To Be a Better ALT, Start Bonding with other Teachers

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You go to your school with the week’s lessons planned, materials ready and a great attitude. But this isn’t all it takes to be a great assistant language teacher.

To be an excellent ALT, it’s important to create a good atmosphere at your school by strengthening relationships with not only the students but also the teachers you see every day. This can be done by building a relationship with your home room teachers. Regardless of language and cultural barriers, this is easier than you may think. Your home room teachers are meant to be your partners in teaching English. Taking the time to learn how to communicate with one another and cooperate during English lessons will enrich each classroom experience for both teachers and students.

But, you might be saying, my teacher is always busy and that one-on-one lesson planning that can wait until later, never actually comes. Let’s face it: Japanese teachers are some of the busiest in the world. What’s more, some of them may not be confident in their English abilities to communicate with you. It may not be apparent right away, but the benefits are worth it. There are several key topics and things to consider when attempting to build better relationships and communication with your fellow educators.

Don’t forget the small talk

Be ready to ask, “What’s your hobby?” all the time but for good reason.

Opening up to your home room teachers with a bit of small talk between the two of you every now and then is a simple but easy chance to start building a stronger bond. They may have questions about your home country, what kinds of food you like and what your general interests are.

Sharing some of these details will let you break the ice. Don’t be shy. Put a little effort into getting acquainted with the teachers you work with, it’s always appreciated. Before long, you’ll find yourself forging closer bonds and all that small talk could potentially turn into deep, friendly conversations.

Weekly meetings can be a game changer

One of the most effective ways to help your classes run smoothly is to have regular meetings with your home room teachers. This keeps everyone on the same page so the both of you know what the lesson plan for the day entails and how to execute it together. Meeting ahead of time also creates a platform for both you and your many colleagues to discuss any concerns or share ideas. When home room teachers know what’s happening, they will feel much more comfortable. Maintaining open communication builds rapport with one another and this will reflect positively in your teaching.

Some schools are going to be incredibly accommodating and consider you a member of the team. Generally, these are the schools where you will have the easiest time getting along with your Japanese teacher of English (JTE).

The meeting doesn’t have to be more than five- or 10-minutes long to be effective. Remember: these meetings need to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time, so come prepared.

Every teacher is different when it comes to school dynamics

An important factor to consider when attempting to build relationships with teachers, is the dynamic of the school. Every school you teach in is going to be different and this will influence how well you get along with other teachers and staff.

Some schools are going to be incredibly accommodating and consider you a member of the team. Generally, these are the schools where you will have the easiest time getting along with your Japanese teacher of English (JTE). Teachers at these types of schools tend to be more willing to communicate openly and don’t mind listening to any contributions or ideas you may have regarding the lesson. If you give them a chance, these are teachers that have the potential to become, in some ways, a very close friend. By the end of the year, everyone may find themselves shedding a few tears.

However, don’t expect that every situation is going to be similar. It may happen that your teachers view you as just an ALT and nothing more. At the end of the day, that’s perfectly fine. These are the teachers that just want to get the job done and keep things strictly professional between the two of you. As difficult as it may be, try not to take it personally.

Many ALTs arrive to Japan hoping to build strong bonds with their schools and lasting relationships with their teachers. When this doesn’t happen, it can be devastating for some. Understand, it has nothing to do with you. Stay focused and do what is expected of you by your company and everything will work itself out. One does not necessarily have to be incredibly close to their JTE to teach a quality English class. If the two of you are willing to cooperate, an exceptional English lesson is still possible. Not everyone is interested in making friends.

Hopefully, you can keep in mind some of the things mentioned here next time you go to your schools. And remember if there was one answer to building relationships at your schools then it wouldn’t be a problem. Yes, it is difficult, but do not give up and work at it slowly. In the end, your patience and hard work will produce results.

Check out more tips for assistant language teachers in our series, A little training (ALT) 4 ALTs.

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RCS (Real Communication Solutions) provides assistant language teachers to public elementary, middle and high schools, as well as English cram schools, daycare centers, kindergartens and other businesses.

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