Ask Ibaraki JET PAs #015

Question:

How many classes should ALTs teach in a day?

Answer:

Answered by: Emily

Good question! Unfortunately, there is no hard-and fast answer to this. The number of classes an ALT has depends a lot on the needs of their schools and the schedules of their team teachers. Additionally, Japanese school schedules tend to be more fluid than those in western countries. Classes may be cancelled or periods changed when students have exams or if a teacher has a business trip. Sometimes teachers even “borrow” class periods from another subject if they need to make up material. It’s not uncommon for changes like these to be made last minute, and they may affect your schedule as well. If you’ve ever arrived at school and found some of your classes cancelled or periods changed unexpectedly, you’re not alone.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or if you have more classes per day than you have time to prepare for, that’s definitely something you can and should talk about with your supervisor or JTEs. It’s important to approach the topic somewhat delicately (remember that JTEs are often also very, very busy), and it’s probably a good idea to talk to one teacher in private first before bringing it up at a meeting or in a large group.  Some things to consider and communicate about:

Why is the current schedule difficult for you? Often, when ALTs talk about having too many classes, the physical presence in lessons is less a problem than the lack of planning time, or missed opportunities for planning time. Team-taught lessons take much longer to plan than lessons taught alone, so it’s important to have a free period in your schedule to talk to your team-teachers about your lessons. Your JTEs may also not be aware of responsibilities you have outside of your
lessons with them (English club, grading papers, classes for other grades etc), so it’s a good idea to keep your JTEs informed about how you’re spending your time outside of class, and to let your supervisor know any time you’re asked to help out with a class you don’t normally teach.

What are some possible alternatives? If you feel like you don’t have time to plan all the lessons that are asked of you, you might mention to your JTE that you’re happy to help with lessons that they have planned, but that preparing for more lessons yourself would be difficult given your current schedule. It might also be possible to meet with a class on a less frequent basis (eg: once a week instead of twice a week), or to adjust other responsibilities to make more time for the lessons (for example, having a longer turnaround period for checking papers or meeting with English clubs less frequently or for shorter periods of time). Again, it’s a good idea to discuss these things in private with your supervisor or JTE first if you’re feeling overwhelmed, and figure out a way of balancing responsibilities that works for you.

On the other hand, if you’re feeling underutilized, you can always ask your JTEs what you can do to help, or get involved with extracurricular projects. Talk to your supervisor about making an “English Board” in the hallway, or getting motivated students involved in activities like Debate or Interactive Forum, or English Club.

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