national

ALT asked to remove earrings by local education board

110 Comments
By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

In Japanese schools, foreign Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) are employed by local boards of education to not only assist with language-learning during English lessons, but to provide teachers and students with all sorts of firsthand insights into overseas culture.

This cultural exchange element of the job is particularly important in rural country towns, where many of the residents may have never interacted with a foreigner before. However, sometimes cultural norms from overseas can clash with what’s considered acceptable by the local board of education, and that’s the position one ALT found themselves in recently, when she was asked to remove her earrings.

The story, which involved an ALT from Latin America, was shared on Twitter recently by a teacher at a Japanese public elementary school.

The tweet reads: “An ALT was terribly angry with the school board. The reason appears to be because she was told to remove her earrings when in front of the children. In her culture, hoop earrings are worn from a young age to defy racial discrimination and act as a symbol of strength and self-respect. She said, ‘Isn’t learning a foreign language about gaining knowledge of another country’s culture?'”

The Japanese teacher continued the story with:

“‘How much of a negative effect do my piercings have on students?’ the ALT asked. When you come to Japan, sure – it’s correct to follow Japanese culture. However, you can get along well with people when you get to know each other’s cultural backgrounds. I thought this was what children should be shown.”

While students are prohibited from wearing wearing jewelry at school, teachers aren’t generally required to follow the same strict rules as students. Making the situation worse is the fact that, though the request came from the board of education, they didn’t ask the ALT to stop wearing earrings directly — instead, they instructed the principal of the school to discuss the matter with the ALT.

The incident sparked debate online, where a range of opinions were brought up.

“I’m a homeroom teacher who wears earrings and nail polish to school. If anyone said anything to me about it, I would sue them for sexual harassment.”

“We had an ALT who dared to wear big piercings in class, but it was so children might say things like 'pretty!' or 'I like your earrings' in English. The shape and color of the earrings also got the children to say 'pink!' and 'triangle.' We do anything to rouse children’s feelings, but the board of education…sigh.”

“If piercings are prohibited because students can’t have them, then does that mean teachers aren’t allowed to have a driver’s license either?”

“I once had to tell an ALT to stop chewing gum in class. They stopped, though. What could I have said if they argued that it was part of their culture?”

“Don’t people wear hoop earrings as a symbol of beauty? Is there really a cultural aspect to it?”

That last comment actually drives home the importance of what the ALT was striving for — cultural learning and understanding. While hoop earrings may simply be seen as a fashion accessory to people in Japan, for Latin American women, hoop earrings are empowering — just ask Cardi B or Jennifer Lopez — and it’s not uncommon for pre-teen girls to wear them.

The more that people in Japan are exposed to hoop-wearing Latinos, the more they would be able to understand that there is a proud cultural identity tied to wearing hoops, which represent a variety of different heritages and nationalities.

However, in this particular case, the topic of wearing hoops in class divided opinion not just amongst Japanese, but amongst ALTs too, with one of the ALT’s foreign colleagues suggesting she just take the earrings out to keep the peace.

It just goes to show that where you draw the line between keeping your cultural identity and giving up your old ways to assimilate into Japanese society isn’t the same for everyone — it’s a juggling act and an individual decision that all foreigners living in Japan struggle to make peace with at one time or another.

Sadly, it remains unclear whether the board of education and the ALT in this case were able to come to a happy resolution. Here’s hoping whatever decision was made was one that respected the cultural sensitivities of everyone involved. Because in a country where schools can force students to dye their hair black and demand they wear white underwear, what’s considered right or wrong can be a tricky landscape to navigate.

Source: Twitter/@aka11209137 via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese department store officially apologizes for English poster calling Kyoto the world’s enemy

-- Naturally brown-haired Osaka student sues government for forcing her to dye her hair black

-- Tokyo junior high school demands students wear white underwear as part of dress code

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

110 Comments
Login to comment

Here is the simple answer..."While students are prohibited from wearing jewelry at school, teachers aren’t generally required to follow the same strict rules as students."

She is NOT a student, she is a teacher, so why are they making rules for Japanese teachers, but different rules for foreign teachers?

She is there to teach, just like the Japanese teachers. The Education Board messed up. They should apologize for causing trouble to the ALT. Isn't that the Japanese way?

bec

1 ( +1 / -0 )

As a male who went through formal education, I can assure everyone that at no time do male pupils ever get distracted from learning by trivial matters such as breasts . . .''

Good one, or should I say two. Bi-lateral symmetry is a wonderful thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

20 odd years ago when I came to Japan as a bright eyed ALT, we were presented not only with our contracts, but information on living and notes/rules about dress standards in the schools that I taught in. These included the requiremnt for smart or smart casual clothes, limitations on jewelry, make-up etc etc etc according to Japanese standards. We were expected to dress on par with Japanese educators.

Yes, you could argue that she is some sort of cultural ambassador, but she is also an employee of the Board of Education, working in a Japanese workplace and subject to Japanese rules. The BoE probably throught that having the school make the request was a far gentler way of broaching the topic than having a formal directive from the BoE.

Workplaces have expected standards of dress, regardless of country.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Richard Gallagher- well said, you're absolutely right in everything you say

2 ( +2 / -0 )

She's using her ear rings to teach the class about her culture in English

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ah Japan, the land of mysterious rules. A couple of times i've questioned why a rule is in place and my childs school and no one seems to know.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

If you don't like following the rules, go back to where you came from.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

@slickdrifter

Again another one of these uppity know it all people that think ALT work is baseless, skill less job. I know of an ALT with a PHD in Linguistics and attended Trinity in Dublin

and I know an ALT working for the local shiyakusho who never graduated junior high school

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@Slickdrifter

Where are ALTs still getting over or even near ¥300,000.

