip to Daisen, or just a class walk to the park. 

The National High School Baseball Championship:Other than the school festivals, this is THE event of the summer.  It is called “Summer Kōshien” or just “Koshien.”  This famous annual high school baseball tournament is the largest scale amateur sport event in Japan.  Each prefecture organizes games in early summer, with the top 49 teams in Japan going on to compete at the Hanshin Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture. 

In Tottori, the hosting of the tournament rotates each year between Yonago, Kurayoshi and Tottori.  It occurs over one week with five rounds in the beginning of the summer break.  It is truly an experience to see. School bands and cheerleaders travel with the teams.  Students attend the games if possible, especially when the games are hosted in their region.  High schools that have special summer lectures may end these early to let students attend the games.  It’s highly recommended that you attend this at least once!

3rd Year Students

    Third year high school students have a lot to balance. The schedule can be confusing for ALTs as we have not experienced Japanese high school life, so here some things to be aware of:

“Moshi” Practice Test:For academic schools, most 3rd graders will ‘graduate’ from their club activities after the summer vacation ends and begin focusing heavily on university entrance exams. Their schedule will sometimes be different to the 1st and 2nd grade students when they have mock entrance exams, called “moshi,” and/or interviews with their homeroom teachers. High schools will start to prepare students for the national test, called the “Senta Shiken”, with increasing mock exams, especially on Friday evenings and weekends. This test is for entrance into all public universities. This may cause some of you 3rd grade classes to be canceled.

Private School Tests and Absences:  In addition, from late November to the start of winter break, you may notice a large increase in absences as students take early university entrance exams for private schools. Students studying English may have speaking interviews that they will ask you to help them with. To better prepare for this, your school should have practice exams and records of past experiences from old students to help you better understand what the specific schools’ interview will entail. Other ALTs may be preparing students for these tests as well.

January and February: 3rd grade students will usually stop coming to school after January. During late January and February, students continue studying in their own time for exams while your school will be focusing more heavily on the high school entrance testing. Junior high school students will come to the high schools to take entrance exams. Students who pass the written test will come back for interviews. During this time, the daily schedule will be highly subject to change, and there will occasionally be strict rules in place about leaving the school grounds during testing. ALTs usually have fewer responsibilities at this time.

English Club

    Most high school ALTS are expected to take part in English Club activities about once a week. The numbers of members of these clubs vary greatly. You may find that your English club has become almost extinct for whatever reason, and you may have to give it a kick-start once you arrive. However, the experience of organizing an English club is rewarding—and well worth the effort.

The activities of an English Club will largely be up to you. The following is a list of ideas in no particular order that might prove fun for the students.

  • Card Games. Explain to your students the rules of a famous card game and play it together.
  • Board-games. Jenga is especially popular. Tell your students that they must ask the others one question for every block removed.
  • Make a movie. Write a script and record a short movie in English. 
  • News articles. Choose an interesting article from the BBC or another website and make activities based around that. 
  • Watch English movies. Harry Potter, High School Musical, Pirates of the Caribbean etc. Obviously be very careful that the movie is suitable for kids! 
  • Cooking. Cook your favorite recipe or ask them to teach you a Japanese dish. You will have to ask your home economics teacher for permission to use the room. 
  • Read English magazines
  • Make posters or an English Club Bulletin Board. 
  • Quiz. 
  • Teach your students slang, idioms, songs... 
  • Trips Maybe it would be possible to organize a trip outside your school for your students to a museum or another place around town. You will need to ask your school for permission for this of course. Start by talking to your supervisor or JTE. 
  • Guests. Students love talking to foreign faces. Perhaps you could organize a guest speaker to come to your class and give a talk about a certain subject. 
  • Make a newsletter
  • Celebrate holidays from around the world. Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah, Valentine’s Day, Groundhog Day, Saint Patrick’s Day etc...

Important Words

There are many words you will pick up in the workplace. Here are a few to get you started...

Daily Schedule

Aisatsu: A greeting. Like “Good morning” “Thank you”. Japanese schools use greetings to officially start and end meetings, classes and school assemblies. For example, morning meetings will begin with a bow while saying “Ohayo gozaimasu,’ and they will end with another bow. Classes may begin the same way, with an “Arigato Gozaimasu” at the end of class, unless you decide to establish an English greeting. School assemblies often begin and end with a bow.

after school club activities. You will usually have an English Club that meets once of twice a week. Clubs can meet as little as once a week, or everyday including weekends.

Chorei: 5-10 minute morning meeting. Don’t be late!

Chukan Shiken: Midterm exams. There are 3 terms for 1st graders and 2nd graders, but only 2 terms for 3rd graders.
Daigaku Nyūshi Sentā Shiken: The National Center Test for University Admissions used for public universities.

Dokusho: 10-15 minutes of reading before classes in the morning in the classroom. *Not all schools will have this

Hirukyukei: 35-40 minute lunch break

(O)Souji: 10-15 minute cleaning time. Sometimes after lunch, sometimes in the morning.

Jugyo: class (ex: Eigo no jugyou = English class)
        ~ jikanme or ~genme: class period, ex: ichi-jikanme or ichi-genme = 1st period

Kimatsu Kosa: Final exams. Again, there are 3 terms for 1st graders and 2nd graders, but only 2 terms for 3rd graders.

Shokuinkai: A staff meeting. You will not usually have to attend these as they are in Japanese.

Places (related to education)

Hoikusho/hoikuen/yochien (保育所/保育園/幼稚園): kindergarten/nursery

Shogakko (
小学校): elementary school; consists of grades 1-6

Chugakko (中学校): junior high school; consists of grades 1-3

Koko (
高校): high school; (generally) consists of grades 1-3

Kyoikuiinkai (教育員会): board of education

People at School

Kocho sensei: Principal

Kyoto sensei: Vice Principal (*Schools usually have two, but one might be designated as “Fukukocho-sensei,” a kind of step between Principal and Vice Principal.

Seito: student *Grades are numbered, ex: “ichi-nensei” (一年生)= “first grade”

Seitokaicho: Student Body President (Seitokai: Student Council)

Seito Shido: Student Guidance. This will be a group of teachers.

Tannin no sensei:
Home Room Teacher (Fukutannin no sensei: Assistant Home Room Teacher)

Places at School

Genkan: entry area, like a foyer

Hokenshitsu: nurse’s office

Jimushitsu: front office/secretary’s office

Kochoshitsu: principal’s office

Kyoshitsu: classroom

Shokuinshitsu: staff room/teacher’s room

Taikukan: gymnasium

Toshyokan: library

Terms relating to work hours

    There are many different labels and classifications related to your time at work and how it’s spent. The types of leave you’re eligible for even vary between town BOE’s, however here are a few that everyone will (probably) come to deal with at one point or another.

Byokyu: sick leave, which requires you to bring a receipt of payment from your visit to the doctor.

: Paid day off in lieu of day worked on weekend or holiday. This is NOT something you get for working an hour after work each day or coming in on your own time on the weekends. Only special cases are furikae. For example, when the school meets over the weekend and has the following Wednesday and Thursday off, those days are furikae. Please make sure you are clear on when you have or have not earned furikae

Jikkyu: Hourly nen-kyu. Be sure to stamp this into the attendance folder as well!

Kenshu: training

Nenkyu: paid vacation

Shuccho: work-related time out of the office. All visit schools are “Shuccho” and should be stamped into the attendance folder as such.

Tokkyu: special leave for things such as getting your re-entry permit or taking the driver’s license test