Things to Consider Regarding the ALT



I.                 Introduction


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 donft 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 onefs 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 communication.@

- 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.


II.             Team Teaching


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 years.


One suggested definition:


gEffective team teaching is the meeting of minds with the aim of furthering the learnerfs knowledgeh.


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 thef team teachingf phase:


-The JTE predominantly teaches the lesson and the AET acts as an assistant-contributing if and when required to do so.


-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 so.


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.


III.         Classroom Problems and Solutions:


1.       Lesson Planning



a)     JTEfs are too busy and have no time to plan.

b)     AETfs always wait for me to suggest a lesson plan.

c)      AETfs try to take over the class.

d)     JTEfs never ask for my opinion or input for lesson planning.

e)     The JTE gives me a lesson plan minutes before class, and then asks me if I have any ideas.



a)     Lesson planning for TT classes should be a shared responsibility.

b)     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.)

c)      The JTE should let the AET know in advance which lesson and which language points he or she wants to teach.

d)     The JTE should allow the AET to help plan classes.  AETfs have more time to plan lessons; therefore AETfs can think of activities and make necessary teaching materials before the school visit.

e)     The AET and JTE should discuss their ideas for the TT lesson several days before the AETfs visit.  When the AET arrives at the school several days later, the planning session should be a consolidation of ideas.

f)       TT requires that AETfs and JTEfs try to understand each otherfs goals.


2.       JTE Introduction of the AET to the Students



a)     The JTE introduces me as a gbeautiful/handsome teacher,h ga erealf foreignerh or a guest.  As a result, the students regard me as a celebrity or an outsider, instead of as a real teacher.

b)     Sometimes students donft know why I have come to school.  They ask me, gWhy are you here?h  Or the react with laughter or shock.



a)     Before class, JTEfs should explain to students what team teaching is.

b)     I. JTEfs should explain that the AETfs 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.


3.       AETfs Level of English


a)     The AET speaks too quickly and uses difficult words.

b)     The JTE never evaluates my teaching.  I canft improve if I donft hear anything about the way I teach English.



a)     I. AETfs 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 doesnft know what level of English to use.  They are happy to receive constructive criticism.)


II. When the JTE thinks his or her students canft understand something the AET has said, the JTE can paraphrase the AETfs words into English that his or her students can understand.  (Translating the AETfs words to Japanese usually defeats the purpose of having the AET speak English in the classroom in the first place!)


b)     The JTE should tell the AET if he or she is speaking too quickly or too slowly.


4.       AET Self-Introductions



a)     JTEfs often ask me to do fifty-minute self-introductions.

b)     I hate giving my self-introduction because I have given it 500 times and the students always ask me the same questions!



a)     The AETfs self-introduction should be a student-centered activity.@(See bI)

b)     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, gWhere 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 AETfs are always introducing themselves.  The JTE should keep the AETfs self-introduction short in order to devote class time to other learning activities.


Perhaps the key points to remember are that:


1.      the two teachers should always have in mind the studentsf learning aims as a matter of priority.


2.      the two teachers should be careful to communicate effectively with each other in order to establish how each of them will participate during the lesson.


Note: large sections of this article were taken from the 1995 edition of Communicative English: A Practical Guide (p. 80)