Sure I am guessing you or someone else can point out one or two private schools that perhaps directly contract their ALT but again no health care, pension, etc...

Nearly all BOE positions are done via contracting outsourcing, and few if any of those outsourcing companies pay 300,000 and today one would be lucky if they pay 240,000 and again no health insurance, pension, etc...

The few I do know getting a decent wage are directly contracted to a private school, work 6 days a week (I view half day Saturday as a full work day when factoring in start time finish time and travel time) and all have wives with full time jobs in order to get health insurance, etc.. for their children.

ALTs are not English teachers despite the word teacher being in the tittle.

One could try and say they are cultural teachers but even then only if the powers that run the school approve, any teaching or mentioning some part of one's home country culture the BOE, School director, parents do not like is prohibited.

A great example was that I and a few others I know from Quebec were told never to mention that in Quebec married couples the wife does not change her name to the husband's. This came up because our children do not have our surname but that of our wives.

As for teaching English it would be if the ALT was permitted to actually teach proper English but most are told never to contradict the official material no matter how incorrect it is and never correct the actual teacher regardless of how wrong what they are saying is.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Richard Gallagher

Again another one of these uppity know it all people that think ALT work is baseless, skill less job. I know of an ALT with a PHD in Linguistics and attended Trinity in Dublin. This cat is working directly for the BOE in Fukuoka. Why? Instead someplace A.P.U. Oita or some other? Cause he chooses too. He want to make a difference. This great teacher who is solely responsible for teaching hundreds of kids including my own (grateful beyond words) the English Language that consistently go on to some prestigious Universities in New Zealand, Australia, United States. Canada. Now he is the exception maybe. But any hard working Assistant Language Teacher that is serious about the job is always trying to improve their skills. Their are tons teacher trainer courses that are beneficial. David's house of English. David Paul has mentored many a good A.L.T.'s

Tons of online material. Its English man. Its not hard to learn. And its not hard to teach students who want to learn. The student who is motivated learns. I am not expert teacher. I am not even a teacher per say, not any more. But when I was teaching I would like to think That I made a positive impact and an attraction to furthering ones own studies with in the language and my students enjoyed the lessons. The problem here is not the A.L.T's. The problem here with Japanese leaning English is that they do not want too. Little harsh don't you think Mr. G? Jeesh. I respect those A.L.T.'s who enjoy the job. I meet many on the train, Yes a fair amount of them are not serious. But some with Japanese wives and kids here, are and are trying to get somewhere in this country. Where if you do not speak read and write Japanese at the N-2 Level, Your not going to break 300.000 a month unless your working in a factory and a ton of overtime. And this does not apply to all. A.LT Your comment is scathing and too negative.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

The BOEs that I'm familiar with are very authoritative. My take on their reaction is that the BOE needs to show they are maintaining their authority so parents and students won't ask questions. Parents and students are watching so the BOE is most likely concerned with the reaction from parents and students if they let international culture flourish in the school system.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I read articles such as this and check the comments just to confirm that the herd mentality is real...Those who have had the good sense to defend the BOE have been clobbered with thumbs-down. I'm sure I'll get the same.

Are there arbitrary rules in Japan? Yes, obviously...Are they brutal, totalitarian, impossible to follow? No.

Japan is sooo easy to pick on! Foreigners come here, make an easy living, and then complain, complain, complain...And the Japanese generally put up with it...

Imagine a wannabe English teacher donning a sweatshirt proclaiming in Chinese: "Save the Uygurs!" or "Stop coerced abortions!"...He or she would be lucky if all that happened was instant deportation--and the media would then either ignore the story or smear the deported foreigner as an impulsive fool.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Back in the day, working as an ALT, the same rules were in place for elementary schools. It also included "no neck ties". It's not cultural, it's not sadistic oppression, it's not rocket science: it's simply that small kids love to pull things for fun. This rule was probably put in place after incidents in which some teachers learnt that the hard way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why did the BOE get the principal of the school to talk to the ALT about it?

From experience, schools usually have their own policies on this sort of thing. If the school in question specifically had a problem with the earrings, they could have easily mentioned it to the ALT, and it could have ended right there and then. I can only assume based on this article that school had no problem with it all.

This smacks of the BOE overreaching in this case, and should have butt out, unless the school felt the need to escalate it to BOE if initial talks with the ALT failed.

Even if the BOE turns out to be the wrong in this case, don't hold your breath for an apology. Can't have them losing face by admitting they gone goofed up.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Unbelievable...and not even Japanese, but in fact a guest here

Strange my papers and visa don't say guest?

I have a residency card and residency registration.

I have never seen this elusive guest visa and guest residency thing some people keep going on about.

If you have a working visa, PR, and are working, paying taxes and have a residency registration, then you are a resident of the country, you may not be a citizen but you are clearly not a guest.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Sven Asai

This you are a guest here gets very tiring. A guest does not pay rent, a guest does not need to work or pay taxes, a guest is a guest.

We are not guest we live here pay taxes, health insurance, pension, etc . Never heard of a guest having to do those things.

Most of what you wrote and the rules you gave examples of are clearly written in law or contracts.

Anyone that has been an ALT or seen an ALT contract knows all to well very little is in that contract regarding many things including dress code and that even within the same city and BOE the rules from one school to the next can be completely different and most ALT contracts mean that the ALT works more than one school in the same city/BOE with each school having different rules.

