18 1月 2015

ALT: My Teaching Location/Assignment

     Alrighty, soooooo,
last time I left you off was when I finished my little 5 day vacation in Saitama.

     And I apologize for the long ass awaited post. It hasn't been the most joyful experience for me and thus I lost the energy to do any of the creative outlets that I once previously had been doing. (Including this blog)

     But this will all end soon, as I will move to a new and different location altogether to get away from this middle of nowhere hell hole. But let me explain a little bit about my position, before I get ahead of myself.

     I've been working with Interac (a dispatch company for ALT's to be "dispatched" to public schools) in Gifu. I work in Sakahogi town but I live in Minokamo city. And I'm the only ALT for this whole vicinity. Meaning the next ALT next to me will be about 20 to 30 minutes away.

     It's a very VERY rural area (at least to my standards; I've been going to school in Chicago, so anything small to me feels like ''get me the hell out of here"), where everyone knows everyone.
There's tons of nikkeijin (second generation Japanese who previously lived in Brazil or in other areas; but mostly Brazil) and filipinos, so that makes me kind of happy. Until I realized how they are treated in schools here. *A topic for another discussion.*

     To give you another visual; I have to drive everywhere and the closest decent shopping mall is about 25 minutes away. The closest Saizeriya (a japanized Italian restaurant - smoking section included) is about 40 minutes away, in a totally different city. And the closest EON (shopping center), is 50 minutes away (not including traffic). And there is no Starbucks, nor any other main shops. Which makes my life hell, 'cuz I hate driving everywhere. I like things close to me (within walking distance).

     I don't expect anyone to know nor speak decent English 'cuz Japan is notorious for its low English test scores. And it's also proven by the few Japanese who do travel abroad, and their education system.

     Anyways, I work in the Sakahogi Kindergarten, Elementary School and Jr. High School. And this set will never change because the area just isn't big enough for an ALT to do just one level. It would be possible to do just Jr. High here, but then if there was an ALT for just Kindergarten and Elementary, then they wouldn't be able to work the minimum hours required by your instructors visa. (40 hours) So in this area, whoever becomes an ALT here will be in these 3 levels.

   >>>  A little history about this location <<<

     All the previous ALT's have only stayed here for 1 year. And the ALT before me didn't even finish his contract and only stayed for 6 months. I'm finishing my previous ALT's contract.

     If you are abroad, most likely you will not be able to pick your location quite detailedly, so be sure to ask whoever you are applying to how long the previous ALT's have stayed in that location. If they stay for a long time (1+ year, you can bet it's a good location and probably their personal needs changed). If they stay for just 1 year or less, then it is a matter of the schools not providing a welcoming and supportive environment.

     In my location, there was only once when an ALT stayed for 3 years and after that they got tired of him so the schools requested a new ALT, but that was long ago. And there was a previous ALT, whom actually had the responsibility of teaching the students but she skipped many chapters, and started from Chapter 6. She was from Hiroshima and she wanted to talk about Chapter 6 (which covers Hiroshima and the atomic bomb) as the first lesson. But the students hadn't even covered the previous lessons.

     That story kind of shocked me because from what I can tell, the previous ALT's and myself are
here as human recorders. We only teach the lower levels, which makes the job extremely easy. Easy job = easy money. I wonder if they changed their ways after her?

     And because my predecessor didn't finish his contract, I think the school or BOE requested the company to visit every month and see how the ALT is doing.

     In Japan, they talk about feelings and take great measures to keep peoples feelings well intact. Companies and people take care of your 'emotional well-being'. So this mentor surprise visits me every month, just to give me some feedback and basically talk.

     Personally, I don't think it's professional to talk about feelings in the workplace, unless someone made a mistake that encompasses a persons feelings such as the proper behaviour a person is suppose to conduct.  And I'm neither the person to talk about feelings anyway. Just don't piss me off or make me mad. Nobody likes a mad Puerto Rican woman.

     On another point about this location, the ALT is the main teacher for Kindergarten and grades 1
through 4 in Elementary. Then you are supposedly set up as a group teaching method for grades 5 and up, but don't expect to team teach with the JTE, because even though the contract specifies that, it is not what actually happens.

     The JTE is the main teacher and you are there to provide pronunciation. AKA be a human recorder. One of my teachers is fairly nice and has entrusted me with passing out papers (while she writes on the board), say the morning greetings (this is when you ask the students as a class 5 questions: how are you?, what day is it today?, what's the date?, how's the weather?, and what time is it now?), as well as the goodbye greetings, and directing the vocabulary drills.

