There are thousands of people throughout Japan and other countries who are employed as Assistant Language Teachers (or ALTs). What exactly does this mean? What role do ALTs play in teaching English?
The British Council, in its magnanimosity, has recently republished a series of classic ELT books on their website, www.teachingenglish.org.uk. Included among those is the 2001 title ‘Language Assistant‘. In it, the author explains the theoretical role of the ALT in this way:
‘An assistant is there to help language teachers with their classes
but should not be expected to teach a whole class alone.’
Therefore, the role is very much a supportive one, offering assistance to the main teacher and helping students with tasks and assignments.
The role of an Assistant Language Teacher is a varied one, and teachers are encouraged to keep an open mind about their role. In the book quoted earlier, interviews carried out with a number of ALTs reveals that being a Language Assistant can involve conversation practice with entire classes, explaining difficult language (vocabulary and grammar), and sometimes even taking the lead in teaching the class.
Language Assistants often seem to suffer from the extremes of their role; either being required to control and teach the entire class while the main teacher carries on with other duties, or being left to their own devices as the main teacher struggles to think of constructive ways to use the ALT.
Working with others
Establishing a good relationship with other teacher is vital as an ALT. Teamwork is a necessary skill in this job, so don’t be afraid to ask for help or to offer assistance. It’s also a good time for you to learn; observe the more experienced teachers and benefit from their methods and knowledge.
The role of Language Assistant is enjoyable and varied. The book published by the BC is a mine of useful information and tips of teaching and assisting in the EFL classroom.