When it comes to today's professional environment, building skills is the name of the game. Many ALTs have degrees that fall outside of the business and STEM categories. That means that we need to develop our transferable skills in order to be competitive in the current job market. By developing these skills, you'll not only be a better teacher but will also be a better candidate for employment in your life after ALTing!
I'm sure most ALTs are familiar with the JET Programme mantra ESID, or every situation is different. That's why adaptability is one of the most needed skills as an ALT.
One of my favorite movies is The Gods Must be Crazy. In this movie, there is a philosophical comparison between those who adapt to suit their environment and those who change their environment to suit themselves.
Many times, ALTs find themselves working in unfamiliar environments with lots of variables and uncertainty. Your ability to adapt will make the difference between your students learning something that day or time being wasted on continuing something that clearly is not working. There may be a lot of things outside of your control that will affect your class. If you practice adaptability, you can change your plans on the fly to meet the needs of your students and teachers.
If you aren't able to adapt to your surroundings, you're going to have a hard time getting things done. Employers value adaptability because it shows that you can work effectively in multiple situations. If you can shift your thoughts and behavior to meet the circumstances, you'll have a much better experience and grow as a person.
This is another crucial component of how to ALT. Many tasks in today's workplace require us to work with others to accomplish goals. Many ALTs work in a team-teaching environment, that's why teamwork is an important skill to develop.
If we think about teaching, it's very much collaborative process. The team includes you, your Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs), and your students. Each person plays a specific role in the learning process and has certain expectations to meet.
Having good teamwork skills means that you can function well in a team environment. This includes knowing how to lead, knowing how to follow, and when to do each one. Clear communication is also essential as you will need to talk with your Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) to set expectations and decide who is going to be responsible for what in your lessons.
There will be times when it may be in your best interests to give a little ground on something at the present so you can build a better relationship and earn more trust from your team. There are other times when your team may be lacking a clear focus and you'll have to step in to provide it. If an ALT or JTE checkout, then it's doing a disservice to the students. If the ALT or JTE always railroad all their ideas on the other without consulting the other, it will make the other person on feel alienated and they won't be committed to doing their best work. Remember that your team will either fail or succeed together; the blame for the failure or the credit for the success is usually shared by all parties involved. Whatever happens, it's the students who win or lose in these situations.
3. Autonomous learning
A lot of what ALTs do requires on the job learning and picking things up as you go. It's a process of trial and error that can be frustrating at times. Since most of us don't have direct supervisors who watch our lessons and gives us coaching or regular training sessions, we have to do our best to develop our ability to learn autonomously. That's why sites like ALT Training Online are a great tool!
By learning things on your own, you develop your reflection and problem-solving skills. You can gain the ability to pick-up new skills and troubleshoot your lessons. It also shows that you are growing as a person and a professional. If you can pick out the problems in your own lessons, you should be able to do so for others. Continuous learning will make you a more competitive candidate for various jobs.
4. Attention to detail
To paraphrase a Leonardo Da Vinci quote, perfection is in the details. A lot of your teachers and students may value having no mistakes in a given assignment versus having higher English ability that's not perfect. Both your students and teachers will look at your work with an eye for perfection; that is to say that they have been trained to pay attention to details and seek out mistakes.
Attention to detail helps tremendously in ALTing. We are always planning lessons and making new materials. If you don't have anyone who can double check your work, then you're going to have to scrutinize your own work.
Use caution when grading your students' work. Be sure to look for typos in your worksheets. When you're planning a lesson, think through each step from the teachers' and students' point of view. If you can catch mistakes before you get to the classroom, that's great! If not, at least make sure you can change-up your approach before your next lesson.
5. Emotional intelligence
Last, but not least, we come to emotional intelligence. According to Psychology Today, emotional intelligence is described as "the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others." Take a look at the chart below.
When you're dealing with a large group of young people, there are bound to be a variety of emotions in play. Some students are carefree and may be having the best day of their lives. Others may have just got done arguing with their parents or siblings before coming to school. Your teacher may be having personal problems outside of work that they don't want to talk about. The emotions and energy that you bring to the classroom also play a role in how the students perform.
The key takeaway from this is to recognize that everyone has their own set of problems that they're dealing with, including you. You want to make sure that you interact with people in an appropriate manner for the situation. You also want to make sure that you're in a position to be a role model and help others.
If you see a student is having an off day and not really doing their work, be sure to ask questions to see if there isn't some deeper issue behind the change in behavior. Then, you can try to guide that student back to their work so they can be productive in the class.
Well, that's it for now. What do you think about this list? Have you used these skills? What other skills could useful in ALT work and other fields? Let me know in the comments!