You want common sense? Then start with the BOE making the rules and make those rules clear and fixed in all their schools.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I think the headline here should actually be: "ALT who signed contract in which it was clearly stated, "no earrings", asked to remove earrings."

Where in the article does it say any of that?

Anyone that has been an ALT or talked to an ALT, knows all to well that no specific rules and no clear rules are in the contract, just vague language giving the school director the choice to implement whatever they want and giving both the BOE and school a way to change rules in the event an annoying parent makes a complaint.

The best example I have was when I had the misfortune to work as an ALT, when hired the city BOE people met me I had a beard and earring, they said nothing about either.

I taught at 3 city schools, a few months later I was informed by one school that I had to shave and remove my earring, note not the other 2 schools, now the earring was not a problem but the beard due to a serious skin condition was because I cannot shave certain areas without causing serious damage to my skin ( hereditary skin problem that affects my father and siblings). None of this was an issue when hired, nothing in my contract 2 out of 3 schools had no problem with it but after a long argument with the school in question, the BOE and the contractor I was hired by it seems my beard upset one mother complained and therefore the school changed the rules of my employment. In the end because I could get a medical exemption I did not shave, but my contract was not renewed but that was more because another contractor under bid my company and they lost the contract for the next year.

Welcome to the waste of time and dubious workings of the ALT system in Japan

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What’s the problem here? There are rules and common sense behavior for everything. Putting away alcohol a long time before driving, fasten a seatbelt when driving, wear safety clothes and strong glasses when being a forestry worker cutting a tree, cover your hair in kitchens, patisserie etc. So you just put away your earrings if your employer demands for teaching little children. Unbelievable...and not even Japanese, but in fact a guest here!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Let's get a few things straight. Few if any ALT work for the BOE, in 30 years in Japan I know of only one BOE that contracts (not hire as employees) ALTs and only for prefecture senior public high schools. Having seen, read contracts while helped many ALTs over the years that gave had problems with their schools, their contracting company, etc.. not one contact had any specific dress code. All contracts have vague wording along the line of "appropriate attire" .

Being an ALT once was a temporary short term job (at best a few years) that paid a decent wage. Not anymore as contracting companies undercut eachother to get the contracts pay has gone for decent to something only a house wife with a husband that supports her can get by with. I have seen ALTs working multiple schools for the same contractor and the same BOE having different dress codes at each school, different rules concerning cancelled classes, different rules concerning lunch break, etc... A silly example of differences is the same city, same BOE, where one school required the ALT to be at the school 30 min before starting the other school required 1 hour before, one school permitted ALTs to wear any indoor shoes the other required them to buy the official school indoor shoes, one required ALTs to have lunch in class with students, the other strictly forbid ALTs from eating lunch with students or even eating their lunch in an area where students could see them (in both cases Japanese teachers are in class with students). Same BOE, same city, different rules and nothing written in the contract.

So please stop trying to go on about rules are rules, dress code is the dress code, because vwe all know these contracts are written in such a vague way that the school, the contractor, the BOE, can change or claim any rule they please if they feel like it or don't personally like something.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Why can't they just compromise and have a "Mufti Friday" as they do in many Western countries? Follow the dress code Monday through Thursday, wear your hoop earrings on Casual Friday? Kill two birds with one stone.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As an adult why should I be forced to behave like an automaton, the same way students are forced to?

It is also more oppressive that the lengths of students’ socks and skirts are controlled to the millimeter.

One of the first things university students do after HS is to start wearing what they want and change the color of their hair because they are so starved of self expression at school.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

> isoducky

Not sure if you're being tongue-in-cheek but when I was an ALT we did get such a dress code dos-and-don'ts talkin' to at the orientation seminars. Not with pictures. But the ALT liaison guy gave us an example by undoing buttons and untucking his shirt. I'm not even joking. 

I was once stuck in a teachers meeting where they discussed dress code for students. All zippers had to be zipped and all buttons buttoned at all times or be reprimanded. One teacher asked if that included the decorative zippers on the fake sleeve pockets and BOY was that a roller coaster of a meeting!

Japan needs to relax. 

Do they still spray paint kids hair?

Yasuragi:

What you described is initial training. A talking to about dress codes. "Talking to"s differ from liaison to liaison and school to school.

What I an mentioning is the lack of a digital or printed reference for uniform standards from the BOE in 2020. Having such materials, preferably in multiple language, makes communication of standards scaleable ( able to reach many people quickly) and keeps all parties honest.

This looks like a situation where a rule wasn't in place or wasn't communicated by the BOE and they tried their best control the situation without any firepower, like something a reference manual would provide. Because of the lack of rule the ALT felt slighted.

I don't care if Japan needs to relax or not but in this situation, Japan needs to work on it's communication of expectations.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

She can proclaim her independence when not at work...or leave her position...or follow the rules and do the job she’s being employed to do!

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Unwritten rules makes it hard to follow.

All depended on hoop earings.

Personally, I get distracted if hoop earings are large and moving when the person speaks. Same as for any jewelry. If they were the small types, it means the teachers were not able to even wear any probably.

In a foreign country, you are not coming to change the country but to explain.

I like seeing kimonos on women, not chadors nor heavy jewelries. I wish they had often clothes where cleavage was duly showed but my expectations are foreign to Japanese culture so I respect.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Let's be clear ¥220,000 a month & no health care/pension contributions & having to teach unruly elementary school kids on your 'stand

by days' is hard work and the pay is rubbish.

