It’s the time of year when JETs have to decide whether to extend their contracts or not. I think most ALTs will have or did have a workshop about how to go about making this decision, but given my unfortunately rough experience with this question, I figured I’d say some quick things about it.

The Deadline is The Deadline
I felt pressured and rushed to make a decision, and my papers were getting filed a full month ahead of the February deadline. I was dazed and confused!

Maybe it’s more convenient for contracting organizations to know in January how many people they’re going to send home and how many replacements to bring in, but if it were absolutely crucial to have those figures in January, the deadline for ALTs to submit their papers would be in January. As the deadline is February, if you need all that time to think, take it. Please don’t give in!

You’re Making A List and Checking It Twice
One helpful piece of advice I heard at an ALT workshop was to make a list of the pro’s and con’s of staying on JET and the pro’s and con’s of leaving, then assigning a “weight” of importance to each item on the list. However, I do disagree with the oft repeated idea that it’s wrong to assign a lot of weight to money. Only people who grew up in affluence can act like money doesn’t matter! Too rich for my blood on that one.

That said, I think that if money is a reason to stay, you should have a clear financial goal in mind and work toward it.  Personally, given the extremely low cost of living that I enjoyed in my particular situation, I was able to pay off a $17,000 medical debt in two years, then save to take my mother and I to Spain. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with “I need the money for x” or “I want the money for y” being reasons to stay in any job if that’s all the motivation it takes to get you through the day.

For the Record…
I don’t regret ending my time on JET, but I do regret HOW it was ended. There were issues at work that I wanted to discuss with the vice-principal, but as it boiled down to things like “I think ALTs are treated like performing monkeys and yes I can use chopsticks,” things which can be taken as accusations of willful racism, I couldn’t bring myself to broach the subject. It bothers me now that I didn’t screw up the courage to bring up the hard topics that actually might have made a positive difference in future ALTs’ lives and deepened Japanese people’s understanding of foreigners as human beings FIRST and foreigners second. If I could do it over, I would go to the teacher I trusted most with delicate topics and ask them for advice on bringing those things up with the vice principal, to see if a change would have been possible. Even if it hadn’t been possible, I would have at least left knowing that I tried.