February 6th 2015
I think the biggest factor that contributed to my frustrations as an ALT is first the location. This location (compared to my own preferences and what other ALT’s have told me), is very old-school, strict and not much room for difference. Which defeats the whole purpose of hiring an ALT. To give you a taste of my location: I have been confronted about my hair from the school secretary at the Elementary level. Saying that I had to either tie it up in some way or cut it, and comparing my style to every other Japanese teacher there. And I had another person come up to me and tell me the same thing in English just so they made sure I understood.
One reason why I have my hair down is : I like it down. My scalp can’t handle the tightness of a tie so much. It actually hurts if I do it too much.
I like to hide my earrings once in a while so it doesn’t become the main accessory for the outfit of that day.
Well, I partly listened to what she told me. And I mean PARTLY because there are other teachers (a Brazilian lady) who has hair just as long as mine and it’s always down. I choose to carry a clip, and use it here and there.
The other reasons for my frustrations is because I genuinely came into this program because I thought I would have the chance to build teaching experience. No, it’s not my first choice of careers. And I admit that even when I was about to graduate I was scrambling a bit to find what it was that I wanted to do. But I did want to give this a try, and so I took a TEFL course.
And I believed all those promises that they tell you; how you’re a cultural ambassador, how you get to open up the students point of view of the world, how you can teach English. But all of these things really depend on your location and the teachers at that location. Even for these small things, you aren’t going to be able to be that cultural ambassador and open students point of view if the JTE or homeroom teacher doesn’t ask you questions about you in front of the class. If they don’t incorporate you into their lessons, then no. It will be the same as if students passed a foreigner down the street. You just happen to stand there a little longer.
So in other words,
you get paid to be you.
If that’s what you are looking for, then it’s a cool job. No responsibilities other than a few here and there if you’re teaching Elementary. ( And people’s schedule depends on location.) You have a lot of time for yourself, and you get guidance for getting a cellphone, bank account, residence card, and other important things (like where you will live).
You get paid to interact with kids and just be you. But don’t expect everything to be easy, because it is a different culture and you will have culture shock and there will be things you don’t like. Things won’t be exactly as they are wherever you are living at the moment.
Otherwise, it’s an alright job.
So with that said, I’ve had to adjust myself to what this job truly is for the time being, and it has given me the knowledge and opportunity to find the next step in my career life.