Let her wear the earrings & GET A LIFE!!

Again working for the likes of INTERAC & having to obey ridiculous rules is NO fun so imo DON'T become an ALT in Japan it's waste of time and the pay sucks!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I think the headline here should actually be: "ALT who signed contract in which it was clearly stated, "no earrings", asked to remove earrings."

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Very amusing how many of you think being an ALT is a real job.

It's a job where one goes to work, to perform a set task, for a salary.

It's weird how many people are so condescending as to think that's NOT a real job.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Very amusing how many of you think being an ALT is a real job.

What do you expect from an unqualified assistant apart from disobedience.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

 In her culture, hoop earrings are worn from a young age to defy racial discrimination and act as a symbol of strength and self-respect.

What a bunch of BS this is.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

You get 10 extra 'Trashy' points if your hoop earrings have your given name punched out of a piece of gold-painted metal suspended through the middle.

How exactly are Latinas wearing hoop earrings "defy(ing) racial discrimination"?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Some Sikhs employed as unskilled labourers in small and medium enterprises had to cut their hair short and remove their turbans in violation of the principle of kesh, because their employers are unfamiliar with their customs and do not give them any latitudein their style of dress. They consider this as just a temporary adaptation to Japanese society. However, this practise is not common among Sikhs in skilled professions such as IT.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Well I guess if that was my company, that Sikh would have to choose between 'his culture' or bringing bread home.

I doubt a Sikh would want to work for a racist, but if your hypothetical company imposed that policy, it would be forced into bankruptcy due to racial discrimination.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

ALTs are paid to provide a service to their customer. If you want to put your wishes over those of your customer, find a different place to work.

I don't remember any rules against earrings in my ALT contract.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

"Sadly, it remains unclear whether the board of education and the ALT in this case were able to come to a happy resolution."

Doubt it. They probably said, "I know, I know... but please take them off," then the BOE was so embarrassed by the press this is getting they just won't renew her contract if that's an option.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

“I once had to tell an ALT to stop chewing gum in class. They stopped, though. What could I have said if they argued that it was part of their culture?”

It is part of American culture. Usually while wearing sunglasses, headphones and not paying attention. lol

4 ( +6 / -2 )

She might have resisted the advances of a higher up and found something to sack her.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

In her culture, hoop earrings are worn from a young age to defy racial discrimination and act as a symbol of strength and self-respect.

Overall, this time I'll side with the BoE. First, while that may be the way Latinos see this, in Japan they have no such connotation so the Japanese students are not going to be thinking "Wow, so brave."

They will be viewing this through a Japanese lens, which is more like "Wow, she's allowed to break the rules and wear ridiculous earrings."

Now, of course earrings are allowed but I think most people allowing them are thinking Studs that are small enough you'll miss them if you don't look carefully or are at a distance, not massive hoops.

Making the situation worse is the fact that, though the request came from the board of education, they didn’t ask the ALT to stop wearing earrings directly — instead, they instructed the principal of the school to discuss the matter with the ALT.

Mmm, there's a school of thought in managerial practice that calls this respecting the middle manager's autonomy and authority by not just directly "jump the chain-of-command".

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

When we lived in Kobe we helped several ALT'S. All young American women who had finished uni and wanted the experience to be here in Japan. Also another one when we lived in Nagano w because I was the only other foreigner.

told to shave chest hair, cover up larger breasts

That would be my current position. Large very hairy man breasts.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

The word Assistant is proper. Assist the teacher in teaching the curriculum presented and nothing else.

Dress for your job, get your paycheck and study hard for your next or first college degree.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

ALTs are not here on a diplomatic mission or cultural exchange. 

I guess you missed the first paragraph.

In Japanese schools, foreign Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) are employed by local boards of education to not only assist with language-learning during English lessons, but to provide teachers and students with all sorts of firsthand insights into overseas culture.

So yes they are in sorts on a cultural exchange. To be more truthful that is actually the only reason they are there for. Anyone that has been an ALT, had children in the Japanese school system and is honest knows all to well they are not really there to teach English and inost cases anything they teach that contradicts the official material will face backlash from the actual teacher and students will be told to ignore and dismiss.

The fact that I could be an ALT says it all, I am a native French speaker educated only in French but because I am from Canada I was only "qualified" under the Japanese system to be an English ALT, I was even told I could not be a French ALT because I don't know about French culture.

ALTs are not language teachers they are at best a tiny attempt at letting Japanese children know a bit more about foreign culture but only as long as that information fits within the set parameters of the school officials.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

ALTs. Carpetbaggers with no appreciable or marketable skills. Just take off the earrings. The pretense it is some manner of statement, cultural, political, or whatever is ludicrous. In case you are unaware: It is Japan. ALTs are not here on a diplomatic mission or cultural exchange. As if, foreign countries are founts of light in terms of cultural tolerance.

ALTs are rarely certified teachers, if ever, and mostly parrot English. The skill level on a whole is base and often less so. ALTs and so-called English teachers from abroad, many are some of the most incredible dullards. Few, if any, could land a job as a teaching assistant in their homeland. Do the job, it isn't a mercy mission, its a very basic skillset and little else.

As Pico Iyer, once remarked about ALTs and the like, their main talent is they are breathing, can speak basic English and are devoid of any talent or skill in regards to teaching. Or as the Japanese comedienne, Yumi Nagashimi says: "Hey creepy Whiteman with awkward social skills, borderline autism, with halitosis and funky body smell, maybe you want to go to Japan and teach English there." Which seems to fit.

