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Help Towards More Culturally Responsive Classroom Management
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Tsian



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not quite sure then what you are trying to argue, Kinon. I think a lot of discussion has centered around licensing, not ethnicity or citizenship.

Your French teacher was almost certainly certified to teach in Texas, right?


Glenski: I've certainly seen teachers (especially in HS) employ mild forms of corporal punishment (in one case, quite literally a stick).
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tsian wrote:
I'm not quite sure then what you are trying to argue, Kinon. I think a lot of discussion has centered around licensing, not ethnicity or citizenship.


We need to wait for Japanology to chime in, but my understanding is that Japanology was saying, "ALTs in Japan don't have teaching licenses. I have a teaching license, and this is my country. Why shouldn't the Japanese students listen to me?" The seeming answer is, "because you're not Japanese."

Quote:
Your French teacher was almost certainly certified to teach in Texas, right?


Teachers, and I know they had to be certified, and I assume they were certified for Texas. I don't know. I also think, because I ran into the one from Marseilles about a year ago, that they both have citizenship now. I'm nearly certain they were not citizens when I was in high school.

This is immaterial, because I am saying the issue with ALTs.... Well, pretty much all the issues with ALTs stem from the lack of certification/licensing in any country.

If Japan were serious about native speakers having a true pedagogical impact on students, they would either 1) recognise the native speakers credentials or 2) create, maintain, and support a system whereby ALTs are student teachers taking coursework which eventually will gain them Japanese teaching licenses.

Do you know how many out of work JHS and HS English teachers there are in Texas? A lot. Most school districts are in a hiring freeze and those that aren't (like the East Texas school which offered to hire me if I completed my certification, which would have taken a single summer) are offering terrible, terrible salaries. I was offered $18K to start. Now you know why I am in Japan...

Imagine if those certified, qualified teachers could come to Japan and use their expertise to have a positive impact...


Last edited by Kionon on Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:43 am; edited 2 times in total
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Tsian



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Or, perhaps more realistically, they could create programs to have ALTs (or whoever) take the regular coursework that any Japanese student striving for a teaching license does. Of course, nothing is stopping ALTs (or anyone else, for that matter) from enrolling in and taking the courses necessary to obtain a Japanese teaching license.

What is more a problem (if it is your goal to see more non-Japanese citizens teaching as full fledged teachers) is that, as it stands, you can't be hired as a regular teacher in a public school if you don't have Japanese citizenship.
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tsian wrote:
Or, perhaps more realistically, they could create programs to have ALTs (or whoever) take the regular coursework that any Japanese student striving for a teaching license does. Of course, nothing is stopping ALTs (or anyone else, for that matter) from enrolling in and taking the courses necessary to obtain a Japanese teaching license.


That's exactly what I said. It'd be nice if they did create a program to have ALTs, who are already in schools, to take the regular coursework that any Japanese student striving for a teaching license does.

There are currently no resources for ALTs who wish to do this. How do I know? Because I'm living it.

Quote:
What is more a problem (if it is your goal to see more non-Japanese citizens teaching as full fledged teachers) is that, as it stands, you can't be hired as a regular teacher in a public school if you don't have Japanese citizenship.


This is not true. It is an often repeated "truism," but it it is false. Non-citizens cannot be placed in supervising positions, that is supervising coworkers. They cannot be a vice principal or principal. They cannot be a section chief. They can have municipal positions.

This was decided in the case of a non-Japanese municipal employee who sued her agency because she kept being passed over for promotion. The Supreme Court of Japan ruled that her non-citizenship was valid grounds for refusal to promote, but she kept her position, and the SCJ never indicated the position itself was illegal.

A further note, national employment is definitely out. Also worth noting you would need to find a BoE willing to do this. I imagine many if not most would trot out the same exact "truism" even if case law says otherwise.
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Tsian



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kionon: Can't you just enroll in correspondence or take a leave and become a student (and enroll in a regular bachelor's program)?

I guess I would appreciate having special resources available, but is that something that the government should put its resources into, I wonder.

As for being hired... I did not know that... I thought that Japanese citizenship was still required in order to take the placement exam. Thanks for that info!
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 7:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tsian wrote:
Kionon: Can't you just enroll in correspondence or take a leave and become a student (and enroll in a regular bachelor's program)?


Yes! You can. However it has taken years of digging for me to figure out how to do this. It's not something that generally comes in the ALT packet.

It also isn't the case that it's just like entering as a regular student. You're only completing whatever courses you don't have on your original bachelor's. There are only a few universities that offer this. Nihon Daigaku and Bukkyo Daigaku seem to be most common. Correspondence courses are, from all accounts, more difficult than the lectures, which are aimed at your Japanese colleagues and thus they presume you've already taken the hellish entrance exams are on smooth-cruising mode like the J-students. However, it may still be difficult, if like me, your kanji sucks. I'm a good several months of hardcore studying from being able to follow along in the lectures, and even longer from being willing to do the correspondence courses.

