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The 5 ALT Roles That You May Not Have Thought About!

One of the issues with being an ALT in Japan is that a lot of our day to day roles aren't always clearly defined. Many times, this comes down to the JET mantra ESID (every situation is different).

If you haven't read my first post,

check it out!

Due to the variety of situations ALTs find themselves in, the roles that we end up filling are often subject to change.

I remember telling my friends that if my job were a TV show, it'd be a mix of Sesame Street, Cops, and Dr. Phil!

Here is my list of five more roles that you probably will encounter (or have encountered) in your ALT career.

1. Police officer

No matter where you teach in the world, young people have very similar attitudes. Some can be very nice and sweet while others were born to be wild.

If you have a group of kids from the latter bunch, you may spend more time trying to maintain classroom control than trying to teach English.

When trying to maintain control of your classes, remember that the goal should be to correct problem behavior to allow all students to learn during instruction time. I spent a few years running security crews for private events and I found that it's always best to de-escalate and defuse a situation rather than ramping it up!

The goal of any action you take should never be just to punish or humiliate someone. Also, remember that the action you take should be appropriate for the offense.

Make sure you ask questions to find out if something is happening that you don't know about. For example, you might spot a pair of students in the back that are continuously talking during your instruction.

A bad way to handle it would be to yell at them loudly and tell them to stop talking or else! The better way to handle it would be to ask them what's going on or if they have any questions about the lesson. A lot of times students will talk to other students if they didn't understand something.

2. Babysitter

Depending on what level of school you teach and the maturity of your students, your job may sometimes feel like glorified babysitting.

You came to class ready to teach all about the wonders of English and how it can unlock future opportunities for your students, however, your school wants to do play some fun games and sing songs with the students (this happens WAY more often with younger students).

If this happens to you, I say embrace it.

It may not be what you signed up for, but it's still not a bad way to earn a living.

The students really want to have fun with English. So, if you make your classes more fun, you can trick them into studying all that stuff you wanted to cover.

3. Ambassador

Another role you might find yourself filling during your time in Japan is that of a cultural ambassador from (insert the name of your hometown/country/region here).

You may be one of the only people from your area that someone from Japan has met.

As such, many people will have a lot of questions about you and where you're from. If you stick around for a while, you'll get used to the routine questions and it may become boring.

Just remember that it may be the 50th time having this conversation for you, but it may be their first time. Don't spoil the magic!

4. Test subject

You may sometimes find yourself the be on the receiving end of an unplanned cultural experiment (done purely for scientific purposes of course).

Some people in Japan may have heard that people from(random country) are all good at (random activity).

Since a lot of people in Japan may have had limited exposure to non-Japanese people, stereotypes sometimes take the place of firsthand knowledge when it comes to understanding the world.

I'm a bigger guy at 6'2/189cm and 240lbs/108kg (depending on how much I ate in the week) so I find students (and sometimes random Japanese people) want to test their might against me. This test usually takes the form of arm wrestling.

It's nothing personal, but they don't bump into someone my size every day and they want to see how they stack up.

5. Mentor

Lastly, we come to the role of mentor. This can be one of the most rewarding parts of being an ALT in Japan. Depending on your language ability, and that of your students, you may be able to help guide students towards finding their passion and calling in life.

Chances like these are rare as most students will be busy with whatever work they have that day, but take the chances you can to mentor when they arise!

One of my favorite times to do this is the, "My Dream" section of many textbooks.

A lot of times, students may have absolutely NO IDEA what they want to do with their life. Many times, they are simply fulfilling the role they've been assigned: that of being a good student.

If you can learn about your students interests' and abilities, you can help them figure out what possibilities there are in the world.

I always tell my students that if you have two people of equal skills and abilities for a job, but one of them speaks English and the other doesn't, who would you hire? This helps motivate the students to do better for their future.

Remember that as teachers we are here not only to teach the ABCs and 123s but also to prepare our students for their next stage of life and to be good members of society.