Assistant Language Teacher ALT – advice to all ALT and would-be ALT

TAGS: teaching English as a second language, Assistant Language Teacher, teaching, job, school, TESOL

A female teacher was, in all of a sudden, fired by the company I am working for. She has been working for just 2 months as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) [or commonly known as teacher of English as a second language] so she is still on her probation. The company has given her two months’ notice. She will stay until her work will be passed on to the new teacher before Christmas, which is the end of the second school term.

Some background

The ALT is in her early twenties, Caucasian, fresh graduate from a university in the United States. Before coming to Japan, she studied Japanese language and culture for some years so she can speak basic Japanese. She also understands Japanese culture quite well, judging from the fact that she got some gifts for the Board of Education (BOE) and schools she visits. She’s got no formal teaching experience and teacher training though, before coming to Japan.

Layoff reasons

4 out of the 5 schools she is working at have reported these issues and thus ask for change of teacher.

1) coming to work late
2) arguing with student
3) making a student cry
4) sitting on the desk and yawning

For point 1, it has got to do with work ethics so point is established without doubt. But for points 2, 3, 4, each of them really depends on the situation at that moment, the school, student level, and prevailing culture before we can tell if it is acceptable or not.

I guess part of the reason she’s let go is due to her limited work and life experience. She’s a fresh graduate anyway. But except for that, the company also admits in the termination letter that part of the reason is because of the differences between the Japanese culture in school and the western culture she has, which is reflected in the ways she works and interacts with people. The letter also states that it is difficult for her to change within a short period of time. The company also advises her to take a teaching course such as TESOL because she is a fresh graduate lacking experience. Regarding taking a TESOL course, the company is mistaken, very seriously!

What’s in TESOL?

If you’ve ever taken any TESOL course, you will realize it will not give you any (or much) information on how to be a teacher, or a good teacher, how to avoid getting into argument with students, general classroom situation, school operations, and the essential conducts of being a role model as a teacher, which are all crucial for a foreigner teachers to survive in a country of another culture. Instead, these courses are mostly concerned about teaching and learning theories and how to apply them to the actual classroom situation with practice. Taking such courses won’t help someone who is new to the profession to sail through their probation due to any of the points above.

So, if you are a newbie in the teaching English as a second language profession, do you know how you can avoid getting in trouble in your school? I will get back to this topic later so keep an eye on my blog : )


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