Starting out as an ALT

Hi Everyone,
it’s your friendly neighbourhood Blasian here. Recently, I’ve been quite busy as I was able to land the sweet gig of being an ALT. I’ve wanted this position for quite a while and I cannot wait to fulfill my duties and meet the students. Sooo, I should hit the ground running and just start teaching right???

Well, it’s not actually that simple. Being in the JET Programme means there are orientations you have to go through, accompanied by an extremely high amount of travel. However, I’ll skip all of it for the sanctity of your ears and I value the time you take to read this blog.

Today feels like one of the first days I’ve been officially working as an ALT because the kids have returned from their summer holidays. During the summer,  they only come to school because of their after school activities. When I arrived, I didn’t actually start teaching for about a month, plus the preparations for the school’s Sports Festival outranks the need for classes during the week. It was very rare when I attended elementary school that classes ever got cancelled for longer than 2 periods.

Being an ALT is quite different from what I expected – you are not an official teacher, but you’re not the tea lady either. You have the ability to freely learn things like a student (after all you are in school), but you teach classes like a teacher. You’ll notice a few days after arriving, that you REALLY do not have nearly the same responsibilities or duties like the other teachers. Well, maybe it’s just this week because there’s the school sports festival.

“Due to the fact that he cannot read/understand Japanese too well, we are going to assign the ALT with…… absolutely nothing to do the whole week while we prepare.”

Just have him do stuff on the sports day, A.K.A pick up stuff you know. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Just, for someone like me who wants to be actively involved with my students lives and make friends with fellow teachers.. Ehhh, it can be a little offsetting. Don’t get me wrong I have been taken well care of by my fellow teachers, supervisor, vice principal, principals, JET alumni, Board of Education and etc. You’d think I’m a baby with all of these people assuring my safe travels and necessities are looked after while travelling to Japan. The thing is sometimes you feel like it would be nice having some responsibilities and duties, or leading an activity with the students.

One Problem.

I just arrived in Japan and although prior to, I studied Japanese, my level of communication would not realistically be able to maintain a proper conversation or even hold up to the way they speak in Japan. Not yet, and it’s only been a month. It’s not the JET Programme that’s the problem. It’s me. It’s me getting used to this role which I need to learn more about. It’s me wishing to engage and be of use to the school I was assigned to. It’s me who needs to put in the effort, in order to properly express what I want to do in this school and do my best to make those objectives my reality. Living in Japan was my dream, so I guess I honestly expected Fairy Godmother to come into my life and Bipidy Boppidy Boop it into a perfect state. Then, I remembered I was an adult – despite the way I act at times. There are work relationships, health, worries, expectations and goals that must be constantly re-evaluated using the accumulation of experiences which life has provided for me.

I truly treasure every minute of the JET Programme, however I have a long way to go before I am satisfied with my own journey in this land of rising the sun – and Typhoons…

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