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View Full Version : "Can you teach them a game? I'll give you 5 minutes at the end of class."



namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 11:53
This might just be typical ALT stuff, but I'm getting sort of sick of the demand for me to pull games and lessons out of a magic hat while no one has sent me any information about what these children have learned. Allow me to paint this situation for you a little bit better because as we know, ESID, right?

I am in a small-sized city that has a city half and an inaka half. Some of my schools are 20 students, some of them are approaching 700. Every day of the week is a different school, and with the exception of two elementary schools, I basically go to every class four times a semester at the most. My middle school days are never discussed beforehand. I show up to the school, my schedule for the day is on my desk, and the teachers have already planned a lesson plan for me to play hand puppet ALT through. I can live with this because even though it's not ideal, and I'm not a huge fan, at least the teachers are putting in work and effort and I can see and appreciate that. Most of the JHS JTEs are flexible and will allow me some time if I want it for an activity.

Then there's elementary school. Before an ES visit, the BOE calls me to tell me I have a fax from a school and then I go to pick it up. Usually the elementary schools will let me know at the very least what they are learning, like numbers, or colors, or animals, but I have a few schools who just say "omakase," do whatever you want. The problem with that is, some of these schools I haven't been to in 6 months. I don't remember how big the classes are, I don't know what words they've been learning, if I can have access to the gym, if they should stay in their seats, if the teacher will let them write letters, etc. Some schools have students with special needs and behavioral problems that I am not told about, which means that if I use games with winners, sometimes the students will start fighting and crying. Some teachers freak out and say muri/no! if I suggest bingo because "the students can't write or read at all." I have another elementary school that doesn't send me ANY information or ask for a meeting, but instead asks me 5 minutes before class (the teacher hides somewhere in the school that's not the teacher's room until then) if I can teach the kids a game during the last 5 minutes of class because that's all he's going to give me. With no preparation. No knowledge of what the kids have learned. And he regularly says no to the first 4 or 5 I suggest. I always ask him to send me a fax or have a meeting, but he never does.

How do you deal with this kind of stuff? Is this normal? I feel like not telling me ANY information is just setting me up for failure, but they still expect me to just have games for every subject with playing cards, worksheets, or whatever is needed for their class size (which can be 5 students to 45, depending on the school).

By the way, as for a long-term solution, I'm going to try to get my BOE more on my side to make it mandatory to have a meeting or fax before school visits. But my BOE is always reluctant to be on my side as they take a very hands-off approach to the whole ALT thing, so I'm doubtful they're going to help me at all even though they are the ones in charge of coordinating my visits. When I have asked in the pat about incoming faxes and the like, my supervisor has just told me, "well that means you can do whatever you want, so just make a lesson about anything."

Any and all advice is welcome, please and thank you. I'm very curious if anyone else experiences this kind of stuff as well.

uthinkimlost?
July 1st, 2014, 11:57
Do the ES use textbooks?

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 12:02
Some? Most? (I'm not really sure) of them are using Hi! Friends. The ones I know for sure are using it are in different places, and a few of my schools are multi-age so they're doing Hi! Friends 1 and 2 at the same time, which can get pretty confusing. I only recently was able to get my hand on a copy of Hi! Friends, but no one has been able to provide me with a teacher copy and the student one has no words in it.

Honestly, I'm kind of afraid some of the elementary schools don't teach English outside of me being there 4 or 5 times a semester.

word
July 1st, 2014, 12:08
Yeh but you get better at it as time goes on. MG and I tend to carry "elementary bags" in our cars--a bag full of sets of various flashcards, magnetized game pieces, dice, stickers, crayons, construction paper, a rubber ball, etc.

Also, I think new ALTs tend to overthink things initially. One of my old ES's favorite lessons was "paper football," which only took about 10 minutes, required nothing more than scrap paper, provided them nothing of real educational value, but thrilled the JTEs with the cultural exchange aspect.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:09
make notes on each school so you dont have to remember all the details.

phone the VP of the school 2-3 days before and say you will be coming on the XXth for lessons and when is a good time to come in for a meeting? Go to the school before the day of the lessons to find out what the teachers want. HRTs can be cowards so its always better to go over their heads to get results. You may *shock horror* have to go to the schools around 4:30 so it'll eat into your precious lazy JET video games and pizzaman time but it'll make your life a lot easier.

coop52
July 1st, 2014, 12:10
It'll help a lot if you start keeping a notebook of what lessons you did at what school with how many kids and what grade they were in. You can also make notes about kids with special needs. As for the lack of info, unfortunately that's a pretty common problem. I used to have to call of my ES since they'd regularly forget I was even coming to visit. Call up the schools who always forget to send you plans and be like "I didn't get your fax about the next lesson, did you send it?" Use Japanese passive aggressiveness to your advantage.

