The Aim of Your Essay
The best piece of advice one can possibly receive when writing their essay is this: Don't just make it about the things you enjoy, make it about the things you can contribute. Every section of the essay should be useful as potential proof or evidence of what you can bring to the table, and why you will be good at your job. Don't worry about details that don't help show how capable you are.
The JET Program is self-described as being about internationalization (are you self-sufficient and adaptable and interested in getting involved in local culture as well as sharing your own? Can you survive for more than one year all on your own with a language barrier?) and team teaching (what experience do you have and how and why does it prove that you can work in a team, take direction, problem-solve, be imaginative, defer to guidance, learn quickly, be independent? What methods and techniques have you used in the past, and what results did you get?). This is what you should be crafting your essay to highlight.
- Make your first paragraph meaningful, striking, and unique, if possible. They will be reading a bazillion of these essays, and it would be all too easy to get lost in the shuffle. Make them remember you.
- How did you first become interested in Japan? And more importantly, what have you done since then to involve yourself in activities and learning opportunities associated with the country's culture? How long have you held this interest - can you prove its longevity? How hard have you worked to get to where you are with it? Have you received and prestigious awards, contest prizes, or commendations? Was anything you did in the field particularly noteworthy or even (within reason) unusual? Most importantly, what about this involvement demonstrates your ability to fit into the country's culture, and display a continuing interest after JET finishes?
- Include any language studies/testing, study abroad experience, or appropriate hobbies that relate.
- Avoid mentioning manga and anime, unless it is literally what you are planning as a career path.
International Experience and Culture Shock
- What is your experience in terms of studying and living abroad? Again, this is not your chance to talk about your favorite travel experiences, though enthusiasm is certainly important. This is where you prove that you are highly adaptable, show that you would have no problem living in Japan for several years, and most importantly, will not break contract and go back before your time is up.
- Have you submersed yourself in a foreign language before? How much of it did you use? Can you be self-reliant? Do you like to explore? Have or would you participate in community events, school clubs, or local teams? What has this taught you about teamwork?
Teamwork and Teaching Experience
- List all of your teaching experience. State where and when you worked, and what you did - grade and age levels, areas of study, materials, application of knowledge, what ideas you had, how you implemented them, the effect they had, and what you learned from it.
- For example - did you tutor a pupil in conversation and elocution? How? (I.e. by composing sample dialogues, breaking down words into phonetic pronunciation guides, crafting easy synonyms for difficult vocabulary words, etc.) Did you help pre-primary students read from picture books? How? (I.e. by correcting their misspeaks with clear enunciation and repetition, etc.)
- What have these experiences taught you about teaching, and how have they impacted your ability to teach and your interest in being an ALT?
- What is your current line of work? What does it show about your ability to coordinate, observe, understand the task at hand, make proceedings run smoothly, volunteer for last-minute tasks, be trustworthy, schedule accurately, deal with the unexpected, improvise, and above all, work as a team?
Hobbies and Cultural Exchange
- They want to know about your hobbies and the things you love. Talk about anything that will help you teach, interact with students in clubs, bring your culture to Japan, bring Japanese culture back to your country, or make you stand out as an individual.
- What of your culture can you share with your students? What of Japan's culture have or will you share with your own country(wo)men? How have or will you do this - photographs? Videos? Blog entries?
Future Goals and JET
- They are looking for applicants who will stay connected to Japan, JET, and teaching after leaving. This does not necessarily mean that you need to have university classes or career goals that align with JET, or indeed even to know where you are going, but it does mean that you should prove your continuing interest.
- As you conclude, remind your readers why your experiences will help you feel comfortable as a teaching assistant. Remind them that you understand the importance of cross-cultural understanding, and how you plan to use JET to make that happen.