I am, however, willing to put in the required effort. I really wanted to take Japanese courses here at the local university, but I can't find a section that is at night, and my ALT duties prevent it.

Quote:
I guess I would appreciate having special resources available, but is that something that the government should put its resources into, I wonder.


I think it would be largely because it is my opinion that the J-governments throw good money after bad on the ALT system. I just don't think we're effective because we're not (as a whole) qualified to be effective. Maybe the other ALTs without an education background will disagree with me, but I feel after my own years in Japan, I have helped a few individual students, but as part of the ALT system, I have been largely neutralised.

Quote:
As for being hired... I did not know that... I thought that Japanese citizenship was still required in order to take the placement exam. Thanks for that info!


It's one of those things you run into repeatedly on forums like this which make you just want the bang your head against the wall. My previous BoE had a non-Japanese female JTE about five years back, and if I can get my own stuff together, they already said they'd sponsor me for a temporary. So that's one BoE that knows they can hire non-Japanese citizens. I also know an Australian in Wakayama who did the same thing. ALT to JTE. He's even a homeroom teacher.

In fact, if you have enough experience and education, and you're willing to spend a ridiculous amount of time doing paperwork, you can get a special license, and it works for both public and private schools. They are the 中学校教諭特別免許状 and 高等学校教諭特別免許状 for JHS and HS respectively. A public school can sponsor you (or, I presume, so can the entire BoE).
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kionon,
I am getting mixed signals here about where you are coming from. It almost seems as if you are saying, on one hand, that most ALTs cannot and should not be involved in disciplining students, yet on the other hand you seem to be saying that your western course(s) in child psych (and education degree) make you qualified.

I strongly disagree if that is what you meant. You missed my point entirely from my last post.

Your child psych course(s) and anything else are based on western thinking and social mores. You should realize (and I'm rather surprised that your writing doesn't show) that it's more than just being a teen. Japan has its own form of punishing and admonishing students, and that is not like the west. Most of it, from what I've been able to glean (from a J wife and child and from 4 years FT in HS here) is based largely on shame.

Has that actually won out over classroom chaos (a term I hope you are familiar with)? No.
Does it mean that other methods are needed in those instances? Maybe.
Does it mean that western child psych is going to prevail? I seriously doubt it, especially when practiced by a foreigner. let alone one who has only a limited time here. No offense, but I really think you underestimate yourself on this one. Your willingness to help is admirable but misplaced, IMO.

Tsian wrote:
Glenski: I've certainly seen teachers (especially in HS) employ mild forms of corporal punishment (in one case, quite literally a stick).
I've seen plenty worse, but I don't know why you chose to bring this up.
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ssjup81



Joined: 15 Jun 2009
Posts: 572
Location: Tendo, Yamagata, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kionon wrote:
ssjup81 wrote:
Glenski wrote:
Most ALTs certainly don't.
Kionon wrote:
Almost all don't because they have no education background.
I actually agree with Glenski on this one.
I'm not disagreeing with Glenski. I am agreeing with him. We're just disagreeing on why we agree.

Yes, ALTs are unqualified. They are unqualified because they do not have the proper education or training, nor any certification/licensing which would make the claims that they do.
That's not what I'm saying...technically. What I'm saying is that it's not often that the situation would come up. I, for instance, know how to "discipline" in an American classroom (having worked in them), but Japan is different. For one, an ALT isn't supposed to be left in the classroom alone, hence not in a position TO discipline. I said that ALTs probably lack disciplining in a Japanese classroom because it's not their job to discipline. It's the JTE's job to handle it, or you either go to the problem child's homeroom teacher, if that is the case regarding JHS and HS.
Quote:
You're an ALT,
No, not this time. I work at an Eikaiwa this time around, so I am in a position to discipline if the situation comes up since I'm in control. I already have guidelines and rules that I expect the students to follow.
Quote:
did you go to school to be a teacher in your home country? Most likely, you did not. And if you did, do you not find the restrictions on your role to be uncomfortable?
I did a minor in Education for my BA. I was going to go back for my MA in ES teaching, but work prevented that (back in America, btw). I had 12-hour workdays. Anyway, I didn't find my role to be uncomfortable because I knew what my role was. I was there to "assist" the teacher with English. The disciplining of the students was the JTE's job, not mine, unless asked to assist in doing so and that was an extreme rarity.
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski wrote:
I am getting mixed signals here about where you are coming from. It almost seems as if you are saying, on one hand, that most ALTs cannot and should not be involved in disciplining students, yet on the other hand you seem to be saying that your western course(s) in child psych (and education degree) make you qualified.


