My Role in Japan


“What was your role in the classroom?”

I have been asked questions like this since before I went to teach in Japan. The simple answer is: “It depends”. I know you want the complex answer, though, so here we go.

I taught in Japan via the JET Program, and I taught for two years at six schools (one high school, two middles schools, and three elementary schools). I also had two night classes (eikaiwa). My official title was “ALT” or “Assistant Language Teacher”. How that manifested itself in class varied from school to school, grade to grade, and teacher to teacher.

By and large, I didn’t plan any of the public school classes. There was one small elementary school I taught at where I eventually planned all the classes for the lower grade, and I helped come up with activities for the upper grades. Depending on the day and the teacher, I sometimes had to plan parts of classes or full classes. Usually, though, they came to me with an outline or a detailed plan.

In the classroom, I was sometimes nothing more than an audio recording. I would read vocabulary, speak example sentences, and read passages. Other times I would ask questions to students, or I would lead games and activities after the main teacher did the grammar lesson. Sometimes I gave presentations about America or my hobbies or a U.S. holiday. I could teach songs in some classes, and I could help students cook in others. In some elementary school classes in particular, I created and lead the entire lesson. I helped students come up with speech topics, translate the speeches, and teach the correct pronunciation and mannerisms for the speeches.

This may not have been the detailed answer you were hoping for, but it’s extremely hard to put into words what I did and didn’t do as an ALT. On the one hand, I could categorize each experience as one of the above. On the other hand, I did so many little things here and there that to list them all would be impossible. If you have specific questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. You can read more about my eikaiwa classes, my public school experiences, and my lesson plans in upcoming posts.


One comment

  1. I taught in the old Nova system. That was much more business-like I think. A boot camp for teaching. Everything was timed out to the minute and TTT (teacher talk time) was to be kept to a minimum. As a ALT or JET it seems you are more of an ambassador (or pet!). Nice post.


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