Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Night and Day existence of an ALT

Hey Gang -

How are things? I thought I would do a good, old-fashioned text post - no pictures, no vids, just me babbling about something for a few paragraphs. ii desu ka? (OK?) OK, good.

Monday and Tuesday of this week pretty well illustrate the night and day nature of the job of an ALT.

Let me preface with a few facts about my job, in case you are new to my blog or just have forgotten -

I work at one Chugakko (Jr High School). Only one - this is somewhat rare, in that many ALTs are assigned to work at more than one Jr High. But I have the one base school - Taisha JH.
From there, I often leave during the day and go to one of my 5 shogakko (elementary schools). These shogakko visits are all scheduled in advance, and I usually know what lessons will be taught and what will be expected of me at least one day in advance.
There are 6 periods in a school day - most of the time. The Japanese school day starts at roughly 8:30am and goes until 4pm.
So if I have to visit a shogakko and teach two 4th grade classes 3rd and 4th period, then I go to my Jr High in the morning, possibly teach a class first or 2nd period, leave for my shogakko, teach there, and then come back to my Jr High to eat lunch, possibly teach 5th or 6th period, and finish the day.
There are all kinds of exceptions to the above, but you get the idea.
This approach to shogakko visits is also somewhat rare - many of my friends who are ALTs in nearby towns have to go to their elementary school for the entire day anytime they are scheduled to teach at one, regardless of how many classes they will teach that day. This is silly in my opinion, but I digress -so I will save that discussion for another blog.

OK - so now back to Monday the 21st and Tuesday the 22nd.

Monday I had no shoagkko visits planned - so it was a full day at my Jr High. I have a schedule board on my desk, where the 5 English teachers (JTEs) at my school can sign up to have me come to their class. Sitting at my desk on Monday morning at 8am, I noticed that the board was empty in the Monday column save for 5th period, where Moriyama sensei had written in 2-1, meaning that she wanted me to come to Class 1 of the Ni Nen Sei (8th grade) with her after lunch. And that was it.
So from 8:30am until lunch at 12:40, I was supposed to amuse myself. Luckily, I had a bunch of marking to do, let over from the pervious week.

I don't mind having the occasional low-impact day. It makes a nice change from all the days when I'm really busy. But I can see why some ALTs hate it, and if these type of days happen often, you can feel underused.

Friday was a day of big tests for all my Jr High kids -the chukan tests - kinda like mid-term exams back in the States. So all week they were busy studying and preparing, which meant that I didn't have that many classes at my Chugakko and no after school clubs all week, since the kids were supposed to go home and study.

But Tuesday was an exception. I was scheduled to visit my smallest shogakko - Usagi Sho. And by small, I mean the school has 9 students - nine in the whole school! It was my first visit there since the new school year started in April. It takes me about 25 minutes to drive from my chugakko up into the mountains to Usagi Sho. I was supposed to visit for just 2nd period - roughly 9:30am to 10:15am - but the kindergarten teacher wanted me to stop by her class during 3rd period and chat with the 3 kindergarten students for a few minutes. I taught all 9 students (ranging from 1st grade to 5th grade) in the gym during 2nd period - we worked on colors. So at my Jr High, I blocked off 1st thru 3rd periods, indicating that I would be gone those periods at Usagi Sho, factoring in the driving time. And before I left on Monday, periods 4, 5 and 6 for Tuesday were also blovked off by my Jr High teachers. So I taught ichi nen sei (7th graders) 4th period with Toma sensei, my optional English class of 9th graders 5th period and then a regular 9th grade class 6th period. Quite a full day, but it wasn't over.

Once a month I volunteer at the local library, and they have me read big, English picture books to really small kids, usually age 1-6. So I finished 6th period at about 3:30 (we were on a shorter schedule that day - where classes are only 45 minutes long instead of 50 minutes) and then went over to the library where I read books to a roomfull of little kids from 4 to 4:30.

And then a former teacher met me at the library and we chatted in the courtyard for about an hour.

Monday I was a sloth, not really moving that much, and Tuesday I was a cheetah, racing from place to place - doing something different at every new stop.

I'll try to post pics of the kids at Usagi soon. Oh, and Tuesday was also my friend, Ang's, birthday - so Happy Birthday ANG!!

Hope you have a good week - I have to go get some sleep now - tomorrow I'll be riding the bullet train to Kobe.

See ya,

PS - OK, I knda lied - here is one picture - my kids at Usagi Sho :)

Usagi Sho - first visit of 07-08 school year

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