School · Teaching

Life of an ALT: The different teachers you’ll meet!

Japanese law requires a licensed Japanese teacher to be with you in the class at all times.

I’ve touched on this briefly, but they are HRTs (Homeroom Teachers) in Elementary Schools, and JTEs in Junior High/High Schools (Japanese Teachers of English).

MEXT government guidelines expect all teachers to co-teach with you.
After all, you’re here to put the A (Assistant) in ALT, right?
Uhm…not necessarily. Most don’t even know what ALT stands for…

As you can expect, not all teachers are created equal.
Here’s a bit of a rundown of the sort of characters you can expect to meet.

(NOTE: PLEASE take this with a giant pinch of salt and some good humour! Rolling with the punches comes with the territory.)

The Head Cheerleader.
The ideal co-teacher: a supportive figure who always has your back. More often than not they’re a younger person around 25-35 years old who was quite likely to have been taught by an ALT themselves when they were at school. They understand your role well and do everything in their power to make your job easier and keep the kids engaged.

The Disappearing Act.
“You say “English class?” I hear “free period!”
Teachers who seemingly disappear in a puff of smoke as soon as you need them, and use your class as an excuse to take it easy.

The P.A.
“Assistant” Language Teacher? Like a Personal Assistant? Hooray! Takes literally any opportunity to fob work off onto you.

The Regina George.
Nice to your face, slags you off behind your back. May or may not wear pink on Wednesdays.

The Micro Manager.
Very interested and invested in everything you’re doing at school, even if it really shouldn’t concern them.
You need construction paper – what for? Do you really need to make all those copies? – 120 copies for 120 students sounds excessive. You want to use the communal computer? OK, but you can’t have the password! You’re in the storage cupboard? Oh, I’m just in here for no reason definitely not checking you’re not stealing anything.
Do you know how to use the hole punch? Do you know how to use the copier? Do you know how to turn a laptop on? Gyaaaaaahh…I’m in my 30s, hun.

The Backseat driver.
Doesn’t assist in preparing lessons but also has a very specific opinion on how your classes should run. Talks over you, repeats everything you’re saying in Japanese, fucks about with your materials. But run the class myself? Oh no, please. Douzo, gaijin. Douzo.

The Clairvoyant.
Doesn’t communicate with what they want you to do. You should just knowwwww. Bring your own crystal ball.

The “I Hate The ALT” one.
Finds the ALT’s presence in class annoying and cumbersome yet doesn’t do anything about it. Often sulky and uncooperative.

The “Bestie”.
“But that’s not what ___________________ did!”

This teacher was BFFs with the previous ALT and wants you to look, talk, walk, prepare activities, perform classes exactly as they did. Usually still in touch with them and gives you updates on what their bestie is up to. No wun currrrrrr.

The Burned One.
This teacher previously had a terrible ALT and thinks all foreigners are weird, lazy, unprofessional fuckwits. Sometimes you can win them over, sometimes you can’t. Shouganai!

The USA! USA! USA! one.
Doesn’t like ALTs who are not from the USA. Yes, it’s a thing.

Doesn’t like female ALTs. Yes, it’s a thing.

ALTs talking in natural, modern English? Nah. Please stick to the jilted, out of date textbook baka gaijin. The textbook never lies. Textbook is love. Textbook is life.

The Dinosaur.
Has been teaching English for 30+ years and still using the same old methods. Fuck your interactive activities, ALT-chan. No games. No fun. Stick to drilling and worksheets while the kids die of boredom, please.

Can you think of any more archetypes? Have a funny story about a co-teacher? Leave it in the comments!

~ Carla


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