In case you were curious, this is what I have been working hard on for the past few weeks in conceptualization, development, collection, processing, and articulation of my survey and the resulting feedback. I was chosen to give a presentation on the relationships between JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) and ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers), and to distribute the information to the other four presenters who are giving the same lecture at the same time as me this Thursday. I am pretty proud because this work is the result of my efforts, with a little help from my P.A., Brenna Dorrance.
I was happy to learn that most of the ALTs seem to be effectively teaching English, and that there was not too much bitching. Unfortunately the JTEs lived up to my expectations by not participating or by not stating what they really felt on the survey. Where does all of that pent up frustration go? Oh yeah, it goes to the Snack, and the next day your forget about it because you are being scolded by your wife for blowing all of your money on “pachinko”…
I am gonna put the smack down on everyone in my presentation, because everyone needs a solid kick to the pants.
The most common complaint by ALTs was that the JTEs teach us the lesson plans ten minutes before class we are frequently given only the time spent walking from the office to the classroom to come up with an idea to make the lesson interesting, so I am going to switch the tables by giving the JTEs the task of using actual pages from our boring textbooks and give them five minutes per group of four to come up with good ideas for a lesson to present in front of 70 something people. I will randomly pick some victims, to maintain an atmosphere of quiet terror (JTEs) and smug satisfaction (ALTs). Haha, I am giving the gift of empathy by making everyone suffer together!
But to bitch-slap the gaijin teachers, I have a different plan. A common JTE complaint is that they feel uncomfortable talking with foreigners in a non-native language like English, and that they want to talk more but don’t know how. So, I am going to give a randomly picked gaijin who doesn’t know too much Japanese, a problem such as:
“My kids are always giving me kanchos (a kancho, for ye who don’t know, is a term describing some dirty kung-fu. Basically you clasp your hands and extend your index fingers, and ram them into someone’s asshole. Kids generally like to do this to gaijin from nursery school and in some cases until middle school. I have even seen a co-worker do it to a waitress when he was really drunk. Many kids have suffered great pain learning that Adam don’t play that! The Japanese can just be plain sick sometimes), and I usually don’t mind, but I have hemmorhoids. How can I make them stop without resorting to the use of a baseball bat to mitigate this problem?” and I will instruct them to use only Japanese or gestures to convey this meaning to the room.
Hell, I figure if I have to work, so do the members of the audience! Hopefully this presentation will go off well, and I think it will because it is an interesting topic. I will know that I have done a good job if someone has a mental breakdown during my workshop, heh!
Anyways, if you like, take a look below to get a glimpse into the minds of a cross section of the JET community in Kumamoto, Japan.
ALT and JTE Relations: A Litmus Test (Survey Results):
16 ALTs from Kumamoto participated in this survey, and were allowed to pick more than one choice. A Japanese version of The same questionnaire was sent out to JTEs, but their contents are not covered here..
1.In your classroom, which choice best describes your relationship
with your JTE?
a. The JTE is the leader, who gives you orders to be followed. (8 votes)
b. We have a symbiotic relationship. Together we form Voltron! (6 votes)
c. You are in charge of the class, and the JTE plays the part of Robin to your Batman. (5 votes)
d. Other- The ALT is in charge of the classroom (2 votes)
1.1.How would you describe your ideal role as ALT in the classroom? What duties do you think that you should perform?
The ideal ALT should:
*Work in collaboration. Both should be jointly responsible for the planning, content, presentation, and assessment of a lesson. They should feel free to bounce ideas off of each other.
*Cooperate with the JTE in setting goals and discussing problems.
*Support the JTE in working toward collaborative goals, including repetition drills, grammar points, and key sentences, however mundane they may seem to us.
*Become friends with the students, and be energetic in class to motivate them.
*Share 50/50 responsibility for the class including but not limited to research and Prepare useful class materials, and make decisions together.
*Frequently use activities and games to make learning (English) fun.
*Help with correcting tests and homework, or any other class related activities, no matter how small.
*Try out new ideas in class, and not just rely on the textbook for teaching material.
1.2.How would you describe the ideal JTE? What should they do in order to make teaching English fun and effective?
The ideal JTE should:
*Help the ALT to know what is going on in the school, in class, in the lessons, and between the students, since it is difficult for ALTs to know everything that is happening..
*Use other sources than just the textbook to help teach grammar and other parts of the lesson.
*Enjoy teaching children, and use a variety of teaching methods that include aural, oral, written, viewing, hands on, and other interactive methods or activities.
*Not be afraid to make mistakes and to express their true feelings and opinions.
*not be scared of the ALT and not hesitate to talk to ALTs. Make an effort to communicate no matter what.
*Be a teammate who shares responsibility, and trust the ALT as a professional (but this trust must be earned).
*Be a person who is open to experimenting with new games and approaches to teaching the class.
*Play more games in class, and allow the ALT to introduce new games and ideas.
*Effectively teach useful or necessary lesson topics and grammar points.
