You got the job! Congratulations!
The first step to settling in to your new schools is to build friendships where you can. This includes the students, AND the teachers. The quicker you understand your teacher’s style of instruction and discipline the quicker you will get the “team” in “team teaching.”
Get involved where you can. The school will constantly be planning for upcoming events: sports festivals, music festivals, culture festivals. Find out what the extra-curricular events are and ask to participate. Your presence will be valued by your teachers and your students strengthening those newly built relationships. Be proactive and ask what is happening so you don’t miss out on attending events.
One ALT, Many Schools
You may arrive to your contracting organisation to find you will be teaching between many schools, from kindergarten through high school. Being a one-shot teacher can be daunting, but the steps to settling in will be the same. The most important thing you need to prepare is an awesome self-introduction lesson plan. You will use this often for your first couple of months, so make it activity-based to keep it fresh.
One-shots are rare and you need to leave meaningful impressions on each school. Come up with a trademark that your students can easily remember you by. This could be as simple as giving out high-fives or saying a catch phrase.
One ALT, Several Schools
Teaching between several regular schools is common for ALTs, and find they have a fairly regular schedule of school visits at different levels.
Working between a few schools may give you several advantages. A variety of schools means you don’t have to worry about being with one difficult JTE or school. You’ll form relationships with a lot of your students, without necessarily being expected to remember all of their names.
Multiple schools equals multiple enkais, school festivals, and lessons. However, not being at your base school means you will probably be somewhat out of the loop. Or have overlapping of schedules.
One ALT, One School
Some ALTs will find themselves based at only one school. This is the easiest position to build strong relationships. You will most likely be expected to attend every school event or encouraged to get involved in after school activities, which although, can take up a lot of your personal time, it will give you a deeper immerse into Japanese culture.
Through working at one school though, you will find you get to know not only your students, but their families as well. You will be a key part of the staff at the school and will be treated with respect.
Getting to Know Your Students
There are many different ways to start building a rapport with your students. Some simple and fun ideas, like joining games in the playground and after class, paying attention and pointing out changes and new things like haircuts and new shoes, giving high fives, and being dramatic, will have the kids laughing. The more the kids laugh and relax around you, the better your relationship with the students will be.
The key to building relationships with your kids is to be yourself. If that means laughing loudly, clapping your hands and bouncing every once in a while – go for it!
Japanese in the Classroom
Even if you speak fluent Japanese, your job is to teach English, so the vast majority of your interactions with your students should be in English. You can use your understanding of Japanese to help students with questions, such as in the case of an unknown word. Remember, the students already have a teacher that speaks Japanese and English – the JTE.
Making time with your JTEs to help plan lessons can be difficult. If you find your teachers are too busy to have you help request a copy of the teacher’s lessons plans for each week, or a copy of the class curriculum. Having these resources will help you to adapt to each class. You may find you are requested to run games and activities at the last minute. Having a few easy and adaptable games up your sleeve will make life much easier. Emergency games and hundreds more can be found online.
While it’s not your job to discipline the kids, some discipline tactics are essential to keep the lessons running smoothly. Talk to your JTE and ask what their discipline strategy is. Supporting your JTE in their disciplining strategy may be all it takes for classroom harmony. A stern look is often all you need to get kids in line. Follow the lead of your JTEs and use methods that you can adapt to create your own teaching and discipline style.
Elementary and Kindergarten Classes
Little kids are most receptive to learning new languages, and these students will most likely be enthusiastic and energetic about English. Many elementary school teachers are unable to speak English, but most of them are excited about teaching English. What you teach and which grades you work with depends on the school.
Many schools will have a basic English curriculum they work from. If not, they may ask you to run some games or English songs while you are there.
When planning for kindergartens, you need to remember, the younger the kids, the shorter the attention spans. Kindergarten kids like repetition, songs, activities, and easy games.
At the end of the day, have fun teaching your elementary and kindergarten students and they will have fun in turn.
Eikaiwa classes are generally night time English conversation classes geared towards adults. Although they may take up some of your free time, they are worth the effort. You’ll make friends with locals who are generally very helpful, and give you a chance to improve your Japanese. If you haven’t already been asked to run one, and would like to set up your own, start by talking it up to the people in your Board of Education office.
When running an Eikaiwa, you should consider class size, class length and English ability. If you have large classes of differing abilities, you may want to spilt the group into smaller beginner and advanced classes. Smaller classes sizes will give you more time to get each person speaking English and create a closer group.
To make sure your eikaiwa students enjoy the classes, relax and enjoy yourself. These students will be the most enthusiastic you meet, and many will become good friends.
You may find yourself with a bit of down-time, whether it’s a cancelled class, a free period or a school vacation. This is known as desk warming. Don’t only keep yourself busy for your professional appearance, do it for your sanity. Try volunteering to help out with upcoming events, sit in on another class, make your own games and worksheets, study Japanese. The important thing is to ensure you are using your time and keeping up appearances.