That's pretty much on the button.

Quote:
I strongly disagree if that is what you meant. You missed my point entirely from my last post.


Quite possibly. If so, I apologise.

Quote:
Your child psych course(s) and anything else are based on western thinking and social mores. You should realize (and I'm rather surprised that your writing doesn't show) that it's more than just being a teen. Japan has its own form of punishing and admonishing students, and that is not like the west. Most of it, from what I've been able to glean (from a J wife and child and from 4 years FT in HS here) is based largely on shame.


I'm not sure I agree with that given my own experiences with shame-punishment and team-punishment.

Quote:
Has that actually won out over classroom chaos (a term I hope you are familiar with)? No.
Does it mean that other methods are needed in those instances? Maybe.
Does it mean that western child psych is going to prevail? I seriously doubt it, especially when practiced by a foreigner. let alone one who has only a limited time here. No offense, but I really think you underestimate yourself on this one. Your willingness to help is admirable but misplaced, IMO.


You mean overestimate myself, I gather.

Let's be frank, Glenski, most of this is talk and will remain talk. This is how (and where) I blow off steam about the flaws I see in a system I want very much to improve. I'm idealistic, but I'm also not foolish enough to think I can ride in on my white horse and fix everything. I do think, however, that constant dialogue about these issues means I (and others) can make very slow, glacial paced, incremental changes that might have a net positive benefit. I don't think this is a bad thing.

SSJup81, if you were able to play TA to a JTE without significant discomfort, you have a thicker skin than I do. It also sounds like your role as TA was presented to you on day one. This is not how the position was sold to me. I honestly came to Japan with the (incorrect) view that I was going to be co-teaching with Japanese colleagues and that my fellow ALTs would have similar backgrounds as I did. You can imagine my shock when I found out that the latter wasn't true, and I had to work hard to convince my JTEs that the former should be true (which it eventually was).

We're getting tons of crosstalk here, but I'll tell you, this week I have a number of lessons where I am the main teacher. Yes, ALTs can't be left alone, so there will be a rotating cast of teachers in the back, but the lessons are mine. If the class starts to get out of control, am I just supposed to sit and wait for the Japanese teacher to take control? I guess you would say yes, but that will undermine my authority and make it more difficult to get the students to focus on me--the source of the lesson.

If the students know I have no power, how can I expect them to listen to me?
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Cool Teacher



Joined: 18 May 2009
Posts: 891
Location: Here, There and Everywhere! :D

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When it comes to disicipline I like to be friendly with students most of the tiem including out of the classroom and mayeb especially out of the classroom but then if they cross the line I get angry! Twisted Evil I tell them I will keep the bad ones back during the Kyukeijikan and they will have no time to play. Twisted Evil Sometimes though you need to tell the home room teacher. If you have a good one they help but sometimes they are too tired to be bothered. I suggest you write down the problems the students have as soon as you can. Sometimes you need to have it in case it becomes he says she says. If you have the documents you can more easitly stand your ground if there is a problem. Cool
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ssjup81



Joined: 15 Jun 2009
Posts: 572
Location: Tendo, Yamagata, Japan

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 1:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kionon wrote:
SSJup81, if you were able to play TA to a JTE without significant discomfort, you have a thicker skin than I do.
I guess it's due to the fact that discipline was never an issue for me. Like I said, it was a rarity and I was never really left to teach on my own (which did bug me some, but I don't like to cause conflict). I was allowed to do some things on my own, but the JTE was always there...with the exception of one tie where the JTE for the second-year class at the tie was running late, and he wanted me to start the class off for him because he was over at the nearby ES (I tagged along but left early to go back to the JHS). I had no discipline problems from the class so there was no need for it or for me to have to administer it.

The only time I was literally fully on my own, was when I had to go to the ES, and with that, the teacher was always there and I always discussed ahead of time what I was going to do with said teacher of said class a couple of days prior.
Quote:
It also sounds like your role as TA was presented to you on day one.
Maybe...but when I think "assistant", that's how I approached it. As an "assistant". I did give my input and ideas as to how to present certain material and such to the teachers (mostly the first and third-year JTEs).
Quote:
This is not how the position was sold to me. I honestly came to Japan with the (incorrect) view that I was going to be co-teaching with Japanese colleagues and that my fellow ALTs would have similar backgrounds as I did.
Well, this probably falls under the ESID situation. It all depends on the actual JTE you're working with. I know I've mentioned it on this site someplace, but when I did work as an ALT at the JHS, I worked best with the first-year teacher (who also had two of the second-year English classes). He actually utilized me well, and was very flexible (hence his letting me lead class 2-4 when he was running late doing a lesson at the ES). With his classes, he allowed me to give my input, do corrections on the spot (even for him) and other things. He was the only one I can actually say I "co-taught" with. The other two teachers, not so much. The second-year teacher seemed to forget I was there and the third-year only kept me around to help keep his trouble-making students awake.