*Help the ALT build stronger relationships with the kids, because they see the kids all the time.
*Reinforce what the ALT is teaching, and not looking out the window or looking bored when they are speaking (this should be reciprocated!).
*Be a person who is passionate about teaching and English, who inspires students through their actions, not just their words.
*Make time to discuss and prepare for the class on a regular basis, even if they are really busy, in order to make the lesson more effective, complete, and fun.
*Encourage students to use English as much as possible, and continues to challenge the students to their full potential.
*Hopefully be open to becoming a friend.
*Take a more active role in class, and not just watch.
1.3.Do you want a more active role, and how so?
Many people said they were fine with their roles in class already, but some common responses were:
I want to:
Plan, set goals, come up with unorthodox lessons, use more communicative activities, be allowed to do even ?mundane? tasks such as making copies or grading homework, experiment in class with new material and teaching methods or make modifications to the lessons.
1.4.As a team, what are you trying to accomplish in class (What are your ultimate goals and aspirations)?
Many people expressed that they didn?t feel part of a team, and that they were unable to develop goals as a consequence, but there were a number of suggestions:
As a team, our goal is to:
*To help students relax in class, get them moving around, and encouraging participation while having a good time.
*To get students to use English as much as possible and even when they are not in class.
*To have students who are not afraid to speak English, but better yet, to help students become confident speakers of English who are not afraid to make mistakes.
*To get through the material in time. To maintain the scheduled curriculum in order to get them into high school. To learn the textbook vocabulary and target sentences.
*Be able to get students to express their true opinions and feelings.
*To get them to enjoy English and develop a positive view of it.
*Getting the students interested in foreign culture and countries.
*To use English as a tool to consider everyday life situations through conversation and role-playing.
*To expose students minds to global issues, views, problems, and solutions.
2.How well do you get along with your JTE?
a. Stupendously, I want to marry him/her! (7 votes)
b. We have a good relationship. (16 votes)
c. O.K., things could be worse, but they could also be better. (10 votes)
d. Bad. I have trouble communicating with them. (3 votes)
2.1.How can your relationship be improved?
Some people said that their relationships are already really good. Here are some other comments:
*Communicating with each other (notice I didn?t say ?speaking English to each other?)
*Finding time to talk about goals for the class, to evaluate and plan lessons, and to improve the abilities of the students. Meeting face to face with each other more often.
*Actually team teaching, instead of one member teaching and the other watching.
*To have the JTE use the ALT as a resource of English information.
*To treat each other as professionals, with mutual respect and hopefully friendliness and understanding.
*To try to see things from the your partner?s perspective.
2.2.How often do you talk with your JTE?
The answers ranged from never to all the time, but how often you talk with your JTE is a terrific indicator of the health of the relationship. As you would expect to find, those people who talk to their JTE on a frequent basis tend to have fewer problems and complaints.
2.3.How often do you go to their school? Does this affect your relationship?
More time spent with your co-teacher + more communication = a better relationship.
2.4.If you only visit a school once in a while, how do you get the most bang for your buck out of your seldom appearances?
This question did not apply to some people, and others had never thought about it at all.
*Make the lessons really fun and stimulating, to create motivation and an incentive for the students to learn and remember English.
*Keep the lessons focused on being as interactive as possible and stress speaking and other communication.
*Plan and produce huge lessons, since some people have a lot of free time to conceptualize, build, and implement them.
*Be friendly, don?t get upset about little things, and be understanding.
3. How would you describe your participation in class?
a. I am always doing something, whether it be observing the students, giving one on one help, or talking. (11 votes)
b. I do things occasionally, and feel useful most of the time. (5 votes)
c. I feel that I could be utilized more effectively, but am trying to think of how. (3 votes)
d. I am barely used at all, and when I do speak it is in the manner of a tape recorder. (3 votes)
3.1.How can you be better utilized? How can you improve your effectiveness in the classroom?
Give the ALT more time to help plan the lesson, and ask for their ideas in order to make the lesson special for the kids.
When the ALT is teaching focus the lessons on what they are the best at doing, which is usually speaking, providing fresh ideas, teaching about culture, etc?
Involve them in more collaboration in any activity, with the goal of helping the kids.
Let the ALT give directions in class without the JTE translating right away.
4. Which would best describe the level of Japanese/English used in your classroom?
a. We have created a classroom that immerses our students in English. Japanese is only used when necessary. (4 votes)
b. Japanese is used a little more than necessary, but English is used frequently and effectively. (10 votes)
c. Japanese is used in many unnecessary situations. English should be used much more. (7 votes)
4.1.What are some steps you have taken or that you think you can take to use English as much as possible in your class?
*Both teachers use English as much as possible, using Japanese only when it is really necessary, especially for every day conversation and classroom commands.
*Create an environment in which students are not afraid to make mistakes, and which helps them to gain confidence to express themselves. Get them to say when they don?t understand.
*Have the ALT explain everything in English, and only have the JTE explain in Japanese when all else fails, or because of other problems (such as time constraints, immediate danger, etc?).