     There was once when she let me plan out the whole class for grades 1 (7th graders), and I just did fun activities where they basically reviewed the grammar and vocab that they had already learned through games. And not just any game. I was determined to make them as output as possible. I'm tired of them not speaking in class. So this was my way to change that.
     We also read the book together, for the dialogue sections, and she always does the warm-up activities with me. She also sometimes asks me questions about things she is unsure about, or just to make me feel like my position is incorporated in the classroom during those days when it focuses mostly on grammar. She also lets me correct students answers with a red pen.

     And let me tell you. This teacher I just told you about is an exception. She is very proactive about teaching English and it's something she enjoys, as well as makes it fun. The other teachers I've been paired up with are not this friendly, and their interest in the subject is much less.

>>> Types of Teachers I've Been Paired Up With in JHS <<<

     >>Example 1:<< There is another main teacher at the JHS here in Sakahogi, but after the 3rd month of my contract, she started getting sick. All I know it's that it's something serious, where the school has to find substitute teachers to fill her spot for the mean time.

     She was pretty good. She emphasized a lot on grammar, and grammar input. She enjoys this. But she made it very clear to me that she doesn't need an ALT, nor does she know how to work with one. Even though my position in this school has be debunked to human recorder, she still used the CD-rom that comes with the book to have the students listen. This was at the beginning of my contract when I actually cared a lot about being an ALT.
     She only talked to me after class about petty and unrelated things, and that was ok. At least she was trying to be somewhat social. Though that didn't change the fact for me that I'm not close to her in any way. Nor do I respect her.
     She didn't ask anything of me. Not even the greetings before and after class, and it pained my ears to hear such a bad accent.

     >>Example 2:<< The teacher as example 1 (Fukunaga) got sick. I dunno why nor do I care. (Side Note: she was in charge of the 8th graders and one class for 9th grade.) So most of the 8th graders didn't study English for like 2 months or something. Meanwhile the school was looking for subs to fill in her spot. And at one point they did find one. He was here for 3 months.
     This was a guy who didn't know how to teach and has never taught. At least that's the impression he left on me since he was always writing notes on his lesson plan. Maybe he taught like 40 years ago or something. I dunno. But the guy was horrible.
     At one point I was talking to him and he gave me the hint that he's a tutor for foreign children. He said how their pronunciation is great, but they don't know the grammar. I was like. . . .

. . .
. . .
That is such a wrong statement. First of all, foreign kids excel above and beyond their japanese classmates in English. That's a fact. It's only when they come here very young, like 5th grade and under that they such just as bad as their japanese classmates. BECAUSE THE EDUCATION SYSTEM HERE SUCKS! They don't learn anything. So they are using what they know from their mother tongue to sound out English. So that's when I asked this old man how old was his student, and of course he said he was elementary age. No surprise there.

     Anyways, this guy really emphasized reading and reading and reading. Plus his background is being a tutor (a bit different from being a teacher), who just made his students do the actual work at home. In class he never used the board, never wrote anything down, and never explained WHY an answer was right or wrong. He didn't care about anything other than reading, so he made the kids repeat the reading sections over and over again. Same with the main key sentences that used the grammar in their study notebooks.

     Even I was so bored and dreaded his class. Many kids from the 9th grade class came up to me and told me, "he's no fun, he's boring and we don't like him".

     I truly felt sorry for the kids. They wouldn't pay attention in his classes also, and acted up. I don't blame them. The guy wasn't a teacher and didn't care about them. He ate lunches alone, and cared to much about proper behaviour like no hands in your pockets, standing straight like a robot, and ALWAYS paying attention.
     Story is---> he sucked. He also didn't know how to work with ALT's. So I was pretty much just standing around in class doing nothing.

~ * ~

      This is when I truly stopped caring about how much amount of work I actually had to do in this school. With the first teacher I cared. And once this guy came, (of course I still care now about their English) but I just don't care as much about my work load, because I know they're not going to give it to me. They don't require it from me nor need me, so they won't ask it of me.
     So I'm like. . . .


     I know they don't need me. I'm just a human recorder, and I honestly don't have any work other than prepare lessons for kindergarten and elementary. At the same time, I won't get payed for extra/overtime work, so I'm not gonna do it.
     I'm fine not working for them. Gives me more time to do the things I want to do. Like apply for other jobs where I'm actually an important asset in peoples lives. I need that feeling of being busy, feeling important, and feeling satisfaction from the hard work I'm doing. Otherwise, I don't really have a purpose.
     A version of myself who's not busy MOST of the time? I just can't do it.

     Even in school I was always busy with something. Of course I've always valued my holidays, and resting time, and those days where you just chill at home in your p-jays and watch TV or do your hobby. But these two were balanced in a way I felt appropriate for myself.

     So why am I explaining this to you?

     Because this is really important for what is coming up next.

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