When I first started my journey in Japan through Interac, lots of friends were glowing with envy. I'm finally going to Japan. The place were all anime is alive and there's so much to do and see. My closest friends were genuinely happy for me. I'm finally going to spread my wings and live away from my overprotective parents. Finally.
It really was a dream. I did so much here in the span of just less than a decade. I traveled all of Japan and saw so much incredible scenery and experienced so much of the country.
The job itself was... mediocre.
It really was. I simply go to work just to sit around in the staff room, preparing for English classes or pretending to do something meaningful like walking around the school, chatting to students in broken-ass English (realistically it's Japanese once they find out you speak Japanese). When I had classes, I follow the Japanese teacher into the classroom and I act happy to teach a bunch of students who really don't give a damn about English. Students who are told they NEED to learn English for their University entrance exams. Students who can read words in English a normal native English speaker don't even use, memorize the meaning but have no idea how to even use it in a sentence.
Of course, you get a few who do want to learn English. A few in the bunch who are planning ahead and can see a future where they can use English. Or maybe they actually have a dream to live abroad.
Those are the students who really make the job a little bit brighter each day.
There's also a selected few who don't really care for English, but are at least willing to chat to a foreigner. Some who are curious about your life outside of Japan, even though English might not be something they want to learn. You'd hope that you can sow seeds into their minds for the future - that Japan isn't the only place they can thrive.
But when there are no students who care, the world around you becomes an empty cave. Echoes of Japanese teachers around you, working away, genuinely busy with their homeroom classes. If you're lucky, a few teachers may too, take an interest in your life. Maybe they want to see the world too, just as you do. Maybe they're tired from working and planning lessons, and wants to chat with you. In Japanese, of course. If your Japanese isn't good at all... well, then echoes in the cave are just that. Echoes.
That is the life of an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT).
This was a job I did for almost 7 years.
It got extremely repetitive. I was bored. I wanted to do more. I was tired of teaching the same classes, if I got to teach at all. Most of the time the classes were cancelled due to schedule changes. Or maybe they don't need the ALT in the class today since they're doing a test.
I was tired of not being told about some rules they've decided at school until the very last minute. I was tired of decision being made about my English classes but I didn't even know this was even up for discussion. I was tired of being told I could do something, but last minute be told it was "maybe too difficult to do now".
I wanted more.
I wanted more responsibilities and control over my classes. I wanted to be involved in the decision making.
And I thought I got that now that I am a homeroom teacher at an elementary school, but at every turn, I am always reminded that I am simply an ALT and nothing more. In fact, I only received more responsibilities but none of the benefits of a normal teacher. It's almost better to just... go back being an ALT. At least then I had more time for myself, my friends and my family.
Now no one cares for my lessons, and I have to deal with student problems and parent problems. I have to deal with working with micromanaging busybodies, and overwork just to keep parents who don't want any responsibility for their own child happy.
I know some of are questioning whether your existence as an ALT is better.
Maybe not, but I promise you - moving up to be a a normal teacher isn't better either.
Find a job in a different career you love. Or stay in ALT for an easy, relaxed life. You will only regret working in the environment I work in now.
Fuck it all, really.