For an English Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) who has been working with students for over 8 months with no prior teaching experience, keeping students motivated, stimulated and engaged is a continuous challenge. Preparation is important, however, what happens in the classroom not only depends on the teachers but also how the students react to your activities and respond in whether they want to participate or not. My experience has told me that preparation is necessary, but motivation from your students is very important for your classroom to be successful as well. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that preparation and motivation is key in a classroom. However, when you are someone who use to work as an engineer for nearly 10 years and then move into an ALT job, you may forget that you are indeed not dealing with adults or clients who paid you to be there and support them, but rather students who are there to get into university and are using you as their resource of information for learning English. I am hired as a native English speaker and I aim to provide students cultural exchange of my country, Australia, and personal background all for the purpose to make them understand more and not live in a box.
One work I would describe the Japanese education system is structured. It is very fascinating to see what education Japanese students receive at a high academic high school and how education is carried out. It is different to education in Australia. There is a lot discipline in their daily routine, students are more conservative, students don’t willingly speak up, students are afraid to make mistakes, teachers do not discipline or scold students as much if at all, students don’t get much homework, students don’t sleep much, and above all, students treat club activities as everything. I have learnt that the relationship between students and teacher is very close compared to what I’ve seen in my student years in Australia. Perhaps its the amount of time students spend at school, but either way, its true. The relationship between the students and their home room teacher is even closer to the point that the class reflects the personality of their teacher.
I work with Japanese Teachers who teach English (JTEs) on a daily basis. To be more accurate, I team-teach with JTEs in a classroom. I support the JTEs in English class, I negotiate with the JTEs on what to do, I plan lessons, I mark essays and speeches, I mark exams, I make exams (listening, writing mainly), I play games with students to fill in time, I teach students about whatever the textbook is teaching. Outside the classroom, I judge speeches, I judge presentations, I judge debates (Japanese-style debates which are completely not the same I was taught in primary), and until recently, I make school pamphlets (not part of my job description but every enjoyable). ALT work life is interesting, but like any job, it can be very frustrating as well due to the difference in work culture and general culture understanding and prospects.
To help keep students interested, I set a new challenge for myself and that is to introduce an English Wall at school to help interacting with the kids outside the classroom. The objective is to have a new English Wall each month, roughly, and it is theme based. I got this idea from a senpai ALT who has been putting up English Walls at her school for the past couple of years. I started this in October last year for Halloween and one Thanksgiving in November. The challenge for 2016 is to have a newly themed wall each month and keep it fun for the kids. I will be using this space to post up English Walls that get put up at school.