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Life as a Low Academic SHS ALT

I am an ALT at two low academic senior high schools, meaning I spend 3 days a week at my “base” school, and two days a week at my second school. Both are slightly different schools to the mainstream Japanese high school, my base school being a commercial (business focused) high school, and the other an agricultural school.


I have felt very lucky that I have genuinely enjoyed my ALT work, felt (particularly at the start) challenged by it, and whilst I don’t want to be a teacher in the future, I have found standing infront of 40 students, attempting to teach them English, surprisingly enjoyable. My job satisfaction is undoubtedly a huge contributing factor to why I have stayed as long as I have. So – here is a brief look at my work life so far, at the low academic school.


My arrival at my school for the first time is a haze of heat, hearing a lot of Japanese I didn’t understand, experiencing extreme kindness and feeling very disorientatated. That first summer passed in a wonderful blur, preparing my self-introduction and trying to feel settled in a sleepy and not so busy (because of the summer holiday time) school. My overwhelming memory was kindness – from the teachers who donated furniture for my empty flat, the English teachers who helped me plan my first lesson, and the ALTs who lived in my apartment who told me how to get by in Fukuoka. The first months at school were stressful – I won`t lie. I had no idea what I was doing, and all ALTs are very much thrown in at the deep end. My whole first self introduction lesson was spent with my voice and hands shaking, and my English way to advanced for my students…! However, in time, with help from the JTEs who have seen many, many ALTs before, I settled in and began to love the job. I loved being at two schools, seeing a contrast and working with many teachers. A year and a half later I feel completely comfortable talking in front of large crowds and looking back, I am amazed at how much this experience has developed my communication skills and confidence.


For ALT standards, I am busy. I teach about 15 hours a week, lesson planning at my base school, but just back to back teaching at my second school (my lessons are planned for me). I love the amount of contact I have with students as a result – in some weeks I will see about 500 students in classes. I run an English club at my second school (very informal; we frequently watch Glee) and an English Radio show at my base school (I interview students and teachers in English on the PA system in school and play music). My classes are a mix of a roaring success and a complete disaster, often these correlate to the teacher I am with, and of course the class I teach. Every lesson I am still learning how to plan and execute a lesson.


My students are “low academic” by Japanese standards. The majority don’t go to university or college, and so do not really need English to advance them past High school. Thus, The English level of my students is very low, and in reality, many students have learning difficulties and issues in their home lives which affect their school life as well. A lot of this was daunting to begin with, but I find the students really fun, honest and down to earth – I am met usually by overwhelming enthusiasm. My students and the relationships I have with them has been a huge part of why I love my job.


Each JET experience is inevitably different, and each experience comes with different challenges. I have had simultaneously the best times of my life here, and the most difficult. Most importantly, the experience has been live changing through the personal challenges I have faced, the challenges associated with living abroad, teaching and learning a new language, and the amazing friends I have made from Japan and around the world.