Namisuke
July 1st, 2014, 12:18
Try some small dances, like the chicken dance or an easy version of the Macarena. Playground or children's party games might work also. I taught my graduating HS kids Heads Up, 7-up when we had a few extra minutes of class and they loved it. Think back to your childhood when your own teachers had a few minutes to kill.

Ditto on keeping track yourself. That's not really the JTE's job and is something you can easily do. I keep a digital file in Excel, but many keep a notebook. Find a system that works for you.

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 12:19
Yeh but you get better at it as time goes on. MG and I tend to carry "elementary bags" in our cars--a bag full of sets of various flashcards, magnetized game pieces, dice, stickers, crayons, construction paper, a rubber ball, etc.

Yes, wow. I need to have one of those. My elementary visits the first two semesters I were here were about one per school per semester. Now that it's almost every week, that will help me out a lot. Thank you!

Ini/Coop...
I'll start keeping better notes from now on! I usually write the activity, but I haven't been detailed enough about the classes. I was trying to take notes in the beginning for JHS, but they weren't really useful at all.

You guys don't think my BOE will be mad at me for calling the school VP directly, do you? I feel like they'd tell me that's overstepping my position.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:21
urgh...The role of the ALT isnt to "kill a few minutes"

If they are really fucking up the 5th and 6th grades as badly as it sounds then you need to talk to the principals and BOE about it.

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 12:22
Try some small dances, like the chicken dance or an easy version of the Macarena. Playground or children's party games might work also. I taught my graduating HS kids Heads Up, 7-up when we had a few extra minutes of class and they loved it. Think back to your childhood when your own teachers had a few minutes to kill.

I've done Hokey Pokey, Chicken Dance, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, and "Hey Joe" (a marching band warm up). Next on my list is the Macarena! The dances are great, but I don't like to do them the whole class because I think the teachers don't see the value they have in terms pronunciation or cross-cultural awareness.

My teachers used to give me logic puzzles to do in school when we had extra time. Or we'd play spoons. I'll have to think of more things like 7-up and figure out a way to put English my kids can use in them. Thank you!

word
July 1st, 2014, 12:23
urgh...The role of the ALT isnt to "kill a few minutes"

If they are really fucking up the 5th and 6th grades as badly as it sounds then you need to talk to the principals and BOE about it.Also, this. If you're just getting five minutes at the end of class to do f*ck-all, then something unfortunate is going on.

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 12:24
If they are really fucking up the 5th and 6th grades as badly as it sounds then you need to talk to the principals and BOE about it.

How.... how would I go about starting that dialogue?

I mean, it is a problem that the kids can't use anything they've learned and they don't know any English they've learned if it's not in katakana, right?

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:28
I feel like they'd tell me that's overstepping my position.

depends what persona you have. if you turn up on your bike in your crocs while twiddling your hair saying you are the new ALT who is super happy to be here this year and you are looking forward to playing lots of games with the cute little children then they will treat you like a dizzy child.

If you rock up in your big man car in grown up clothes swinging your mighty gaikokugo katsudo penis around and spend your time talking to the principals and vice principals while looking down your nose at the lowly new graduate teacher who got the bullied into being the supervisor then they may respect your opinions more. I'm an old man with tobacco stained teeth and natto breath so its easier for me to pull that look off.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:30
How.... how would I go about starting that dialogue?

I mean, it is a problem that the kids can't use anything they've learned and they don't know any English they've learned if it's not in katakana, right?

Ask the principal what the aims of the current english program are and invite him to come watch a few classes so he can give you some input on what you should be doing. stroke his massive ego until he sprays hot retribution all over the faces of the lazy HRTs. If that doesnt work then do the same thing but with the head of the BOE.

Jiggit
July 1st, 2014, 12:41
Do what Ini said or confront the HRTs directly (I would probably just tell them no the second they asked me to do something unreasonable (or reprimand them after the lesson), explain what they should be doing and only after that go over their heads) but absolutely don't just do what they tell you without protest. Japanese workplace culture allows lazy assholes to bully their juniors into doing their work for them and as the ALT you're as junior as it gets if you allow them to treat you that way. So don't. Just this week my teachers all fucked off to Hokkaido without planning 2nd grade classes for the homestay students and just told the new teacher to do it at the last minute. Not OK and I'm going to tell them so.

You have a lot of power as an ALT. If your Japanese sucks you could even try just refusing to go to lessons unless they tell you what the aims of the English program are, what the goals are for the lesson and what they want you to prepare in advance. They would get in trouble more than you and tbh there's no reason for you to worry about being in trouble if you have a reasonable justification.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:46
schools may not like it but you are a BOE employee coming to school as a visiting teacher.

I doubt they say to the school nutritionist when she visits "you have 5 min to kill at the end of the class"

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 12:56
Ask the principal what the aims of the current english program are and invite him to come watch a few classes so he can give you some input on what you should be doing. stroke his massive ego until he sprays hot retribution all over the faces of the lazy HRTs. If that doesnt work then do the same thing but with the head of the BOE.

