To The Next ALT In Sakahogi

If you are a new ALT,
let me leave you this message.

Try not to care about the teaching part. You’ll only actually be teaching Kindergarten and grades 1 through 4. The rest, you are used as a human recorder. Sometimes the 5th grade teachers will take your advice in game activities, but you are primarily the assistant; not group teaching.
in this working environment, they won’t tell you about things so most times you’ll be in the dark as to what’s happening. In Japan, the noob is suppose to be asking all the questions.

But how can you ask about something you don’t know?
It’s a dilemma for everyone.

Next, you have the freedom to change parts of lessons so it doesn’t sound like strange English. I’ve also changed some activities so that it’s more fun for students, easier to explain through gesture presentations, and less prep on my part. It’s your choice if you want to bore your students or not. Then there’s the classroom management part.

This is not your job. It`s the job of the homeroom teacher, but many times they don’t care so what do you do?

Just stop teaching right then and there, don’t say anything, and just give the “you’re pissing me off” look.

This is a note that I will leave behind for the next ALT who will come to the location I am currently at. It really isn’t the best location for anyone really. And there has never been anyone who has stayed for more that 1 year. Even the previous person before me only managed to do half of his contract.

Plus their English level and dedication (care more like it) is super low, thus making your job more difficult. If I had met them from the beginning of the school year, I would have made all grades learn how to read and write. This way I can use it in class and not have to teach a bunch of vocabulary (nouns with pictures), and phrases that they don’t even know how to read and will soon forget as they have English only 1 or 2 times a month.

Of course this is this location. From what I’ve heard from other ALT’s, their locations sounded like they actually  teach something, and their school board actually care.

My location at the moment is a bit difficult, thus I wanted to leave that message behind for the next ALT so that they have a much easier time than I did.

I also wished I had read this article at the beginning of this school semester. It’s about a person who asks the Japan News Newspaper:

I use only English in my class at a public elementary school, but I find that some students use English class as an excuse to behave badly, be rude or not participate. How can I overcome this without resorting to speaking Japanese?

My opinion on the article: Spoiler Alert
Must read article before reading this section.

Point 1: Students don’t know the benefits of knowing more than one language and thus feel forced to take English class.

Wait a second? Don’t they feel this way about all their other subjects?
Of course not.

Because their teachers clearly tell the uses of learning the material as soon as the class starts, yet they don’t convey this in English class. (Although they quite conveniently manage to tell the students they don’t need anything, no notebooks or pencils, for English class with ease.) Thus it’s not really on the individual teachers only per say, but in the school as a whole. As a whole they are not teaching their kids why this is useful. Next, on the individual teacher level, some teachers (not all but many) feel like English time frees them from all their teacher responsibilities and assume that it’s exclusively your responsibility. Thus, like in my situation, many of my homeroom teachers don’t care about disciplining their kids, don’t enforce English during English class, become kids themselves, or a combination of.

I do agree that what she recommends is helpful, and if I had known from the beginning I would have enforced it like it was the freakin’ law, and emphasize that I am not asking this from them but rather reminding them to do their job, and enforce these changes so that the kids will have better futures. Although at the same time, I strongly feel that it’s not my job to train the other teachers on L2 Acquisition and the hows and whys of learning English (or any other language at that matter) are important, nor is it my job to make rules for them to also follow as well.

I’m pretty sure the teachers know why it is useful to know another language other than your own mother tongue, and they experience it almost everyday since they have an ALT in the school. (For teachers, not everyone.) And when they make those awesome trips they talk about, how awesome would it be if they could have talked with other people? Was the trip truly awesome with their non-existent English? I doubt it.

But I do agree that I would make this big poster of rules for the kids at every first class, with not just class rules but also useful survival phrases like “how do you say ___ in English?” or “Teacher, I have a question”, or “Please help”, etc.

But how do you get them to remember all of that? Well, in my area, they don’t even know how to read and write until they get to 7th grade. They learn ABC’s in 5th grade, but it’s not utilized ever since teachers don’t enforce output nor ask nor implement my advice. So students learn it and then soon forget since they’re not writing everything down. So the answer is simple.

Don’t give a shit about what the ministry of education says and teach them their ABC’s from the very beginning. It will be so much more fun and easy, and they can gasp record down what they learned in a method I like to call “writing“.

It would be impossible to start doing that now in my location, since there’s really only 4 weeks left and I’m leaving. I did have a request from the teacher who looks out for me. He advised me (and by advised I mean told me to do it), to write my lesson plans for the teachers so that when we are talking it’s easier for them to understand. The guy has been sitting there overhearing my mini-meetings with the other teachers and didn’t bother to say anything until the last minute?!?!?!

What the fuck!?!

Oh, and not only to write it for them, but if possible to write it in Japanese. Ok. Well, first,

I’m not going to write my plans in Japanese for them. That’s not part of my job. My job is teaching to the kids. I wrote a simplified version of my plans for the next month since I already had prepared those lessons, and left them on my desk for them to pick up. Although I doubt they will look at it until the day before the lesson. And yes. I wrote it in English. I’m the funny ALT teaching English, so you better learn as frankly it’s part of their job too. If I hadn’t planned ahead of time, I probably would have just written a list with no explanations. But I planned all the lessons ahead of time because I know I need time to pack, and just relax in what is suppose to be my Spring break.

In fairness, like I said, I wrote my already planned lessons in English. But that’s all they get. They are adults and I have high expectations for everyone, so they can come to my desk when they want and read about the lesson ahead of time. It’s their choice in how much preparation they want to do. He (the teacher mentioned above) still asked about Japanese, and I just dodged that question. If that’s what he wants from an ALT, then he needs to talk with Interac, and Interac has to pay me more if they request more job responsibilities from my part.

But I know how this story will end,
and it’s going to be very good indeed.

A word of advice for all peoples and peeps out there that are interested in ALT programs in Japan:

ALT is NOT the permanent job solution if you truly care about English education. Treat it solely as an experience, and move on. This is not a job for people who care seriously about English education.


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