"File a lawsuit," that's amusing.

1 ( +14 / -13 )

Well, it is the 2020s...

exactly! if you’ve got it, flaunt it!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

told to shave chest hair, cover up larger breasts

hopefully not the same person. that would really be unfortunate...

Well, it is the 2020s...

6 ( +8 / -2 )

told to shave chest hair, cover up larger breasts

hopefully not the same person. that would really be unfortunate...

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Anyone that has been in Japan for any longer amount of time has or can give dozens if not hundreds of examples of similar thing anyone saying they cannot is not being honest.

After 30 years I have seen it all or close to all.

In an unfortunate stint as an ALT I was told to remove my earring, shave my beard ( which I actually cannot due to a skin condition without causing serious problems).

Of course seem in many jobs where people were told to cover up tattoos (yes I know the cultural reasoning), told to cover up and even told to shave chest hair, cover up larger breast by wearing loose fitting tops and the list goes on.

The problem is as simple as no national uniform rules leaving individual schools to do as they please and all it takes is one backwards thinking head to make problems.

It is not just ALTs that are affected, my 2 mixed children have had just as many problems, from being told to dye their hair darker (we didn't), my daughter told to wear (buy) larger than needed uniform blouses and jacket because she was to chesty, teachers and officials telling us that sun screen was not permitted as it was considered make-up, this despite the fact my children have caucasian skin and burn in just a few minutes, only relenting once we got a doctor to actually show up at the school and berate the school officials and give them a lecture on skin cancer.

This is and was all in Tokyo where far more diversity exist, I cannot imagine how bad it can get in less urban and diverse areas.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

burning bush:

She’s paid to be an Assistant LANGUAGE Teacher, not a Beauty Consultant for elementary school kids.

Look, we now you're still angry and fuming about the recent turn of events in the US elections, but please stop taking your anger out on unrelated issues. Wearing earrings does not make one a beauty consultant any more than owning a driving license makes one a racing driver.

10 ( +16 / -6 )

I knew a case where a female ALT was asked to wear a jacket all the time, zippered up to the top, even in summer, down here in Okinawa. Because of the size of her breasts, the "teacher" felt she was a distraction to the boys in the class, and felt uncomfortable because she felt they were all staring at her, and not paying attention in class!

As a male who went through formal education, I can assure everyone that at no time do male pupils ever get distracted from learning by trivial matters such as breasts . . .

2 ( +6 / -4 )

"He insisted that I would need to remove the ring - so I quit there and then."

He probably wanted you to quit. That is the way Japanese workplace bullying works...

12 ( +13 / -1 )

If you refused to hire someone because of discrimination, hopefully, they'd file a law suit.

This is not Australia, the UK or the US. There are not anti-discrimination laws in Japan, at least enforceable ones. Their lawsuit would not go far.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Ahhh the Japanese BOE.......

BOE: "Don't wear a watch! It's jewelry!"

ALT: But I have a wedding ring on.

BOE: "That's ok................."

ALT: (looking at the married man who wears no ring.)

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Well I guess if that was my company, that Sikh would have to choose between 'his culture' or bringing bread home.

Why do you put inverted commas around his culture?

Do you understand that wearing the turban is an essential part of Sikhism for males?

If you refused to hire someone because of discrimination, hopefully, they'd file a law suit.

And win, bringing more than a fair few loaves of bread home.

9 ( +14 / -5 )

So a Sikh can never work in a company that bans hats?

Well I guess if that was my company, that Sikh would have to choose between 'his culture' or bringing bread home.

-11 ( +4 / -15 )

Japanese BOE and schools in Japan can and should decide whatever dress code they deem appropriate. It's their country and their schools. Who cares what some precious ALT thinks.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

Sorry, it's off the main discussion point here, but I can't help exploring her background, wondering if she is a qualified (TESOL-certified) English teacher. ALT program seems lax.

She could be from Belize or Guyana.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Japanese companies are full of ridiculous rules to our ears.

But, we are earning a living here. Rules must be observed. Otherwise, pack your bags and go home.

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

Yep, just take the earrings out to keep the peace, then next week you can dye your hair, you know, to keep the peace. Next week, make sure your skirt is the length that the head teacher likes, to keep the peace. Next month, in order to keep the peace, you can stay late every night doing meaningless tasks. Oh, and do please keep the peace by being silent in meetings, unless it is to nod and make approving noises at everything that your Jp colleagues say. And please stop smiling so much / too much, and please speak quieter / louder, and please speak slowly / naturally, and please adopt Japanese customs / embody the customs of your own country. etc etc etc. Just to, you know, keep the peace.

Boom!

The goal is not to educate. It’s to make them all think and look the same.

Boom!

I once got asked to remove my ring by the head teacher of a HS I was working at back in the day. When I explained it was my wedding ring, he told me "sorry but it's school policy that teachers can't wear jewelry". I explained that unfortunately I couldn't do that because (a) it literally doesn't come off! and (b) even if it did, I wouldn't be prepared to remove it. He insisted that I would need to remove the ring - so I quit there and then.

19 ( +19 / -0 )

I worked as an ALT and English teacher in Japanese high schools, colleges and universities for nearly two decades. 

You are a survivor! I couldn't handle it more than 2 years. Well done.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

I worked as an ALT and English teacher in Japanese high schools, colleges and universities for nearly two decades. The irony of being a native English speaking teacher in Japanese schools is, you must be Japanese. All the things that define the diversity of foreign cultures are not allowed in the classroom. Pierced ears are frowned upon for women. Males must not have pierced ears. Neither males or females can have nose or brow piercings. Of course, any tattoos must be covered. Clothing must also follow the rules of the school. I got into trouble for wearing a Daffy Duck tie at one school.

