Today, we turn the tables.
I asked a number of Japanese teachers of English (JTE), some of them friends and some of them current and former colleagues, what have been the biggest issues they have had to deal with regarding their assistant language teachers (ALT) down the years. Their comments should give ALTs plenty of food for thought!
Here are five common problems heard directly from JTEs — and how you can work together to resolve them better.
1. “The ALTs are changed too often.”
One of my former colleagues from my time in Tokyo complained that she never has enough time to get to know the teachers she’s working with.
“For some reason, my board of education swaps out the ALTs every three months,” she says. “Sometimes it takes one or two months just to get to know a new teacher and to build a good rapport with them for teamwork and so on. Just when you feel like you’re developing a good rhythm in classes, they get swapped out and the whole process starts again.”
This first problem is less common among direct hire ALTs, such as myself, where we usually keep the same set of schools for the whole year. However, in cases where the teacher comes from a dispatch company, they are often swapped out every few months, to work at a different base school in the same city.
Ultimately, this isn’t something that the JTE or their ALT has any real power over. It’s down to poor management on the part of the higher-ups at the education board and a lack of consideration for the ALT on the part of the dispatch company.
As I have mentioned many times before: the key to job satisfaction as an ALT lies in making the best out of what you have. You need to take the initiative. Be proactive. Engage with your colleagues as much as you can and be open and willing to help as much as possible. The quicker that your workmates become comfortable with you and your teaching style, the easier it will be for them to teach together with you effectively.
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