*Speak to the kids inside and outside of class in English.
*Teach English through the contexts of foreign countries, cultures, and world issues.
*Play (appropriate) music during the class during non-active activities, such as reading or writing.
*Work together as a team.
*Focus on verbal practice as much as possible to get the kids talking.
5. How much planning and preparation do you do for your class?
a. All or almost all of it. (6 votes)
b. Some of it. I plan together with my JTE. (6 votes)
c. A little of it. My feedback and ideas are valued and considered by my JTE, but more for proof reading and supplementing a lesson than co-planning it. (3 votes)
d. None at all. (5 votes)
5.1.Do you want a more active role in lesson planning and teaching? (Note: many people said ?no?)
a. Yes, I want to actively design and orchestrate lesson plans. (1 votes)
b. I want to plan lessons more. (2 votes)
c. I want to teach more. (1 votes)
d. I want to have a more active role in planning and teaching. (3 votes)
6.Please check or describe some problems you have encountered with your JTE:
a. Like Ma Bell, I got the ill communication. You don?t talk to each other, other than what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the bare requirements. (3 votes)
b. My JTE doesn?t like me. (1 vote)
c. My JTE is scared of me. (2 votes)
d. My JTE tells me the lesson plan only seconds before we teach it. (8 votes)
e. My JTE give me too much work to do. (1 vote)
f. My JTE doesn?t give me too much work to do. (4 votes)
g. We have cultural misunderstandings. (4 votes)
h. I tell my JTE the lesson plan only seconds before we teach it (1 vote)
6.1.Please address any other problems or concerns with regard to your JTE/ALT relationship.
*The lessons should focus on challenging the students in order to help them develop their abilities to their fullest potential.
*The emphasis should stress more learning and less teaching. (Note: If you are interested in this method, please research ?Student Initiated Learning/Student Centered Learning?)
*Many students expect entertainment, games, cuddling from their ALT all the time- is this realistic?
*We don?t drink together enough (Best complaint, hands down!).
*Because the school I work at is so small, I am afraid that if I confront my JTE with our problems that my situation is likely to become very very bad.
*My JTEs don?t want any responsibility for class, and prefer to watch from the back of the class.
*My JTE doesn?t like ALTs (in general), and other JTEs don?t know how to use me in class.
*Don?t be over critical of small mistakes. Be understanding, and I will reciprocate.
7.Who plays the role of disciplinarian in the classroom when things
get out of hand?
a. We both do. We put the smack down tag-team style when necessary. (4 votes)
b. My JTE handles all of the discipline. I am more like the ?good cop?. (10 votes)
c. I handle almost all of the discipline. (1 vote)
d. My classroom is like a zoo. (5 vote)
8.What do you think of this? Who should discipline the students?
a. It is the job of the JTE only. I am just there to supplement English teaching.(6 vote)
b. It is both of our jobs. We should present a united front to face our challenges.(10 vote)
c. It is my job. My JTE doesn?t do it, so I feel that I must.
d. Students should not be confined by rules. Down with the Man! (only 1 vote!!!)
9.Please describe what has worked for you and your JTE in helping to motivate your students to study English.
a. What are effective methods that you use with or without your JTE in teaching English?
The most important is logical staging of lessons. Building on one topic or theme over a month or more to consolidate language points/ vocabulary.
Dividing the class into small groups and do pair work works well.
Making a fun environment by using silly topics and activities works well.
Discussing Pop-culture and teenage lifestyles in foreign countries or from their perspectives is a good way to get and hold the kids’ attention.
Using games, repetition, using rewards or incentives is good for motivation.
b. What games/lessons/activities continue to work well in class?
Material should be changed frequently or it loses its appeal.
?smart mouth?, shiritori, JTE and ALT skits, bingo, team games, anything that involves competition, music, and time limits, Karuta, International material.
Everyday or exotic contexts such as detective games, newspaper interviews, shopping, directions, parties, etc?
Bulletin board with quizzes, passport point cards (stamped when the students speak English).
Class diaries. Two students take the diary each week and contribute something in words, with pictures optional. The ALT and JTE writes back each time.
c. Do you have any extracurricular activities that work well outside of class?
Eat lunch with the students and join in a sport or other extracurricular club, spend recess with them.
Visits by other ALTs.
d. What English songs do your students like to sing?
Abba (Dancing Queen), Beetles, Carpenters, John Lennon, Tatu, Biggie Smalls, 50 cent, Bob Marley
10.Finally, what are some things that you think should be more carefully covered in class? How can your goals be realized?
a. Vocabulary (4 votes)
b. Pronunciation/ Phonics (14 votes)
c. Gestures and Body Language (4 votes)
d. Slang/Informal English (4 votes)
e. Useful Everyday English (14 votes)
f. Reading (2 votes)
g. Writing (1 votes)
h. Drama (3 votes)
i. World Cultures/ Global Issues (7 votes)
j. Computers and the Internet (6 votes)
k. Grammar (1 vote)