Personally, after my experience there...I really didn't want to do ALT work for a while because of the second and third year teachers and their approaches and how I did feel unaccomplished some days.

Aside from my contract ending and my uncle's untimely death, I went back home to go back to school, but then I got a job at a childcare center that took up a huge chunk of my time. Then that job went out the window, then I started working on my online TEFL cert (since I was unable to finish my CELTA [Darn hospital visit -_-]) and then I was offered a job at the eikaiwa I'm at now. I really didn't want to do ALT work anymore because I wanted more control over what I could do...so I guess, in a way, you're sorta right...
Quote:
You can imagine my shock when I found out that the latter wasn't true, and I had to work hard to convince my JTEs that the former should be true (which it eventually was).

We're getting tons of crosstalk here, but I'll tell you, this week I have a number of lessons where I am the main teacher. Yes, ALTs can't be left alone, so there will be a rotating cast of teachers in the back, but the lessons are mine. If the class starts to get out of control, am I just supposed to sit and wait for the Japanese teacher to take control? I guess you would say yes, but that will undermine my authority and make it more difficult to get the students to focus on me--the source of the lesson.
I wish you loads of luck, and I feel that you're lucky to even have the opportunity to have that much control.
Quote:
If the students know I have no power, how can I expect them to listen to me?
I never had that problem. They listened to me, and I guess it's due to the fact that the ground rules were already set...I guess.
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Japanology



Joined: 17 May 2012
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 3:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow - this is great feedback and discussion.

Kionon Wrote:
Quote:
Let's be frank, Glenski, most of this is talk and will remain talk. This is how (and where) I blow off steam about the flaws I see in a system I want very much to improve. I'm idealistic, but I'm also not foolish enough to think I can ride in on my white horse and fix everything. I do think, however, that constant dialogue about these issues means I (and others) can make very slow, glacial paced, incremental changes that might have a net positive benefit. I don't think this is a bad thing.



I couldn't agree more. Sometimes getting at a good picture of what we're working with is the best starting point to change. Thanks for this Kionon.

Kionon also wrote:
Quote:
We need to wait for Japanology to chime in, but my understanding is that Japanology was saying, "ALTs in Japan don't have teaching licenses. I have a teaching license, and this is my country. Why shouldn't the Japanese students listen to me?" The seeming answer is, "because you're not Japanese."


Yes- Kionons right. This was the direction I was going in. It appears my classroom management model cannot replicate the Japanese Teacher's due to the fact that I'm not Japanese. Well - there's not a heckofalot I can do about that is there? OK fine - but what irks me is - if they need me then why don't the Japanese Influencers help a brotha out with this. The approach seems highly apathetic though and even, shall I dare say, somewhat proud of this. If so, this hurts me and it hurts learning.

Picture a student during homeroom talking aloud to the teacher expressing his crosscultural confusions ...

"Mr. Westerner English teacher said this to us and then he did that and then this and after we were like that"

... and then the Homeroom teacher twists up his face in disgust or in a way that confirms their culturally confused perceptions.

This is total rapport killer for us - and this, I'm afraid, is what may be happening. Therefore - lack of student respect and good classroom management for us. Can I prove it? No. Are my instincts ringing ... somewhat.

Glenski Wrote:
Quote:
Japan has its own form of punishing and admonishing students, and that is not like the west. Most of it, from what I've been able to glean (from a J wife and child and from 4 years FT in HS here) is based largely on shame.


I think this is very important point to consider for this topic. I've seen this too - actually this is pretty much all I've seen in regards to individual discipline along with the teary eyed students looking at the floor. This classroom management technique is for me, and probably most everyone else, an unreplicable Japanese classroom management technique. The Japanese language level for this is so high. And no - a Japanese teacher cannot help us do this. And if this is the main technique - what can we really expect from our Japanese colleagues to do in order to help us with CM? I will keep this in mind before I'm quick to judge them on what I somewhat perceive as them being apathetic to our CM stresses.

Kionon Wrote:
Quote:
It also sounds like your role as TA was presented to you on day one. This is not how the position was sold to me. I honestly came to Japan with the (incorrect) view that I was going to be co-teaching with Japanese colleagues


Let's not forget the research study I referenced a few posts back that indicated the double language discrepancy that seems highly intentional in regards to ALTs job descriptions. In English, it was "Assistant Language Teacher" but in Japanese, it was "Assistant TO Language Teacher". Others have shared your confusion Kionon.

