Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) work in elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in Japan. The basic idea is that a native speaker (usually of English) supports the Japanese teacher (ditto) in the classroom. Aside from Eikaiwa teaching, ALT work is the most common TEFL job in Japan. So here are some tips to help you succeed.
ALTs don’t actually do very much – Your company might talk the job up beforehand, but in practice, an ALT is rarely asked to actually teach. An ALT may be present in the classroom for around 4 or 5 hours a day. So, what is your role?
Support the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) – This is your job. Of that 4 or 5 hours in the classroom, the JTE will ask you to do a variety of tasks, such as reading a text, carrying out a planned activity with the students, or answering questions about your home country. Eat humble pie and accept that you are not a fully-fledged teacher.
Teach English – Having said that, you may be required to teach lessons or prepare activities, albeit not with the frequency you expect. When asked to do that, you will need to think about how to explain your activity, what will work best for your students, and you must prepare the handouts or other materials.
School mascot – One of your key responsibilities is to encourage international understanding, or something. Basically, talk to the students about you, your country and whatever shared interests you have. In English, of course. You will have a lot of time that is not spent in class, so, without getting in the way, walk around the school, visit different clubs and get to know your students.
Be reliable – Japanese schools, like companies, place a great emphasis on reliability. That means turning up on time, being organised and supporting the JTE in whatever they ask of you.
Assistant Language Teaching, with all of its quirks, is a pretty rewarding job, providing you get to know the students and have a laugh with them. In class, keep things simple and just do whatever you are asked to do. Easy style!