For the ALT
a Positive Attitude
- About the
- Learning Basic Japanese
Basic Japanese Cultural Etiquette
- Japanese Office Vocabulary
- ALT as
in the Classroom
your Education: Distance
Learning and Correspondence Courses
Upon arriving in Japan, many things will
appear new to you as an ALT who has just arrived and started working over here.
However, there are a number of important points to bear in mind.
Firstly, try to be
as adaptable and versatile as possible in every area of your personal and
professional dealings with other people. This will really help you to make
friends with Japanese people and will inspire confidence and trust in them
a lot quicker than if you merely close your mind off to anyone who is not
English-speaking. It is said by many JETs that to really maximize your time
in Japan, it is important
to have a good balance between Japanese and English speaking friends.
Remember, you are
an ambassador for your country. Many JTEs are very interested in foreign
culture and nearly always willing to help you if you approach them in the
right way and treat them with respect and courtesy.
With this in mind,
try to learn some basic Japanese language
etiquette as quickly as possible e.g. from the correct way to address
someone to polite table manners etc.
This is essential.
This similarly applies to team-teaching.
Generally Westerners are culturally more extrovert than their Japanese
neighbors. Sometimes, a loud, authoritarian teaching approach is not always
a good one. Japanese people are shy and retiring culturally and JTEs may
find it quite difficult adjusting to your cultural differences in the same
way as you do to them. It may also be hard for them to initiate a time for
you to both sit down and plan lessons- not solely due to linguistic
barriers but mainly due to a genuine lack of time- you will note that
Japanese Teachers are always very, very busy! Be proactive! Don't wait to
be asked, rather, go and seek them out and ask them what you are both going
to be doing for future lesson plans and what role each of you
will play in the lesson. A proactive ALT gets more done and gets
more out of their teaching and their time in Japan. ALTs are here to share
their culture and experiences but they are also here to assist
in the teaching of English. As an ALT, your professional priorities should
be similar to the above. Be willing to negotiate and discuss your lesson ideas-
flexibility is the key. You will find that if you give a little you will
very often get a lot more back unexpectedly. Invitations to dinner, social
outings - to name but a few.
for the ALT
There are many ways
to further both your personal and professional development whilst on the
JET Programme both inside and outside the classroom. You can take advantage
of cultural hobbies such as shuji (Japanese calligraphy), judo, aikido, karate(martial arts) or even ikebana (flower arranging)
-many of which may be available through your school or Board of
Education so please ask your Supervisor about these cultural activities. In
addition you might like to further your education by doing a
Japanese course or a higher degree to improve your employment prospects
one of the most important things that an effective ALT can do whilst on the
JET Programme, is to forge a strong relationship to his or her working
environment. In short, it is important for the ALT to
"fit in" with the rest of the staff. The ALT should feel like part of the school, not like
a foreign visitor. Firstly, this is because effective team-teaching
requires such a close relationship between the two teachers. Secondly, the main purpose of having a foreign
teacher in a school is to promote intercultural ties between that native
speaker and the students. However, if the ALT
cannot relate to his or her Japanese work environment, how can he or she
expect the students to effectively bond with them?
While this may seem
like common sense, many ALTs, particularly "one-shots", might
find this quite difficult. "One-shots"
are typically in a given school for 2 4 weeks at any one
time. Sadly, it often seems that just as they start
to fit in or make friends in the teachers' room, they are whisked away to
another school and forced to start all over again! It is therefore important for such ALT's to keep
relationship-building in mind.
Every school and
Board of Education office is unique. The ability of a
new staff member to fit in to any given position is entirely different,
depending on the nature of that office. "One-shots" in particular can attest to
this, as they are required to consistently renew the experience of fitting
into a new school every few weeks. In some schools, a
new staff member may feel like "part of the family" within
minutes of entering the teachers' room for the first time. In other schools, the same staff member,
(particularly if he or she is an ALT with poor Japanese language ability)
may spend three weeks in a school without ever once speaking to a non-JTE
staff member. This disparity in the nature of working
environments means that there are no absolutes in terms of one's ability to
make friends within the workplace.
There are, however,
several things a new ALT can do which are pretty much guaranteed to have a
strong, positive impact on other teachers in the school.