Glenski also wrote:
Quote:
Think about it. It's not the students who perceive that teachers with J education should be disciplining them.

J parents who hear about foreigners disciplining their children in public schools will probably not like it, nor should they.


Yes, I agree, I don't think the students are really aware of teacher licensing and the such. However, I'm very interested in hearing more about your opinion on the second part you wrote about the parents view - "nor should they " Please will you elaborate on this?


Kionon also wrote:
Quote:
Japanology has certification. Japanology should be able to discipline his/her own students. That just seems obvious to me.


Thanks Kionon. This is my initial take on this too. However, I am beginning to entertain the idea that I can't do the "Shame system" - I can't speak Japanese. And therefore, I might just end up, I don't know, scaring the student, and then, the student relates the trauma, so to speak, to English learning - and freezes up on it, therefore affecting future motivation. It can be a delicate issue. And this, I can see how the parents might see things. Fair enough - but do you really think the parents are looking at it like this? That is giving them alot of educational psychological credit. But, then again, maybe so ....
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kionon wrote:
Glenski wrote:
Your child psych course(s) and anything else are based on western thinking and social mores. You should realize (and I'm rather surprised that your writing doesn't show) that it's more than just being a teen. Japan has its own form of punishing and admonishing students, and that is not like the west. Most of it, from what I've been able to glean (from a J wife and child and from 4 years FT in HS here) is based largely on shame.


I'm not sure I agree with that given my own experiences with shame-punishment and team-punishment.
Lay it on us. What were those? You seem reticent to put this in the open.

Quote:
You mean overestimate myself, I gather.
Yes, that is the correct word. And from your last post you left out some mighty important details.

And, no, this is not "talk". These are facts and you still seem bound and determined to come here and take on a role that you are not suited for (the same as other ALTs who are not Japanese).

Quote:
I'm idealistic, but I'm also not foolish enough to think I can ride in on my white horse and fix everything.
That's partly how you portray yourself, however. As for making "incremental changes" for the better, IMO that's a big maybe. It's going to take a concerted effort among the majority of ALTs, and frankly I don't see that happening. Most aren't here for very long, and most do not share your background or attitude.

Thinks won't change unless the Japanese change significantly. You probably can help to make them more aware of certain usefulness of an ALT, but only one who knows what they are doing based on teacher training and experience. I know direct BOE hires up here who have been in the system for 1-2 decades (and in just this one area), yet they are struggling as most newbies do. It's the system that is against them.

Quote:
We're getting tons of crosstalk here, but I'll tell you, this week I have a number of lessons where I am the main teacher. Yes, ALTs can't be left alone, so there will be a rotating cast of teachers in the back, but the lessons are mine. If the class starts to get out of control, am I just supposed to sit and wait for the Japanese teacher to take control? I guess you would say yes, but that will undermine my authority and make it more difficult to get the students to focus on me--the source of the lesson.
Just how much authority do you feel you can demonstrate in an unruly classroom? Yes, it's the JTE's role, not yours (and especially as an Interac employee, not a direct BOE hire).

Undermine your authority? As an assistant with less than perfect Japanese and not a lot of time spent in the culture (business culture as well as social), you really don't have a lot. Don't say that you do just because you are sometimes left alone in a class. That's not even supposed to happen, so let's deal with the majority of situations.

Quote:
If the students know I have no power, how can I expect them to listen to me?
They already know you have no power. (I could regale you with stories about the school I worked in to prove my point. Essentially, whatever grades we gave were subject to adjustment to fit a prescribed quota of scores that the school desired. In some cases, the scores given were not even used.) Many students will not be able to listen to you because of your weak J language skills and their poor ability to understand any English you utter. (I have that even at the uni level, BTW.) Some respond poorly even to a JTE! If you get the chance, listen to how a JTE scolds kids with a stern voice -- it often comes across with a Kansai dialect or almost yakuza tone. Foreigners may find it pretty hard to mimic that, IMO.

Add to all that the fact that there is no academic probation, no corporal punishment, no accounting for their actions. Classes are ruled (if they can be) by a system of teacher rules. Foreigners are not seen as true teachers to most students. Why do you think it's so hard to get students to answer direct questions or to volunteer to answer in class? It's not the way they have learned to interact with their JTEs. Why do you think so many JTEs allow students to sleep in classes? Because they will get passed along to the next class anyway, and in the meantime be given teacher support on the side until the JTE is blue in the face. (Try understanding how a JTE can give the same test to a student 7 times and still let them advance although they failed each time, or how students whose grades were so miserable that the only way for them to pass the course to graduate was to tell them to copy a page in English without making mistakes, and then letting some of them graduate anyway despite the mistakes. These are real cases, and this is the way the system runs here.)