Wow yes okay. This will certainly be happening.

Just for clarification, should each of the schools have their own idea of what the aim of teaching English is? Or would that be the BOE's responsibility? Or does it depend on my town?

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 12:57
the good towns have it come down from the BOE.

the shoddy ones just leave it up to the schools.

coop52
July 1st, 2014, 13:00
Or worse, leave it up to individual teachers.

BeckyJones
July 1st, 2014, 13:04
Records, Records and more records. Write down about a page of information for each class. Homeroom teacher, subject, topic, students reactions to various things... their levels ect. And has been stated, get yourself a bag of prepared goodies.

Get a copy of the text book, demand one. You should also get a copy of the software they have for Hi Friends. it is crap, but if you carry around a laptop to school with you, you can bust it out and reference the software/ or use it.

Namisuke
July 1st, 2014, 13:10
I don't think our job is to kill time either - unfortunately that's how the OP is treated. However, the things teachers do to kill time in our countries can work nicely as a small activity in English.

I'd talk to the JTEs seriously first before moving up the ladder. It's the system teachers should follow in Canada, and it translates well here. If you have to work together, best try to start out on the friendliest terms. If you're only there once in a blue moon, why not get the most out of the ALT? You can also ask the JTEs what their aim is and ask how you can play into that for the duration of the class and not just the scrap time they make for you.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 13:14
Most elementarys dont have JTEs, only HRTs who have the attitude English isnt a subject, is too hard to teach and not worth bothering with.

BeckyJones
July 1st, 2014, 13:16
Most elementarys dont have JTEs, only HRTs who have the attitude English isnt a subject, is too hard to teach and not worth bothering with.

This shit right here.

If you want something done, or progress to be made in elementary school you have to do it, unless you have a BOE who is pushing it down the HRTs throats. Also, most HRTs will be happy to throw it all in your lap and let you take the reigns of control in ES.

Namisuke
July 1st, 2014, 13:22
More reasons to use the ALT! ^_^

I wish I had 5 minutes a day to play with the little ones! Seeing them around is a rare sight outside school where I live (maybe everywhere). *envying your 5 mins* lol

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 13:25
so the BOE is paying all this money for an ALT so they can play with the ES kids for 5 minutes 4 times a semester? If the treasury department/town council found out about that they would cut the funding immediately.

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 13:37
In fact seeing as you see the kids so little it would make more sense to go to the BOE and explain the situation and suggest your time would be better spent doing stand alone cultural lessons rather than trying to fit into the existing lesson schedule. If they agree they will pass the message down to the schools. That way you'll be guaranteed a full 45min to do what you want rather than trying to make up 5 minute activities to kill time at the end of class. Still communicate with the schools in advance because then you could build the lesson around something relevant that is happening at school at that time (do a lesson on interviewing foreigners if the 6th grade are going on their school trip that month, if they have been doing the momotaro story section of the textbook they could perform their plays for you and then you could do some stuff on folktales from your country etc etc)

Namisuke
July 1st, 2014, 14:01
^ Agreed. There's no real way to make yourself part of the routine of the classroom when you're not there often and don't chat with teachers much. ALTs are a good source for culture and practicing language in a free way where they can take risks and make mistakes. You can always push that aspect and then combine small things they know in engaging activities.

namara.rora
July 1st, 2014, 15:33
Two of my ES actually have dedicated JTEs. One of them is the one giving me the five minutes at the end of class. Luckily the HRTs in my town (with minor exceptions) are pretty happy to offload what they're currently teaching on me, so that works out okay.

I'm going to talk to the teacher about doing more cultural things. I asked my supervisor if she can call the school and set up a meeting for me, so we'll see if that happens. Thank you guys for the suggestions! I'm definitely going to start taking better notes and building up a bag of things to use over and over!

Jiggit
July 1st, 2014, 15:35
Oh god teaching "cultural" lessons to ES students...

therealwindycity
July 1st, 2014, 15:55
? I imagine it goes over a lot better than with high school students. ES students are actually enthusiastic and get excited to learn about other countries

Ini
July 1st, 2014, 15:56
at the moment all ES lessons should technically be cultural lessons....

Jiggit
July 1st, 2014, 15:58
? I imagine it goes over a lot better than with high school students. ES students are actually enthusiastic and get excited to learn about other countries

I guess, it just sounds like hell to me. I have no idea how to make cultural lessons fun and gave up on them a long time ago.

uthinkimlost?
July 1st, 2014, 16:03
I guess, it just sounds like hell to me. I have no idea how to make cultural lessons fun and gave up on them a long time ago.

Really? Those are the lessons my students like best.

Jiggit
July 1st, 2014, 17:18
What do you even do?

uthinkimlost?
July 1st, 2014, 17:34
What do you even do?

I'll pm you later.