17 Jul 2019
10th October 2018
JET Spotlight: Olly Wells
While Olly Wells had planned to go into teaching before JET, the experience has proved the foundation of a thriving career in the state and international sectors. He is currently headmaster of Rong Qiao Sedbergh School in Fuzhou, China, and is also doing a PhD at Lancaster University.
JETLAG caught up with him to discuss his experiences.
1. What inspired you to join the JET Programme?
I was inspired to join the JET Programme after visiting Japan in the summer after my first year of university. I bought a Japan Rail Pass and travelled from Tokyo to Nagasaki stopping in many cities along the way. While travelling I met a former JET who told me all about the programme.
2. How did you find your experiences as a JET?
I found the programme very useful for my career. I only did JET for one year as I had deferred a PGCE offer and needed to either return to the UK for the PGCE or reapply after JET. The university made it clear they would not be keen to accept, at a second interview, students who had not enrolled after deferment. Starting a PGCE after JET meant I had a whole year of classroom experience that made starting to teach much less stressful. I had been fortunate that when I did JET students still had lessons on Saturdays. JETs didn’t work on Saturdays, but it meant there was far less pressure on teachers to use all lessons as exam cramming, so we could plan and teach engaging lessons with very little use of the textbook. This gave me lots of preparation for my teaching career. I worked in 9 schools teaching students from age 6 to 18. It was brilliant. The Osaka nightlife was great too.
3. What have you been doing since finishing JET?
I finished JET in July 2002, having spent one year in Osaka. Following my time in Osaka I completed a PGCE in London then taught in Surrey for four years before teaching at one of the earlier Academies in London. Working at an Academy (formerly a failing school) playing an important role in turning the school around was an amazing experience.
4. How do you think your current role can further UK-Japan ties?
I have arranged Japan days in schools I worked at and school exchanges to Japan. Right now in China as a Headteacher UK-Japan ties are not something I currently focus on, although as a British school in China, if we run a ski trip to Japan that would probably count.
5. What are your professional and personal Japan-related goals?
I would absolutely love to live and work in Japan again. Perhaps if I create my own company one day I will try to have the HQ in Kyoto.
6. What did you learn or discover during JET that you've taken into life and career?
When I became a teacher in the UK I was an IT teacher. Having worked as an assistant language teacher in Japan gave me very different perspectives on the role of the teacher from outside the IT department and a different experience of how a school can be organised. This likely allowed me to take an open-minded view to change throughout my career. It also very much helped that I had lived and worked abroad when I first moved to China.
Olly is an e-careers mentor at Sheffield University and says anyone interested in a career in teaching is welcome to email him.