What I Do
As a English teacher in Japan, I am often asked about what I do. My employer is the government of Japan via the JET Program. My official title is ALT or Assistant Language Teacher.
“These participants are placed mainly in public schools or local boards of education. ALTs assist with classes taught by Japanese teachers of English (JTE) and are thus involved in the preparation of teaching materials and in extracurricular activities like English clubs or sports teams. More than 90% of JET participants are employed as ALTs.”
The grand total of participants (2006-2007) on the program comes to 5,508 from 44 countries. Of that, 2,879 are Americans. The next largest contingent hails from the United Kingdom with 717.
Japan’s equivalent to US states are called prefectures (or ken) and there are 47 of those. My prefecture, Oita, has about 89 JET participants.
My day to day activities can vary. Time is spent as needed preparing lessons. I am contractually required to work 7 hours and 45 minutes per day and I have anywhere from two to four 50 minutes classes. These classes are always in conjunction with another Japanese teacher. Sometimes they are absent though, in which case I am alone. This can result in sometimes have a class every period (well, that only happened once). Any extra time can be spent how I choose, like preparing for classes, writing blog posts, or learning Japanese.
My introduction letter from Japan also outlined another aspect of what I do. My area is a bit on the rural side and foreigners (gaijin) are sometimes a novelty. So, in addition to teaching my native language I am also an “Ambassador of Goodwill” representing my country. I feel this is the more important aspect of the job, exposing a rather homogeneous culture to new ideas.