When you come to Japan to work as an assistant language teacher (ALT), whether it be through the JET Programme, a dispatch company or — if you’re very lucky — a direct hire position, you’ll probably hear a similar spiel as part of your orientation:
“Remember, you’re not just there to teach English. You’re also an ambassador for your country and for foreigners in general. As well as helping the students communicate in English, you also need to introduce them to foreign culture and foreign customs.”
Typically, the way I have seen most ALTs interpret this is to show the students loads of photos, realia and movies from their home countries. Now, anything that broadens a student’s mind and introduces them to something new is — in my opinion — never a bad thing, but without context the essence of the lesson becomes lost.
Today, I want to introduce you to a different approach. It’s one that I adopted several years ago and it has served me well. Ready?
Ask yourself: What would a Japanese child or teenager really be interested in knowing that only I could teach them?
From my own experience, and a certain degree of trial and error over many years, I have come to the conclusion that it is often your experiences here in Japan — rather than anything you bring from your home country — that make for more engaging discussion in the classroom.
Think about it. How do you adapt to living here? How is it different from your own country? What challenges have you faced or do you continue to face here and how do you confront them?
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