Assistant Language Teacher:
The role of an ALT has two main duties: Providing fun and effective English lessons and Internationalizing Japanese youth. It’s true that Japanese youth are exposed to many Western influences through TV, movies, music, and fashion, but the population in Japan is approximately 98.5 percent Japanese and only 1.5 percent foreigners. Therefore, Japanese youth have very few opportunities to interact with foreigners, let alone practice English communication. Having direct experience and interactions with foreign people and their culture often has a more visceral and lasting influence. Therefore it is important for ALTs to help bridge this gap by giving students first-hand knowledge and experience of different cultures, as well as providing fun and effective English lessons. However, the nature and responsibilities of an ALT are slightly different in terms of teaching in elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools (*Positions are mostly available for elementary and junior high schools. There aren’t many positions in high schools).
General description of all ALT positions:
- Hours are generally between 8:30 and 4:30 (*Hours may change slightly depending on the school).
- About 4-5 classes a day (though occasionally there are days with no classes or 6).
- Class size varies but is usually between 30-40 students.
- ALTs usually participate in school festivals, afterschool clubs, and other school day-to-day activities like cleaning.
- ALTs spend as much time as possible interacting and speaking with students, acting as a role-model.
ALTs in Elementary School:
The ALT will usually take a more active role in the classroom, ranging from complete lesson design to a more passive, assistant role to the Home Room Teacher. The emphasis in elementary school is on speaking and listening only. Although having the children learn proper English is important, it is not the only objective; the primary purpose of English class is to get the children to have fun and for them to get interested in English. Therefore, playing fun activities and keeping a light, fun atmosphere is more crucial than producing fluency.
Working as an ALT has been a great experience. Everyday I joke, play, and have fun with the students. There aren't many jobs where you can actually have fun while you work.
-Kevin Vanselous (Naka City)
ALTs in Junior High School or High School:
In junior high schools or high schools, the ALT has a more secondary role than in elementary schools. The Japanese English teacher has most of the responsibility and control over lessons, with the ALT providing a “native” voice to dialogues and text, as well as creating interesting activities and/or worksheets relating to the current subject. The emphasis is split between reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
I have worked for Heart for 12 years. I have taught at junior highs, elementary schools and kindergartens. It has been incredible . Everyday I go to work with a smile and am treated like a rock star. The more you are willing to give to the job the more you will get out of it. You will learn alot about the Japanese customs and grow as a person. .
-Gavin Brown (Ami Town)
Conversation School and Company English Teacher:
These types of classes are part-time and are often done in addition to being a full-time ALT. There are two types of lessons: (1) English Conversation Lessons at Heart English School; and (2) Company Lessons.
English Conversation Lessons:
- These are private lessons taught to students ranging from infant (2 years old) to adult.
- Class times are typically 40 minutes for younger students and 50 minutes for older (though there are cases of 20 minute lessons with infants and 2 hours with special classes).
- These classes are taught with the goal of English-only, therefore little to no Japanese is required.
- These classes are often very rewarding as a teacher because you can witness the growth of student that you personally nurtured and taught.
- A teacher will commute to a company and conduct a class.
- Sometimes these classes are taught from a textbook, but other times they are just conversation classes or seminars in giving a speech.
- Class size varies greatly from a small group of 3-5 students to 20-30 students.