JTEs and especially HR teachers are more than teachers. They are counselors and surrogate parents, far beyond what you may ever see back home. The social system here is totally different from back home. Solo teachers and ALTs need to try to understand how it works and adapt to it as best they can, but it's very tough and often self-defeating. I learned a lot from working as a solo teacher in a private HS/JHS, and much of what I'm trying to convey comes from that.
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Tsian



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2012 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glenski: Sorry, I think my question was a little late to the game, but was in response to your comments regarding "no corporal punishment" Sorry if it seemed out of left field!

Kionon: While I can understand frustration at not being given the opportunity to take the "easier" on-campus classes (of course, you could enroll in an education department and withdrawal once you had the certification), I'm still not sure I see the problem.

If my Japanese level is not good enough to be able to look for and find correspondence class options, then how can I realistically expect myself to be able to complete them (or, for that matter, to act as a full-fledged teacher handling parent meetings, class activities and staff meetings).

But I do completely understand your want to improve a flawed system, and I share your desire to vent on occasion.


Japanology: That sounds overall like a rather shitty situation in which the Japanese teachers are attempting to undermine your authority. I suppose it stems from them wanting to run the school in a "Japanese" way, and where that butts heads with the training you've had. But still, hardly an acceptable way to handle a disagreement in discipline styles. Wow.
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 12:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tsian wrote:
Kionon: While I can understand frustration at not being given the opportunity to take the "easier" on-campus classes (of course, you could enroll in an education department and withdrawal once you had the certification), I'm still not sure I see the problem.


I'm not sure I follow. Temporary licenses are only good for three years and cannot be renewed. My understanding (and I think Glenski had one) is that for someone like me, the expectation would be that in that three years I would complete my education courses and do what was required to get the full license. What would be the point of withdrawing from the courses? I still need them on a Japanese transcript.

Quote:
If my Japanese level is not good enough to be able to look for and find correspondence class options, then how can I realistically expect myself to be able to complete them (or, for that matter, to act as a full-fledged teacher handling parent meetings, class activities and staff meetings).


Not sure if this was in response to me directly or just thinking aloud. I know exactly where to find the correspondence class options. I don't think my reading and writing are yet to the level where I can adequately do the required 論文 for the correspondence courses. The brick and mortar courses are apparently an entirely different magnitude of easy, at least from the people I've spoken to who have gone through this process. It just isn't feasible for everyone, especially those living out in the sticks, to take the lecture courses.

As for acting as a teacher handling parent meetings (I've done a few, it was really hard!), class activities (like?) and staff meetings (been in plenty of these, and again, following along was hard!). About the only thing I think isn't hard for me is actually being in the classroom and teaching the material in the lesson. I'm not trying to sound like out-of-classroom activities are easy for me. They are absolutely not. However, I am trying to impress upon people that I actively try to tackle these responsibilities when they have been given to me, and legal or not, "normal" or not, they have been. Maybe I'm the exception that proves the rule, I don't know, as I've obviously only experienced my own experiences. What I do know is if I had just been Mr. Lazy-ALT my Japanese would probably really suck, and I would probably not be as happy as I am. Pure conjecture.

This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I think a lot of the comments I receive questioning my experiences stem from a surprise that I would even want to be a JTE/HRT. Which, of course, shows a systemic flaw in the whole ALT experience. Why am I odd man out?

Glenski wrote:
Lay it on us. What were those? You seem reticent to put this in the open.


Not at all. I was just brief. I didn't presume you wanted my whole life story. However, I am very familiar, personally, with shame tactics and guilt trips. I'm a mix of private and public education. My private education, elementary and junior high school, was made up of Roman Catholic parochial schools. My fourth grade teacher was Franciscan monk. My seventh grade homeroom teacher was a nun. I could definitely go into specifics, but I think you get the picture. The experiences were fairly stereotypical (aside from rapping knuckles on rulers, although the principal did have a paddle with holes in it on his wall. If it was more than a threat, I don't know. I certainly never acted up to the point it was used on me). Plenty of individual shaming and team punishment in my childhood.

High school was public, and seems to be more in line with current scholarship and pedagogy. In general, my own training stressed that this was no longer the acceptable view of punishment by most Western educational scholars. There's been a move, at least in public schools, to steer far away from this sort of individual, or even group, invalidation. Most of the literature I studied suggests it does more harm than good. However, I still grew up with exactly that kind "let's make fun of the student, let's make the student feel bad, let's make the student view themselves as a failure to the class and to the wider society, and let's punish the entire class for the behavioral problems of the few" mentality. Nothing I've seen in Japanese classrooms (aside from Constitutionally disallowed corporal punishment) surprises me or is something I have not experienced myself.