Office Vocabulary. If you've been
teaching in Japan for more than 2
weeks, you've no doubt recognized a variety of set expressions that are
used in the office every day. Virtually every ALT
orientation manual makes references to this, and we, here at
"Communicative English", feel compelled to follow suit. So here is a list of CRITICAL Japanese Expressions:
o O ha yoo Go zai
ma su - "Good Morning"
o Shi tsu rei shi
masu - "Excuse me for entering" (use
before entering another office)
o Shi tsu rei shi
ma shita - "Excuse me for having entered
(use just before you leave another
o Kon nichi wa -
o Osaki ni shi tsu
rei shi masu * "Excuse me for leaving earlier
(You can use this
in place of "Goodbye" when leaving for the day)
* For some reason,
Japanese faculty members are always REALLY impressed when you use this
o Oya su mi na sai
seen lists similar to this one a hundred times since coming to Japan. However, using this vocabulary has such a profound
effect on the office that it is definitely worth mentioning again.
· Make friends
with non-JTE staff members. Even if they don't
speak a word of English and your Japanese isn't so great, there is still a
great opportunity for communicating. Try and make friends
with the people whose desks are adjacent to yours. Bring in pictures of your home town, or currency from
your home country. Point and use other
· Study Japanese. This is another way to make friends with the people
near you. Teachers of any subject are invariably
interested in helping you learn a few words or phrases, or new kanji
characters. Most of the time, you don't even have to
ask. If they see you with a Japanese text
book open in front of you, people from all over the room will come over and
try to teach you new things. Furthermore, this
is a prime example of how to strengthen those intercultural ties mentioned
above. People at your school will see that you
want to learn from them so they will naturally be more interested in
learning from you.
· Be seen by the
o Get involved in:
§ School Festivals
o Talk to students
in the hallways between classes
o Try to sit in during
art and music classes. This will be fun
for you, as you don't need a strong command of Japanese to enjoy these
subjects. It will also be great for the students
and other teachers to see you taking an active role in their school
ALT as a Motivator
reason for having native speakers of a foreign language in the classroom is
to provide students with the motivation to learn a new language. This is achieved primarily by your mere presence in
the classroom. However, there are
many things you can do to increase the motivation of your students to
· Make English
real to the students. Your students may
view English as a purely academic subject. A compulsory subject with no
practical, real-world application. Show them that
English is fun and practical!
o Converse with
o E-mail. You can set up an e-mail account just for students to
write to you. This way, they can practice real-world
communicative English outside of the classroom. It becomes something they want to learn and use on
their own. (This is a particularly good idea for
"one-shot" ALT's who only see students for 2 4 weeks at a time, and therefore don't normally feel
they have much impact on their students' motivation.)
· Rewards. Rewards can be in the form of verbal praise for
correctly spoken English, or in the physical form
of stickers or small trinkets from your home country.
in the Classroom
- Textbook and Lesson Planning. This should go without saying, but
it really helps to have a good understanding of the textbook and the
lesson plan. Ideally,
the ALT should be collaboratively involved in creating the lesson
plan; however this is not always possible. In any event, the ALT should
definitely know what is happening in the classroom. The lesson should not present any
surprises for the ALT. It
is important for the ALT and the JTE to present an image of solidarity
and support throughout every lesson.
· Activities and
Resources. The JTE often looks
upon the ALT as a source of miscellaneous activities for the students. It is therefore a good idea to keep some resources of
your own to hand. There are numerous
collections of activities available-please see the Teaching Resources and Links section
of this site.
Your Education: Distance learning and Correspondence Courses
While you are
working in Japan, why not further
your qualifications and improve your employability at the same time. One of the easiest ways to do this
is by distance learning. There are a multitude of courses available that
can be studied over a period of one to five years.
Of course, please
check with your Supervisor beforehand if you think that such extra study
might infringe upon your general working/teaching schedule.
Here is a list of
some useful websites about TEFL
courses and qualifications.
There are many
universities, colleges of further education and specialist language schools
offering both distance learning courses online and via post.
For information on
graduate TEFL degrees and some courses specifically geared towards people
working in Japan.
Will provide you
with a wealth of information on TEFL short courses （i.e. CELTA/ DELTA )
Like all good
things, your time on the JET Programme will eventually come to an end. Whether it happens at the end of one
year, two or three, you may be wondering what you will be doing next year
and what job opportunities will be available to you? How can you use the
skills and experiences gained during your time in Japan, as a JET, to
further your career development, etc.?
Every year, CLAIR holds a special seminar, usually in
January or February, for those JETs who are due to leave Japan within the coming
year. This seminar is designed to provide JETs with as much career development
advice as possible in order to facilitate an easy reintegration back into
ones home country. Some topics
discussed in the past include: career search skills, CV/resume writing
skills, Interview skills, and other topics relating to various careers.
2006 Returning JET conference handouts and presentations
In addition The Japan Exchange
and Teaching Alumni Association (JETAA) has a wealth
of information and links for both specific post-JET career opportunities
(there is a searchable job bank with employment in various countries) and
other useful topics relating to the JET Programme.