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Becoming A Team Teacher In Japan

This is a guest post I wrote for the iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) blog in October. It talks about the team-teaching situation in Japan and what ALTs can do to be successful.

Japan is a one of a kind country in many ways. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work here since 2014. The English education system here is probably quite different when compared to other countries. All students in Japan are required to study English and both teachers and students spend a lot of time at school.

Is team teaching in Japan really so special?

First off, let’s try to figure out what team teaching means. On the surface, team teaching appears to be just like solo-teaching but involves two or more teachers working in a classroom together. However, the team teaching situation in Japan involves a lot more complexities than you would probably think.

A lot of us aren’t trained teachers

The academic requirement for most ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) in Japan is that they possess a bachelor’s degree in any subject. When many ALTs come to Japan, it may be their first time working in a professional environment. There can sometimes be a steep learning curve in the transition from being a student to becoming a teacher.

Although I didn’t study how to teach English, I do know what it takes to learn a foreign language. Foreign languages have always interested me. In high school I studied Spanish and Japanese. In college I continued studying Japanese and took some classes for Mandarin, Vietnamese, and Turkish. When planning lessons, I often think back to how I was taught and how I learned languages.

I am fortunate to have received a month of training in my current teaching program. However, many ALTs don’t receive any formal training. A lot of what we learn either comes from trial and error, talking to other ALTs, or online resources. That’s why online learning communities like this one and ALT Training Online are invaluable in filling in the gaps and helping us improve our skills as teachers.

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Check out these other posts:

If you're moving to Japan, here are 12 things you will probably want to bring

What do ALTs do at school? Here are 5 roles you will probably fill as an ALT in Japan

UPDATED: 7 Things You NEED To Do Before Going To Teach English In Japan