It is July! Bring out your umbrellas, stock up on bug spray and strap in for a fun filled adventure of sitting at your desk for 8 straight hours! Yes you, too, can sit in the swampy heat of the rainy season and then endure the boiling hot weather of summer all while writhing at your desk. This is the beautiful pristine dream life of being an ALT in Japan during summer vacation.
Being an ALT in Japan has its advantages. It is a good job with fairly good job security, the job has all the perks of being a teacher without having to run a club, do PTA meetings at 9 PM on a week day or have to manually check tests. But, sometimes there are the drawbacks as well such as not being accepted as an equal no matter how good your Japanese is or how long you have been at the same school/ city.
So, being an English teacher in Japan has its pros and cons, as with everything in life. Around this time of the year is when most ALTs have either unpaid time off where they can go and travel or get part time jobs. Others have to go to school normal hours and if they are lucky they get sent home early. For the latter, what is one to do in the 6-8 hour period; that is the focus for today’s blog.
Many ALTs partake in club activities. Me personally I like to hang out with the art club kids during the summer vacation days so I don’t have to bring 7 changes of clothing, while in the winter I go and practice with the badminton kids. If you are at a school where participation in club activities is prohibited then you need to find different outlets for your time. Cleaning the school, organizing the supply closet or re-doing your English board are all good options.
One thing to avoid as an ALT is to seem like you are doing no work. So look busy no matter what you are doing. There have been many stories over the years of ALTs getting canned because of reading at work, or playing solitaire on the company computer. That is why it is important to always have something to work on.
Some great examples of things to keep ALTs busy is having a monthly themed hallway board. Trying to come up with different themes, and make it interactive can prove to be a challenge after month 4 for many. Another great idea is to start an ALT newspaper so you have an excuse to walk around and talk to students to get their input on the stories you are going to write. Any activity that gets you out and moving in the school and shows your face will show that you are trying to the school, which in turn will be relayed to the BOE and if you are lucky you will have a job the next year.
All in all being and ALT living in Japan can be great fun. However that great fun comes with its price, during the holiday months there can be a lot of free time. It is up to the ALT to learn what the school wants from them, and do what they can to make the school happy. Whether that means playing with students, making a school news paper or just remaining in the office when no one else is there, it is important to be productive and not to waste the time of your school.