All too often, the lives of ALTs follow such a different rhythm from that of Japanese school life. As a result, ALTs end up sitting isolated at their desks while the currents of Japanese school pass them by.
Here are some examples of scheduling problems.
- For example, the rest of the staff is gearing up for a school festival, but the ALT's schedule says that the day before the festival, it will be time for the ALT to go to a new school.
- Or the rest of the staff is relaxing at an enkai after a sport's day, enjoying the knowledge that the next day will be a daikyu, but the ALT is stressed because s/he has to visit an elementary school in the morning.
- Or the students are excited for an upcoming competition, but the ALT can't feel excited because work ends before students start practice and the ALT's weekend is filled with events with other ALTs.
These problems have various causes.
- BoE out of touch. Your BoE and schools probably don't communicate closely. So, your BoE might not know if their schedule is creating a problem. And even if they do, they might not know a good solution. The ALT's role is often ambiguous, especially to the BoE.
- ALT laziness. Sometimes you need to talk to the scheduling people at your school. And to do that maybe you need an English teacher to help translate. That's irritating, so sometimes you don't do it. Or, sometimes you don't know what is best, so you don't do anything.
- No money. ALTs are expensive, and schools cut corners, so maybe you have to teach at more schools than is reasonable. As a result, it is hard to be in close contact with the schools and teachers.
- Cultural differences. Japanese working life combines work and play together, whereas many ALTs separate work from play. Because what is play for Japanese people can be frustrating work for ALTs, our mental health might deteriorate if forced to use Japanese-style schedules. Unfortunately, because Japanese workers tend to be goofing off every other minute as opposed to working hard for many consecutive minutes, and then goofing off for many consecutive minutes, it is difficult to provide ALTs with time to relax while at the same time providing them with the opportunity to work hard in the schools.
It is important for both ALTs and BoEs to put renewed effort into solving the problems that face us.
- If you're lazy, don't be so lazy. ALTs are often lazy because they think no one will listen if you try to solve your problems. But over time, usually some people will listen and help you, within reason.
- If your BoE is out of the loop, talk to them more. Tell them about school some, and ask them what they expect out of you. The clearer goals the BoE has about its ALT, the better those goals can be accomplished.
In the end, your job is going to be flexible. After all, promoting grassroots internationalization has a thousand faces. So, it's your job to figure out how you want to be effective.