Heck, in my JHS, we didn't even move classrooms for every class, and we had cubbies in the back of the class for our bags! Given the views of "American schools," my Japanese students were always surprised to learn I wore a uniform, I had a homeroom teacher, I had a homeroom, and it had cubbies. Except for the constant refrains of "JESUS!" the experience was remarkably similar.

Quote:
And, no, this is not "talk". These are facts and you still seem bound and determined to come here and take on a role that you are not suited for (the same as other ALTs who are not Japanese).


Facts? What facts? Sounds to me like you're drinking the 日本人論 kool-aid, Glenski. No offense intended, because I think you are experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful, but these are opinions, not facts. The idea that I am not suited (or capable?) of being a main or solo teacher of English as a foreign language to Japanese students is an opinion. One we disagree on.

What if I finally do get my Japanese teaching license? Does this additional training and education make me "suited," or does my "unsuitedness" solely hinge on my non-Japaneseness? If the latter, that's simply ethnocentrism if not racism, and to understate the matter, that's not cool.

Quote:
That's partly how you portray yourself, however.


Fair enough assessment. However, clearly I don't go storming into the Ministry of Education making the kind of claims I make here, even if I often wish I could. I think everyone here should take my idealism with a grain of salt and rightly assume that if I have a good relationship with my JTEs, school administrators, and (at least my previous) BoEs, and have received outstanding evaluations and letters of recommendation, then I must be abiding by the system even while trying to push at its borders.

My posts on here represent what I think should be the case and what I hope will be the case and what I wish to actively work for. They don't represent the situation "in the field."

Quote:
As for making "incremental changes" for the better, IMO that's a big maybe. It's going to take a concerted effort among the majority of ALTs, and frankly I don't see that happening. Most aren't here for very long, and most do not share your background or attitude.


And what are you doing to change it? It's all very well to state the reasons why the ALT system is a failure, it's quite different to stand up and say, "I will make an effort." I know you're not an ALT, but you know ALTs. How often do you encourage them to be career oriented professionals? How often do you encourage them to improve their Japanese, to become more involved in their schools, etc?

Likewise, I've had my own experiences on forums of being called a negative nancy (as I know you have) because I actively try to discourage people from just up and moving to Japan for a year or two as a vacation from their "real life." It perpetuates the broken system, it perpetuates stereotypes, and it hurts those of us who have made the decision to stay put. I've already decided to pursue permanent residency, I've already decided that if I didn't have to risk US citizenship, I'd become a J-national. I made these decisions my second year in Japan, and despite the time spent back in the US working on my MA (something I did only because I felt had to), Texas is where I was from, but it is not home. It hasn't been for years.

Quote:
Thinks won't change unless the Japanese change significantly. You probably can help to make them more aware of certain usefulness of an ALT, but only one who knows what they are doing based on teacher training and experience. I know direct BOE hires up here who have been in the system for 1-2 decades (and in just this one area), yet they are struggling as most newbies do. It's the system that is against them.


Concur with all of this. I just believe the Japanese are capable of change, and I also believe given demographics that the Japanese will either change or die in the foreseeable future. I'm betting they change, as they always have. Japan today would be unthinkable to someone from Taisho Jidai. Someone from Taisho Jidai would have been executed under one of the Tokugawa Shoguns.

I give it twenty years, maybe. And I'm here to get in on the ground level.

Quote:
Just how much authority do you feel you can demonstrate in an unruly classroom? Yes, it's the JTE's role, not yours (and especially as an Interac employee, not a direct BOE hire).


Quite a bit, actually. If it isn't my role, then I shouldn't be placed in the role where I would need to control the lesson. Leave me as the human tape recorder, I will throw up my hands in disgust and quit. This simply isn't the reality in the vast majority of cases I've dealt with.

Quote:
Undermine your authority? As an assistant with less than perfect Japanese and not a lot of time spent in the culture (business culture as well as social), you really don't have a lot. Don't say that you do just because you are sometimes left alone in a class. That's not even supposed to happen, so let's deal with the majority of situations.


We've had this discussion before, and Japanology brings up the issue again in the post after yours (which I'll ne a separate post to address). I do not see myself as a TA. If I saw myself as a TA, I would stop being an ALT. Period. Full stop. Do not pass go, do not collect 20,000.

My French teachers had less than perfect English, far less, and the idea they were incapable of teaching French to American students would have been absurd. I can still read French (although lack of usage means I can no longer speak it, and my listening skills are not very good either). Clearly they must have done something right.

