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1995 ALT

1995-1997: ALT, Saga-Ken, Japan

From July 1995 until July of 1997 I was an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET program in 3 Junior High Schools in Japan. I taught grades 7,8 and 9 in Junior High. I assisted a regular Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) in the teaching , planning and preparation of classes throughout the two years. I also prepared written, aural and oral tests. Along with my teaching responsibilities I was also involved in the yearly Hizen-Cho homestay program .

I lived in Hizen-Cho in the north of Saga Ken in Kyushu. Hizen-cho is a small peninsula of about 10,000 people. It's mostly a farming and fishing community spread throughout 40 small villages and towns and is located about 25 minutes from Karatsu. The main centers of Hizen were Irino and Kirigo both of which had Junior High schools at which I taught.

Hizen Junior High school is located in Irino, I taught their with Kakumae, Kaneko and Shiga sensei. There were about 400 students in this school. In Kirigo Junior High school I taught with Mochida sensei there were about 100 students in Kirigo. I also taught in an extremely small island school called Mukushima. It is located just off the coast of Hizen Cho. In Mukushima Junior High I taught 11 students in Junior High School but we often had activities with the elementary students.

The Job It's difficult to explain what it's like being an assistant teacher in a junior high school in Japan. Firstly, I wasn't a teacher by profession I studied Computer Science in University so I had no formal training as a teacher. Secondly, I was employed by the Hizen Cho board of education not by a school.

My job title required me to be an assistant teacher which was a hard role to quantify. The JTE has the primary responsibility to manage, organize and prepare the English classes and course for the academic year. The role of the ALT is to assist in what ever capacity they need a native language speaker for. Each ALTs situation is different so I am speaking of my own personal situation.

I taught about 19 classes in a normal week. This varied according to tests, English club, extra classes and competition training. My situation required me to prepare game sheets, conversation work sheets, quizes and other types of resources for use in English class. For most of the classes I taught I prepared a lesson plan with the main teacher. I usually only saw each class once a week for what is called a (TT) Teams Teaching lesson. It was important to plan the lesson as it was almost impossible to keep track of where 19 different classes are in their academic year. From time to time we would have a (TTT) session, two JTEs and myself. This was not easy to plan but meant we could have more adventurous activities planned.

Homestay Since I was employed by the town board of education I had other responsibilities aside from teaching in school. I was also required to co-ordinate and help plan the homestay to the USA each year. This was one of the best aspects of my job. It took up a considerable amount of time for about six months of the year. From October to March there were numerous meetings, classes and consultations in the organization of the homestay. We then took 7~10 students to the USA for a homestay for about two weeks in March of each year.

                 My Schedule 1995-1997:

Hizen: Hizen Junior High School (81 955 54-1109)
Kirigo: Kirigo Junior High School (81 955 53-2220)
Mukush: Mukushima Junior High School (81 955 54-0124)
Office: Hizen Board of Education (81 955 54-1111)

For example 1-2 refers to the seventh grade class two, these students had just begun to study English and they were  about 13 years old.  The free periods I had for class preparation didn't usually coincide with one of my JTEs having a free period so we ended up lesson planning for some classes three days in advance.  Friday morning in the office was for paperwork, faxing, replying to conference invites, questionnaires and some lesson preparation.  

The best Set-up

Wednesday was the cleanest ALT/JTEset-up I had.  Sixth period I lesson planed with a single teacher, Mochida for next weeks classes. During first period we checked the plan, resources and ran through the plans we made from the previous week.  It was a great set-up,our free periods matched exactly so if we needed to talk about any classes or ideas, we could.

The Worst Set-up

The worst ALT/JTE set-up was Friday, it was a great island school and a great JTE but I walked off the boat at 11.15 and I walked into fourth period at 11.25, this gave us ten(hectic) minutes to try and come up with a rough plan for the class.  Sixth period finished at 3.40 and the boat off the island was at 4, so we had no time to talk at either end of the work day.  We usually did some planning by phone and I reused lesson plans and resources from other schools.  There isn't an earlier boat to the Island because there are only 150 people living there.

As you can see the work situation of an ALT can vary wildly from school to school and from day to day.  Every time I thought about my situation it struck me as quite bizarre but when I spoke to other ALTs who lived near me, their jobs sounded equally strange. The only common factor among ALTsis that we all had very different teaching situations.


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