So, it has been two months since I have been in Japan! Time flies by so fast. I wanted to take the time and let yall know what a typical school day is like as an Elementary ALT. I currently have 5 schools (with 10 to 31 students per grade). My schedule changes every week so one school I might see twice a month, while I might see another school 10 times in one month. So, let’s begin:
5:30 to 6:00 – My alarm goes off. It takes me a while to get out of bed in the morning and get ready to be honest. Also, by waking up this early I have time to prepare for school if I didn’t finish it the night before (which is bad I know!). I am also packing up everything I need for the day (balls, flashcards, worksheets, etc.).
7:45 to 8:00 – I am out of the door! How late I leave depends on which school I am going to that day (one school is a 5 min. car ride, while another is 20 min.).
8:20 – I am at my desk at school. During this time I usually make copies of worksheets (its 10 yen per copy at 7-11) or prepare for class. I don’t really chat to other teachers at time as they are all running around trying to get ready for the day as well. Today I am booked—with 6 classes— which is rare for me.
8:50—It is one of my small schools today so the first two periods are with my 5th graders. For a warm-up I ask my students to introduce themselves—a review of our previous classes. Next we begin our next topic: feelings and being able to recognize and respond to “How are you?”. I reinforce the new vocab and target language through games, songs (MUST!), and practicing the dialogue with each other. My Homeroom Teacher (HRT) is very active in this class, trying to motivate the students—which is super helpful. These kids reflect the attitude of their HRT.
9:45— The beginning of my second period with the 5th graders. We review the vocabulary again and do activities within their textbook. This lesson I focus more of the dialogue more than the vocabulary itself. This lesson ends with a 5 minute self-reflection by the students (written in Japanese).
10:30—Most (if not all) schools have a 20 minute recess in between 2nd and 3rd period. And these kids are everywhere! It’s different from the States where (from what I can remember) you have recess outside and you have to stay with your class. In Japan, the kids can go outside, stay in their classroom, or hang out in the hallways. I usually take this time to talk to the students or prepare for my 3rd and 4th periods.
10:50— During break I learn that my third period is cancelled. This happens more often than not. Schools will change schedules on you (remove a class, add a class, and/or combine two classes) and let you know the day-of. It’s important to not let it bother me. But, sometimes it can be difficult if two classes are combined as some lesson plans work for a certain amount of students. So if you go from 30 kids to 60 it can be a little tricky. In any case, I will take this time to either decompress by walking around the school or working on my English board, or I will take this time to create lesson plans for my next upcoming schools.
11:45—The fourth period is with my very rowdy 3rd graders. This class is larger and louder than the 5th grade. Both the HRT and I are trying to calm the kids down, telling the students to quiet down multiple times. Which takes time away from the lesson itself. For classes this rowdy, I will stop the lesson until the quiet down—which they don’t like. They want to do the activities and play the games. More often than not the kids are interested in English! So, it’s important that I try my best as an ALT. We finish all the activities but, I am a little drained by now.
12:35—LUNCH TIME! Students do not eat in a large cafeteria; rather, they eat in their classrooms (with their HRTs). The kids deliver and serve the food themselves. Each week a different set of students are chosen to prepare, serve, and clean up the lunches. Which I think is awesome—it builds a sense of community within their classrooms. Also, during lunchtime announcements are made (by students) regarding what we are having for lunch that day as well as how and where it was produced. Nine times out of ten consists of rice, milk, soup/veggies, and meat/fish. Today is my lucky day! No natto. I tried it once (it comes with seaweed and cheese) and I just can’t do it. I can’t. I am usually assigned a classroom to eat lunch with and today I am assigned to the 4th graders. This can be awkward for me sometimes. Because their English is limited and my Japanese is limited—I am unsure what to do sometimes. So, I have had times where I barely speak and some times where I speak a lot. It just depends.
1:10—After finishing lunch, the students brush their teeth (sometimes they are timed) and clean up the bowls, trays, chopsticks, etc. Next, is cleaning time—where the kids go to their cleaning area. In these areas (hallways, English room, bathroom, etc.) they pick up (sweep and mop the floors, clean blackboards, clean bathroom floors, sweep the steps, etc.). I rarely join in and help with their cleaning—I am usually cleaning up my desk in the teacher’s room or cleaning up my desk in my English room.
1:30—The kids have another recess. I usually stay inside but, I know that some ALTs go outside and play with the students.
1:55—During the fifth period I am with my 6th grade students. They are learning about the alphabet this week, “How many?” and “Do you have~”. The first thing I do is review last week with a “quiz”. Nothing too difficult. With the 6th graders it’s also important to use activities/games, songs, etc.
2:50—Last class of the day! Another class with my 6th grade students.
4:00—The kids are gone by this time. Around 4:30 there is usually a teacher meeting which can last from 10 minutes to an hour—and, sometimes I am asked to leave while they are having the meeting and come back later. Either way, I usually work on lesson plans for my next schools during this time as well. I do this as I don’t want to work on anything when I get home. If the meeting is short, I sometimes chat with my teachers but, more times than not, they are busy or having individual meetings. By 4:45 I pack up and go home, but most of the teachers are still there. Sometimes the teacher stay at school until 6:00!
Whelp, that’s a glimpse into one of my days. But, due to changes in schedule and differences in schools it varies. For example, today I only had two classes. The rest of the time I was either preparing lesson plans, watching 運動会 practice, or assisting with the set-up for the 運動会 (which is tomorrow).
What’s difficult for me is my inexperience in being an ALT, I worry that I am not doing enough or I am not doing the right thing. There is so much that I worry about to be honest. But, I will still try to do my best and there are things that I need to work on (like spending time outside during recess with the kids, for example). But I can’t be doing that bad, there are kids that try to speak to me in English or tell me they enjoy class. It makes me really happy. Hopefully English will become fun for them, not just some boring foreign language class.