This article was originally published by Tofugu and has been edited for length. You can read the full version online here. Photo - Tofugu
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO ALT!
VERITY LANE (HOKKAIDO)
Summer is almost here, bringing with it sweltering heat, limited edition Crunky ice cream bars, and a whole new flock of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers). Soon you and other ALTs will be scattered across the Japanese countryside, about to be faced with your first classes. Three years ago I found myself in front of a class of 40 high school kids for the first time. I’d worked with children before (though they tended to throw things at me rather than sit silently staring.) This was a whole different situation. So I’ve written this slightly unconventional guide to ALT-ing so you can learn from my mistakes. This is a mix of practical tips and some more abstract ones that will hopefully help you get through the first few weeks. ALTing and the Art of Improv If 36
orientation for new ALTs, I’d replace almost all the talks with three days of improv classes. “Every situation is different,” is the realistic but often frustrating refrain heard at these orientations. Okay, so all your situations are going to be different. Then let’s learn how to improvise to suit any of them! Mostly I’m talking about a mindset (though some improv games can also be adapted very neatly into English games too.) The most important one of these I think is the, “Yes, and…” mentality. In the classic improv game, you have to accept what your partner says (“Yes,”). Then you add your own element to the story or performance (“and…”). It’s a practice in positivity and rolling with whatever comes your way.
reach for the “Yes, and…” When a kid says something a bit weird, cheeky, or even rude, just “Yes, and…” them.
When a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) asks you to do something strange, (“Please talk about [random thing],”)
I suddenly became a much, much better ALT one gloomy day in October. I only had to change one thing—my face. After I arrived in August I
Kid: “You became fat.” Me: “Yes, and I’m practicing sumo.” This attitude will help keep you from the nightmare situation of being flustered in front of class. It does take practice, but it is something you can learn. “Yes, and…” doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything. You can “No, but..” instead. The important thing is accepting that you’ve been told something and adding your own information. Smile Until Your Face Falls Off
This issue, created special for the incoming JETs set to arrive this summer, is full of information about getting settled in and involved in...