It’s all part of the bullying culture. “The nail that stands up must be hammered down!” TIJ!

16 ( +17 / -1 )

“I once had to tell an ALT to stop chewing gum in class. They stopped, though. What could I have said if they argued that it was part of their culture?”

Hoops are fine, they don't get in the way of anything. But gum chewing (to me, at any rate) comes across as a bit rude and disrespectful.

Many years ago, we had some Americans come to our school to talk about the opportunities in the US, and the speaker was chewing gum. It took away from the seriousness of the talk and made his attitude appear somewhat flippant. The school principal was doing his nut, but kept calm. Which was unusual, for him, being a violent man.

Anyway, as long as the ALT does a good job, can't really see the problem with earrings.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

If you make a ruling, at least have the balls to convey that ruling yourself Board of (silly walks) Education. Classic bureaucratic cowardice and buck passing.

Indeed...Bet the average age of the small town BOE dinosaurs that had an issue with her earrings is about 120 and hardly any of them have any " international" experience.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

When in Rome....

-12 ( +4 / -16 )

If she worked for a dispatch company, then the company gives a dress code and dos and donts before she signs the contract agreeing to it. Even if she worked directly for the BOE, it's common knowledge and there are hundreds of online resources of people asking this.

I know a lot of posters want to sock one to Japanese culture and make it more progressive, but one of the biggest goals with ALTs is to get rid of dispatch companies. If she worked for the BOE this does directly the opposite and other BOEs will take notice. Eliminate the dispatchers first so teachers can make a liveable wage and then go ahead and then fight for these kinds of things.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The gum analogy is absolutely ludicrious... Why would the board of eduction even get involved?

Japanese schools waste a lot of time having meetings about trivial stuff... The high school I used to work at had a two hour meeting about whether girls should be able to wear tights in the winter.... seriously!!

But they have a tough time making decisions about important stuff...

16 ( +16 / -0 )

SandyBeachHeaven

@Zichi: I know two Sikhs that teach not only English but also other university classes.

It's not what I said which was I doubt there are any Sikh ALT's. Do you know of any?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I thought this story was going to be about a guy.

@Zichi: I know two Sikhs that teach not only English but also other university classes.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Attempting to explain these things to Japanese educators and bureaucrats is like reading sutras to a horse.

16 ( +16 / -0 )

The Japanese BOE King has no clothes... what's new....

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Where is the line?

What about tattoos? Can an ethnic Māori from New Zealand get a pass if they are an ALT?

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Those that think being ALT is not a credible language teaching profession I think are very wrong. I taught English when I exited Marines while educating myself in Japanese at the Uni at night. I did this ALT work for many years, I am grateful I do not have too do it anymore full time because I am not a gifted teacher. However, When working as an ALT I was placed to work at Higashi Kyushu Ryokoku Highschool. Now this school is a Buddhist School with strong ties to Hisamitsu. This school has the most dominant girls volley ball team in all of Japan and most on the Japanese woman's pro circuit and the woman's Olympic teams. Attended Ryokoku. I loved this experience working in this school. I did it for years. When my dispatch company tried to move me to another school. They school became upset I would not be able to see the kids I started teaching graduate. They hired me directly. I would have to say I No have public school experience, But why all the horror stories about working the public schools?

As far as the earrings go for this woman. I am on the side of the school. Its called Kihondosa and I had to report to my school in suite and tie everyday. Day in day out. I was also made to sit through Buddhist chants as its a Buddhist run school. Every teacher is a Monk. They do not look like Monks but they were. My culture as an American rarely came into play. My knowledge of the world did. I also had to teach right out of American text books and adhere to a strict curriculum laid out by the school. They had quizzes, They had essays, They had mid terms. They had speech contests. They had the whole package. Writing, Grammar, Cursive writings, Tests, I remember. It has been sometime to teach, Is teaching as an ALT in Public schools this scrutinizing? I mean you have to be an ambassador to your country and know your working with young leaners right? But if you have big ole hoops in and not looking right, Sorry I do not want you teaching my kid. There is a time for fashion and free time ware what ever the heck you want too. But in a school setting, This is Japan, you should adhere to proper Kihondosa. But, why the horror stories working as an ALT in public schools. Some of my friends work in country side schools here in Kyushu and the schools love them and they love the kids and school and they say the food is not that bad.

-6 ( +9 / -15 )

Foreign brotherhood army-

Teaching in many high schools is mostly geared towards university entrance exams—not speaking. The English used in textbooks is outdated and very formal because the entrance exam questions are that way.

I’d blame the entrance exams—not the ALTs who basically have no power to make or change policy.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

though the request came from the board of education, they didn’t ask the ALT to stop wearing earrings directly — instead, they instructed the principal of the school to discuss the matter with the ALT.

If you make a ruling, at least have the balls to convey that ruling yourself Board of (silly walks) Education. Classic bureaucratic cowardice and buck passing. Pretty much all these jokers are capable of.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.....

Yeah and what happened to Rome!

16 ( +19 / -3 )

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.....

-11 ( +6 / -17 )

The whole ALT thing is a joke anyway, I mean with all the ALTs in japan and that have been in japan you’d think the average Japanese person would have great English skills. Nope. I also hear the the Japanese English teachers secretly resent the ALTs, this might just be a rumour though, as I have never done that type of work and never will.

