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From Sensei to Teacher - Applying for a PGDE from Japan Watch

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    What do you think of when you remember your favourite teacher?

    Were they enthusiastic? Did they have a sense of fairness?
    Did you feel respected?

    My favourite teacher from primary school was enthusiastic, strict, fiercely fair and showed her students so much respect.

    I didn't realise at the time how lucky I was to have teachers like that, who supported my love of reading and helped me to reach the point where I am today. I didn't realise how much work went into it either.

    I live in Japan and work at an elementary school in the middle of nowhere. The kids call me Sensei, the Japanese word for teacher. I interact with bright, hilarious kids every day.I ended up here because I studied Japanese at University and going to Japan seemed like the next step. Teaching English was the way to get there. I thought I would improve my Japanese and become a translator... preferably for Nintendo Europe.

    I soon realised however that teaching was the profession for me. That I loved working with kids and supporting their ambitions. When a child tells me that they want to speak English fluently my heart warms and my cheeks hurt from how wide the smile on my face is.

    I work with teachers who are amazing at what they do and inspire me to do better. Others simply read from a textbook and mumble to their class. In my mind I promise to not become like them.

    This blog is going to cover the application process for a PGDE in Primary Education (Scotland). It will cover the highs and the lows of the process, and how being abroad affects your chances.

    I will look at the financial side of things, the logistical side of things and the odder side of things. (Such as the time I had to prove I was Scottish.)

    Please comment as I share my journey. And if you have any questions about what it is like to live in Japan or how to study Japanese go ahead. I have an N2 in the JLPT, and I was studying towards N1 before I got bogged down with the application process.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this.

    Mimikyu x
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    For my first post I am going to start with the only University to reject me… so far.


    Dundee University is ranked 180th in the world, which is rather good for Scotland. The Times also named them the Scottish University of the Year for 2016 and they’re in the top 10 for student satisfaction in the UK. Dundee is also near my family and friends and that meant that I could perhaps have some cheap places to stay during my placements, which we all know will lead to late nights and the possibility of a 90 minute commute. The idea of avoiding that seemed great!

    The course appears to be very supportive as well. You are allocated a placement tutor who will help you through the course and be part of the assessment process. There is also the opportunity to receive tutoring in maths on campus and they have additional language and math modules for those who want to refresh on what they learned in high school.

    The individual study time was also appealing as they promise a variety of modules and a flexibility that allows you to tackle the points you feel you are struggling with.

    All in all, I was pretty excited about Dundee.

    I finished my application for UCAS back in October 2016. I received automated emails from the university rather quickly and was invited to book my interview as early as December 2016.

    Which is where things started to fall apart a little. Due to my circumstances I was unable to book any dates provided for the interview and upon enquiring about later dates in the year or the possibility of a Skype interview, I was sent an email explaining that the course was highly competitive and that it would be unfair to allow me to have a Skype interview.

    I shook it off and asked how I should proceed. The University asked me to withdraw my application to their establishment and following that I have asked for feedback on my application, as I may need to re-apply next year. Every little piece of advice helps.

    Despite the less than ideal circumstances, throughout this whole process the University of Dundee has been polite and helpful. They have replied quickly to my emails, considering this is an insanely busy time of year for them.

    I am gutted that I couldn’t see the whole process through to the end. They obviously saw something in my application that warranted an interview. I understand their reasoning: it would be unfair if I got more one-to-one time with an interviewer.

    However, as Scotland pushes the 1+2 policy - a goal to have children studying two languages by the end of S3 - I think the universities need to become more flexible and accommodate potential students who are living abroad. We want to be an outward looking society, and that starts with letting young Scottish people travel and not penalising them for doing so. It also means attracting potential young teachers from other countries, who will bring their own wealth of experience and widen the world for our future generations.



    Do you think Skype interviews should be allowed? If so, what should Skype interviews involve?



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    In other news: I made Mochi (rice cakes) with my sixth years recently! Don't they look amazing?

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    Criminal Record Check Report: Part 1/?

    A “Criminal Record Check Report” isn’t something you think about every day. It is especially the case if you live in Japan, where most people don’t know what you’re talking about. (Even if you say it in Japanese)

    After a brief conversation with co-workers I was shocked to find out that teachers do not go through a police check (like our PVG in Scotland). They simply tick a box saying they have not committed any criminal offences and they’re let loose on a school. While I suspect most Japanese teachers do not have a criminal record, it is still a frightening thought that some might be… and that they might have rather shocking ones to boot!

    I am sure a quick internet search would uncover any dirt, especially as Japan does not accept a person’s right to be forgotten on the internet, but a police check gives parents and employers a peace of mind that a google search can simply not supply.

    The fact that it is not common practice in Japan leads to a more personal problem however.

    To apply for a PVG upon returning to Scotland I need a criminal record check report from Japan. And upon looking into how to procure one I am just learning how much of a task that is.

    My local prefectural police require a document stating why I need a criminal record check report. However, I cannot apply for a PVG while living in Japan and therefore have been struggling to find proof of requirement for a criminal record report.

    Do you understand my headache?

    Now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself… why not apply once you get back to the UK? Wouldn’t that be easier?

    There is no short answer to that unfortunately.

    In some respects, in terms of proof of requirement for a criminal record report, it would be easier. It would also require less travelling on my part, and no loss of pay. (At the moment I expect to lose two half days, one for applying and the other to pick it up.)

    If I apply from the UK it will take around 2 months. In Japan it would be 2 weeks.

    It would also be easier to do it in person, at a Japanese police station because I will need to provide fingerprints and the Japanese police are rather pernickety about fingerprints. If I applied from the consulate in Edinburgh and they decided my fingerprints were not up to scratch, then I would probably add another month to the process.

    I have thought of some options for a proof of requirement for a criminal record check report.

    1. I have contacted the embassy, but after sending an email with my enquiry I soon receieved an automated email stating that they wouldn’t reply to common issues covered in the email. The criminal record check report was included in this, but didn’t exactly cover my problem. It takes the embassy up to 6 days to reply, so I’m waiting without any expectations.

    2. I have emailed PVG Scotland and enquired about whether they can provide me with a proof of requirement. I will wait and see if they reply, and if they do, what they can do for me.

    3. I currently hold an offer from Strathclyde (YAY!!!!!) and I am planning to ask them if they can write a request on my behalf for a criminal record check report. On the English website it does state a request from a University should suffice as proof or requirement.

    As you can tell this is still very much a work in progress, so I will let you guys know how I’m getting on as some progress is made.

    For those who are interested, other paperwork you need to prepare for a Criminal Record Check Report (while living in Japan) are:

    1. Your Residence Record (Juminhyo) - received in the last 3 months
    2. Your Alien Registration Card (Zairyo Card)
    3. Your Passport
 
 
 
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