My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Friday, June 4, 2010

The necessity of Assistant Language Teachers in Japan

Many people question whether it is really necessary to have foreigners assisting in teaching foreign languages in Japan. It's a good question.



In truth, the Japanese program for teaching English in the primary grades is not bad. If anything, it's too good. (I suppose I'll have to rant about how an education program can be too good. Later.)


At any rate, when the Japanese teachers use the resources they have, and put out a little effort, the program works as well as it might be expected to, even without the ALTs.


Pronunciation? Grammar?


Horror stories about errors perpetuated are like horror movies -- they have little to do with the real world. (Or they promote a perverted view of the real world.)


You don't have to be perfect to teach. You just have to be willing to try to help children see the meaning in things.


Some people question the goal of teaching every student English. That's not the real goal, the real goal is to give them important communication tools that are often best obtained by learning a foreign language. English just happens to be the best choice to standardize on.



(Why standardize? And, really, why English? Those are, indeed, very good questions, and I'll have to rant about that later, as well.)


So, if the program is good enough, without the foreign ALTs, why have ALTs?


How, indeed, do I justify the humongous salary I was receiving to stand around and spout "native" English in class at the lead teacher's request?


Number one. I was not receiving huge money. Ten, twenty years ago, the pay was good, maybe too good, and that's something else I want to rant about later. I have never received that kind of pay. I've barely received enough to keep my own kids in school.





So, why?


In truth, there are better solutions, many of which involve making it easier for foreigners to work normal jobs in Japan. Others involving giving primary school children more options. I need to rant about both of those subjects sometime, too.


My wife and I tried to raise my son bi-lingual. It worked okay until we put him into day-care at four. (Yeah, another topic for another day.) From that time until he was in the third grade (elementary), he absolutely refused to touch English.


In the 3rd grade, an ALT visited his class. Finally, he got a chance to see that there was, indeed, someone besides his crazy dad and sometimes crazy mom who talked in those crazy sounds.

Thomas the Tank Engine, etc. didn't do the trick for that. Like magic shows.



Some ALTs really don't do much more than stand around doing the human CD player gig. My first few months, that was almost all I could do.


After building trust with the teachers, however, I was able to give one-on-one help to the students, both during class and after. I found many ways to earn my wages. There are many of us who do. I think most ALTs who stick with it for long do so.


Could Japanese citizens be doing the same job?


Well, yeah. Maybe. But they don't, and that's one of the points.


The regular teachers are overworked as it is.


In an ideal Japan, no, not necessary. In the real world, you don't want to do the job without us.


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