1 ( +13 / -12 )

40 years (must be close) of the JET program and we still get this.

The senior high my daughter is trying for has no uniform and kids with dyed hair. It's top five in the prefecture, so is not full of degenerates. As the above story shows though, education in Japan still has many pockets of reactionary fervor where all that matters is uniforms, shouting aisatsu in a loud voice, and eating the piman in your school lunch. It tries to hammer everyone into the same box.

15 ( +15 / -0 )

isoducky

Not sure if you're being tongue-in-cheek but when I was an ALT we did get such a dress code dos-and-don'ts talkin' to at the orientation seminars. Not with pictures. But the ALT liaison guy gave us an example by undoing buttons and untucking his shirt. I'm not even joking.

I was once stuck in a teachers meeting where they discussed dress code for students. All zippers had to be zipped and all buttons buttoned at all times or be reprimanded. One teacher asked if that included the decorative zippers on the fake sleeve pockets and BOY was that a roller coaster of a meeting!

Japan needs to relax.

Do they still spray paint kids with brown hair?

16 ( +16 / -0 )

Thank God I left Interac and the ALT industry it was hell!

13 ( +16 / -3 )

While hoop earrings may simply be seen as a fashion accessory to people in Japan, for Latin American women, hoop earrings are empowering — just ask Cardi B or Jennifer Lopez — and it’s not uncommon for pre-teen girls to wear them.

Cardi B and her WAP. Yeah let’s ask her. Lol

The oldest evidence of hoop earrings is from Sumeria 2600BC. So isn’t Latinas wearing them cultural appropriation?

-14 ( +4 / -18 )

Bravo to this woman. This is the school/BOE rearing its ugly and controlling head.

A large part of being an assistant English teacher in Japan is cultural exchange. Remember, they are assistants because many do NOT teach grammar. That is what the Japanese teacher went to university for. Japanese teachers are licensed teachers, and most (not all) ALTs are not.

(Many high schools in Japan are focused ONLY on entrance exam for university and have grammar-heavy classes. Speaking is not a priority, which is one of the reasons Japan ranks so low for English ability)

Instead, many ALTs were hired to come to Japan to immerse the children in an English environment with a focus on cultural awareness. ALTs come from all over the world, not only English-speaking countries. They create games, listening/writing/reading/speaking exercises, multi-week projects, assist with translation work etc.

Some of the children have never talked to a person from another country before. It’s extremely important for these children to see that people from abroad might have different styles and come from other unique cultures.

Wearing earrings is part of her cultural identity. Of course some will say, what if carrying a gun is part of her culture or some nonsense like that. The reality is that the earrings are harmless and the rule is unnecessary and controlling. In my opinion, Japan needs to get rid of these old ideas and embrace the realities that are happening outside its borders.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

The goal is not to educate. It’s to make them all think and look the same.

21 ( +21 / -0 )

Sikhs don't wear hats, they wear turbans for religious reasons. I doubt there are any Sikh ALT's

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

...”In her culture, hoop earrings are worn from a young age to defy racial discrimination and act as a symbol of strength and self-respect.”

Nonsense. Earrings are an ornament, and nothing more. This comment is nothing but popular buzzwords used when a person has no genuine argument.

If you are hired to perform a job, you follow the standards your employer sets, or you quit. Employers are not required to comply with the whims and wishes of employees.

-7 ( +10 / -17 )

Reminds me of an American ALT years ago. She got in strife for "going against Japanese culture" by smiling too much as her teeth were too white and straight.

24 ( +25 / -1 )

These matters are decided by each school. If the rule applies to all teachers, then more acceptable. If not, then not acceptable. Just follow the same dress code has the other teachers.

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

one of the ALT’s foreign colleagues suggesting she just take the earrings out to keep the peace

Yep, just take the earrings out to keep the peace, then next week you can dye your hair, you know, to keep the peace. Next week, make sure your skirt is the length that the head teacher likes, to keep the peace. Next month, in order to keep the peace, you can stay late every night doing meaningless tasks. Oh, and do please keep the peace by being silent in meetings, unless it is to nod and make approving noises at everything that your Jp colleagues say. And please stop smiling so much / too much, and please speak quieter / louder, and please speak slowly / naturally, and please adopt Japanese customs / embody the customs of your own country. etc etc etc. Just to, you know, keep the peace.

21 ( +22 / -1 )

The existence of this article kinda disproves that.

I didnt mention anyone being offended.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Burning BushToday  06:49 am JST

She’s paid to be an Assistant LANGUAGE Teacher, not a Beauty Consultant for elementary school kids.

It's not just teaching the language or surely Japanese teachers could do that themselves. It's also about sharing your culture and exposing Japanese children to other cultures.

Burning BushToday  07:54 am JST

I guess if the ALT came from a country where it's the cultural norm for men to go shirtless in public, it would be perfectly ok for that ALT to deliver a lesson with beergut and chest hair in full view.

After all, it's cultural exposure

Odd analogy unless you can let us know the culture where it's the norm for men to work in schools whilst shirtless.

sensei258Today  07:24 am JST

Bottom line is, she's paid to do what they want, not to do what she wants.

Surely within reason or an employer can require anything they like and even here in Japan that's not the case.

noriahojanenToday  07:24 am JST

The story, which involved an ALT from Latin America

Sorry, it's off the main discussion point here, but I can't help exploring her background, wondering if she is a qualified (TESOL-certified) English teacher. ALT program seems lax.