As for "a lot of time in the culture" that's relative. It's another opinion, not a fact. I've already decided to stay here for the rest of my life, how much more of a commitment do I have to make (besides citizenship, which is not a moral possibility for me at this point)?

Quote:
They already know you have no power.


This is a learned response, it is not inherent. Perhaps this is true of the older students, but the ichinensei? They don't know I don't have any power until I'm undercut. I only don't have power with the older students because previous ALTs were undercut.

Quote:
Many students will not be able to listen to you because of your weak J language skills and their poor ability to understand any English you utter.


Just how terrible do you think my Japanese is? I absolutely agree with you that my Japanese is not up to academic standard. This is something I am desperately working hard to improve. However, to suggest my Japanese is so poor that I am incapable of explaining the grammar in the paltry Japanese JHS English textbooks is not true. I'm sorry, but the grammar presented really isn't that difficult to explain if you take even a limited amount of time to learn the Japanese terminology regarding English parts of speech. I've done it.

Just to mention one of the lessons I've taught on English grammar using Japanese explanation, I had an entire lesson on the gerund (動名詞). Plenty of scribbling in Japanese under English sentences, underlining, circling, squiggly lines, kanji in different colors. Was it hard? Yes! I had to make sure all of my Japanese was correct before hand in my lesson plan. I had to run it through my Japanese colleagues to make sure I had it right (because I wanted to be right, not because I was required to check). Every time I did it, it was a learning process for me, and my Japanese improved. The students understood just fine, and they completed their notebook work and worksheets correctly for the most part.

This example is one of many. It is just the one I've often used in conversations like this because I personally love -ing (I'm also a huge fan of present progressive. Yes, I am a fan of grammatical forms. That's why I became an English teacher).

Quote:
(I have that even at the uni level, BTW.) Some respond poorly even to a JTE! If you get the chance, listen to how a JTE scolds kids with a stern voice -- it often comes across with a Kansai dialect or almost yakuza tone. Foreigners may find it pretty hard to mimic that, IMO.


You've never heard me gutturally call a student "omae" or "koitsu," but I've done it. It usually gets the intended reaction.

Quote:
Add to all that the fact that there is no academic probation, no corporal punishment, no accounting for their actions. Classes are ruled (if they can be) by a system of teacher rules. Foreigners are not seen as true teachers to most students. Why do you think it's so hard to get students to answer direct questions or to volunteer to answer in class? It's not the way they have learned to interact with their JTEs. Why do you think so many JTEs allow students to sleep in classes? Because they will get passed along to the next class anyway, and in the meantime be given teacher support on the side until the JTE is blue in the face.


I agree with all of this, but I at least for the "foreigners are not seen as true teachers by most students" part, this is learned behavior. It is learned when non-Japanese (ethnically, screw citizenship status) are undercut by Japanese teachers or placed in a peripheral role where the inferiority of the non-Japanese individual is stressed. This is not inherent, and it does not need to continue. It will continue as long as the non-Japanese placed in the classroom really are inferior (as teachers, due to lacking education, but not due to race or ethnicity which is the underlying implication, and a problematic one at that).

Quote:
JTEs and especially HR teachers are more than teachers. They are counselors and surrogate parents, far beyond what you may ever see back home. The social system here is totally different from back home. Solo teachers and ALTs need to try to understand how it works and adapt to it as best they can, but it's very tough and often self-defeating. I learned a lot from working as a solo teacher in a private HS/JHS, and much of what I'm trying to convey comes from that.


I appreciate your views, and I don't disagree with you. My problem is that you seem to be suggesting, if not explicitly stating, that individuals who are not born Japanese cannot possibly find a place in this system. That individuals like myself are incapable of becoming and fulfilling the roles of JTEs and HRTs with the proper education, training, and licensing. I have a fundamental disagreement with that assertion. The problem with the ALT system is the lack of proper education, training, and licensing. Why do you think I want the 教員免許?

Just to show how much my commentary here represents the ideal as opposed to the reality, I pretty much call for the abolishment of the entire ALT system, and a new system where Native Teachers of English, properly credentialed, are placed in Japanese schools. The transitional system would create a streamlined process where current ALTs could get to the proper level of Japanese required to enter one of the teaching licensing programs I mentioned earlier, and end up with a Japanese education degree, take the Japanese teaching exam, and gain a Japanese teaching license. A few ALTs already have done this, as I intend to do, but the process is not streamlined. This will not happen in the immediate future, although I believe it will happen in the next few decades as demographic trends force Japan to confront its need to become a globalised, immigrant nation. It already has this status, demographics show it, even if it hasn't recognised the truth yet.
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