Things to Consider Regarding the ALT
Classroom Problems and Solutions
Naturally, many Japanese teachers are a
little uneasy when faced with the prospect of team-teaching with an ALT for
the first time. It is understandably always going to be a little difficult
to work with someone that you don’t know. With this in mind, the key factor
is relationship building by way of mutual understanding. This requires
excellent communication, a willingness to understand that other person and
confidence in one’s own abilities to make this process as easy and as
effective as possible.
The most important thing to remember when
dealing with anyone is to understand that that person is an individual, no
two ALT's are alike. Ask yourself a question: Do you teach in exactly the
same way as all other English teachers in your school, city, or prefecture? The
answer is probably no, and the same holds true for the ALTs as well. You
may have an ALT who has a degree in Education and wishes to have teaching
experience in a foreign country. Perhaps your ALT has actually had teaching
experience in the past and already has various plans prepared. On the other
hand, your ALT may not have any previous English teaching experience and
instead is more interested in sharing their culture with others. These are
all legitimate reasons to be an ALT on the JET Program and you should take
the time to find out how that ALT as an individual can contribute to both
the school and classes.
Most ALT's will be working with several
different teachers during the course of their working year. Such ALTs have
to take the time to get to know how each of those teachers works. Conversely,
as a JTE, one should be aware of this and proactively take the time to get
to know how that ALT works. This can be done in various ways. For example:
- One obvious way is through simple verbal
- Another possibility is to have the ALT
write down why he/she is on the JET Program and how they wish to
proceed/contribute in their classes.
The professional role of ALTs
in Japan, is to help provide both a cultural and linguistic
resource for both students and teachers. Please try to take advantage of
these attributes as far as possible. Asking an ALT to mark test papers is
one way to give them more responsibility and help ensure linguistic
accuracy-most ALT's will be happy to do that. However, other incentives
should be considered e.g. provide the flexibility and positively encourage
the ALT to contribute their own ideas towards the lesson plan. If a person feels valued,
then this will increase their personal confidence and will positively
influence their ability to teach English.
Also please take into consideration that
there may be many things going on inside your ALT's mind that you are not
openly aware of. Sometimes both diplomacy and sensitivity are required and
this in turn will enhance your understanding of that individual and improve
the quality of the professional relationship that you have with them.
This section looks at team teaching with
AETs. Below, we have tried to classify various forms of team teaching and
offer simple guidelines based upon what we have learnt during the past two
One suggested definition:
“Effective team teaching is the
meeting of minds with the aim of furthering the learner’s knowledge”.
Team teaching involves the JTE and AET
working together. Effective team teaching requires adequate communication
between these two individuals- before, during and after the lesson.
There are 3 potential scenarios within the
classroom during the’ team teaching’ phase:
-The JTE predominantly teaches the lesson
and the AET acts as an assistant-contributing if and when required to do
-The JTE and ALT collaboratively teach the
lesson and contribution is balanced between both individuals.
-The ALT predominantly teaches the lesson
and the JTE acts as an assistant- contributing if and when required to do
It should be emphasised that none of the
above scenarios is regarded more favourably than the next. Indeed, findings
and opinions from both ALTs and JTEs alike, suggest that each scenario has
its various advantages and disadvantages. This depends largely upon the
individual JTE and ALT in question, as well as consideration being given to
the type of lesson being taught.
Some people prefer to be led during the
lesson. Others prefer to lead during the lesson. Several people prefer to
collaborate on the lesson.
Classroom Problems and Solutions:
JTE’s are too busy and have
no time to plan.
AET’s always wait for me to
suggest a lesson plan.
AET’s try to take over the
JTE’s never ask for my
opinion or input for lesson planning.
The JTE gives me a lesson
plan minutes before class, and then asks me if I have any ideas.
Lesson planning for TT
classes should be a shared responsibility.
The AET should not sit and
wait for a lesson plan. (He or
she should not hesitate to initiate a discussion with the JTE regarding the
next lesson plan.)
The JTE should let the AET
know in advance which lesson and which language points he or she
wants to teach.
The JTE should allow the
AET to help plan classes. AET’s
have more time to plan lessons; therefore AET’s can think of activities and
make necessary teaching materials before the school visit.
The AET and JTE should
discuss their ideas for the TT lesson several days before the AET’s
visit. When the AET arrives at
the school several days later, the planning session should be a
consolidation of ideas.
TT requires that AET’s and
JTE’s try to understand each other’s goals.
JTE Introduction of the AET to the Students
The JTE introduces me as a
“beautiful/handsome teacher,” “a ‘real’ foreigner” or a guest. As a result, the students regard me
as a celebrity or an outsider, instead of as a real teacher.
Sometimes students don’t
know why I have come to school.
They ask me, “Why are you here?” Or the react with laughter or shock.
Before class, JTE’s should
explain to students what team teaching is.
I. JTE’s should explain
that the AET’s role is to help teach, not to entertain.
II. The JTE
should treat the AET like another teacher, not like a film star or special
guest. When a JTE changes his
or her behavior towards an AET, this will encourage students to believe
that foreigners are special.
AET’s Level of English
The AET speaks too quickly
and uses difficult words.
The JTE never evaluates my
teaching. I can’t improve if I
don’t hear anything about the way I teach English.
I. AET’s should try to use
clear and simple English. (The
JTE should not feel embarrassed or nervous about asking the AET to use
simpler/slower English. In most
cases, the AET simply doesn’t know what level of English to use. They are happy to receive
II. When the
JTE thinks his or her students can’t understand something the AET has said,
the JTE can paraphrase the AET’s words into English that his or her
students can understand.
(Translating the AET’s words to Japanese usually defeats the purpose
of having the AET speak English in the classroom in the first place!)
The JTE should tell the AET
if he or she is speaking too quickly or too slowly.
JTE’s often ask me to do
I hate giving my
self-introduction because I have given it 500 times and the students always
ask me the same questions!
The AET’s self-introduction
should be a student-centered activity. (See bI)
I. The AET should change
the activities of the self-introduction occasionally in order to make it
more interesting to give. (The self introduction should be made interactive
through quizzes or questions to students, “Where do YOU think I come
from? How old do you think I
am? What do you think my
favorite food is?)
II. The JTE
should remember that AET’s are always introducing themselves. The JTE should keep the AET’s
self-introduction short in order to devote class time to other learning
Perhaps the key points to remember are
the two teachers should always have in mind the students’ learning
aims as a matter of priority.
the two teachers should be careful to communicate effectively with
each other in order to establish how each of them will participate during
Note: large sections of
this article were taken from the 1995 edition of Communicative English:
A Practical Guide (p. 80)