A little bit of reason would have gone a long way on the part of the school (school board) towards keeping their employee happy. It's a bit ridiculous to say that students can't wear earrings so neither should she be able to. She's not a student and teachers can do many things that students can't. It just seems like a very short-sighted way to nitpick and exert control and it's exactly that kind of nitpicking and control that breaks the spirit of so many people who want to just do their jobs the best they can. When you hire someone from another country, specifically because they are from another county, there should be a bit of give-and-take with regards to cultural differences and certainly the idea behind hiring an ALT from another country is more to expose the students to another language and culture than it is to try and mold a grown adult to Japanese culture.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

Earrings arent offending anyone,

The existence of this article kinda disproves that.

-13 ( +11 / -24 )

If your employer has a dress code, you follow it, period.

So a Sikh can never work in a company that bans hats?

Why can't employers show respect to cultures and religions? You know like they ask their employees to propagate.

12 ( +18 / -6 )

I guess if the ALT came from a country where it's the cultural norm for men to go shirtless in public, it would be perfectly ok for that ALT to deliver a lesson with beergut and chest hair in full view.

Not a great comparison is it. Earrings arent offending anyone, and are an accessory used by a huge number of people in Japan.

22 ( +26 / -4 )

I find it funny the BOE hasn't presented a uniform standard for teachers and ALTs. A simple memo of do / don't / exceptions would solve this pretty easy. Even easier would be to present pictures of appropriate and tolerated attire.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

It's just easier not to work for the board of education. Then instead of meetings about earnings thay can focuss on, I actually don't know perhaps education? But that's too hard and will cause confusion. Best to focus on earnings. That only takes 10 meetings.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Why is it so hard for some foreigners to follow instructions without making a fuss? If your employer has a dress code, you follow it, period. Nowadays, it's so hard to get good help.

Oh so only the ALT can not wear earrings? This isnt "instructions" and if you cant see it, you are really blind!

11 ( +19 / -8 )

Bottom line is, she's paid to do what they want, not to do what she wants.

Right, so if you were in her position and I was the one telling you what to do, you are going to do what I tell you because that's what you are paid for?

Let's start by having you jump through a few hoops!

10 ( +18 / -8 )

Still waiting for Japan to move into the 21 Century.

24 ( +31 / -7 )

Ha I was told not to use deodorant as the smell is not "Japanese" and to button my shirt as chest hair not "Japanese" I'm so glad I don't have to teach English anymore. Or pretend to like disgusting foods. Educating does appear to be trying to teach the youth to be as dumb as you can. A++ Jstyle.

27 ( +35 / -8 )

I guess if the ALT came from a country where it's the cultural norm for men to go shirtless in public, it would be perfectly ok for that ALT to deliver a lesson with beergut and chest hair in full view.

After all, it's cultural exposure.

-17 ( +21 / -38 )

Why is it so hard for some foreigners to follow instructions without making a fuss? If your employer has a dress code, you follow it, period. Nowadays, it's so hard to get good help.

-9 ( +25 / -34 )

’sue for sexual harassment’ !?

that’s going a bit too far don’t you think ?

16 ( +21 / -5 )

It does seem a tad oppressive, over bearing, culturally insensitive and excessive, worse as it was done in front of the pupils. The board of education does not appear to be bearing in mind the reasons for employing ALT’s over and above mere language teaching.

16 ( +20 / -4 )

Making the situation worse is the fact that, though the request came from the board of education, they didn’t ask the ALT to stop wearing earrings directly — instead, they instructed the principal of the school to discuss the matter with the ALT.

BOE is wise enough not interfere for each individual preference and cultural background. In Japan so many regulations or unwritten rules just made up by workplace without any actual purpose.

https://japantoday.com/category/features/kuchikomi/employees-reveal-absurd-company-regulations

Aren't there more important things to discuss than earrings?

Improving English language among Japanese students is really worth discussing.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Bottom line is, she's paid to do what they want, not to do what she wants.

-11 ( +24 / -35 )

The story, which involved an ALT from Latin America

Sorry, it's off the main discussion point here, but I can't help exploring her background, wondering if she is a qualified (TESOL-certified) English teacher. ALT program seems lax.

Back to the course, I don't care about earrings.

-16 ( +14 / -30 )

ALTs are paid to provide a service to their customer. If you want to put your wishes over those of your customer, find a different place to work.

-35 ( +17 / -52 )

I knew a case where a female ALT was asked to wear a jacket all the time, zippered up to the top, even in summer, down here in Okinawa. Because of the size of her breasts, the "teacher" felt she was a distraction to the boys in the class, and felt uncomfortable because she felt they were all staring at her, and not paying attention in class!

32 ( +35 / -3 )

ALT from Latin America

Latin American, teaching English! Give them hell girl! You also show that people from NON-English speaking countries can and do learn to speak English, and well enough too to instruct others in the language!.

17 ( +33 / -16 )

She’s paid to be an Assistant LANGUAGE Teacher, not a Beauty Consultant for elementary school kids.

I'm sure teaching English is something she would be perfectly capable of doing WHILE wearing earrings.

37 ( +44 / -7 )

Burning Bush, you have the fact that she is paid to only do LANGUAGE wrong.

She is also paid to raise "internationalism" by exposure to foreign language and CULTURE.

when did internationalism stop being a word in Japan?

31 ( +46 / -15 )

She’s paid to be an Assistant LANGUAGE Teacher, not a Beauty Consultant for elementary school kids.

-50 ( +25 / -75 )

Aren't there more important things to discuss than earrings?

24 ( +38 / -14 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites