ALTs – - what do you think of your jobs?
I first started this blog out of frustration with my job as an ALT in Japan. When I worked as a JET in Tohoku I helped organize monthly meetings for the ALTs in my town to rant and decompress (although officially the goal was to brainstorm teaching ideas, heh). I felt extremely unsatisfied with ALT work and took absolutely everything that happened in the workplace personally. I dunno. I guess I just had the total wrong idea about what kinda work-life I’d have in Japan… On my previous trips here, everyone had always been so nice and accommodating, but now I was in the workplace – everybody for themselves.
After JET, I came to Kyushu and started working as an ALT for a new company, and about when I started this blog I decided to change my outlook and try to make the best of my time here: to try not to take things personally; to accept that I would be excluded as a foreigner from certain things and to not let it bother me. Fellow blogger Finorgan has pointed out to me that at this point I should refer to myself as ‘the Gaijin Formerly Known as Angry”.
My outlook has changed, and now I think I’ve got a pretty good job.
The teachers in my town are super nice and try to include me as much as they can, from the Culture Festivals and Sports Days to the Drinking Parties and Farewell Parties. Although not many other ALTs would agree with me, my company is pretty good too (although I rarely go to HQ or even see my company co-workers).
Today I was asked to go a couple hours out of town on a special ‘business trip’ to teach a preschool class. I took the train out, but the Japanese coordinator was kind enough to drive me back to HQ (halfway home) and we got to talking about our experiences living and working abroad.
She lived and worked in New Zealand and elsewhere in Oceania for a few years and loved it there, but ultimately decided to live and work in the country of her birth, Japan. Even though she now works 6-7 day weeks and could easily take leave when she wanted in Oceania, she always just felt like a guest when abroad. That’s pretty much how I feel here. Well, not all the time, but there’s definitely a difference imposed on me as a foreigner here.
It makes me think back to grade school and all the kids who came in from abroad to live in Canada. They musta all dealt with the same sense of displacement and culture shock.
So my job’s pretty good! But I still have uneasy feelings of displacement in the workplace. I dunno. Maybe that’s just work! Perhaps it’s nothing specific to the ALT job or even working abroad.
August 26th sleep-deprived edit:
I don’t need to make a new post for this, but I need to get all of this out before I get back to my normal classes this school year….for my own sanity…
Today I was called out to sub in for another ALT in a school that I’ve never been to. On the train ride over all the scenarios where rolling though my head: “The teachers will either leave everything entirely to me, or they will take command of the classroom.” Or it’ll be some awkward mix. I do wish they’d take over.
It’s just so weird. It’s like: these are trained professionals. Their job is to raise children, teach them manners and respect and responsibility and about the world. I’m not trained. I sure as heck ain’t no professional. But somehow everything is left up to me (the ALT, that is); the teachers often don’t go out of their way to try to find you before class to iron out the wrinkles in the lesson plan (although one teacher did and I was so happy for it!).
I think that the teachers work really, really hard and have a lot going on without having to worry about someone who doesn’t speak their language or understand their customs in their workplace. So I can understand that some teachers will wing English class. It’s like that mandatory class you take in university that you don’t really care about, so you only go when you feel like it and hardly study. You kinda know a lot of the content anyway just from living life and watching TV. I feel like that’s what the English class is to some teachers, and I can relate, so I can’t blame them.
But frack it’s so much easier when they take the time to work with you. Well because a lot of ALTs aren’t very good to begin with (again, we are foreign to the language, culture, and we are NOT PROFESSIONALS) the respect required to get the teachers to work with you is something that must be earned.
And I mean, forget all that stuff. Simply coz you don’t speak their language, everything automatically becomes difficult. I mean, right? What are you gunna do?
I am soooo sleepy. No body read this! lol. Good night. ^^