and he said unto them, Have ye not...

Whatever way you look at it I'm pretty fantastic. I'm very good looking, extremely intelligent, have stacks of cash, loads of friends, am marvellously popular and have only been wrong once*.

I know, 'tell us something we don't already know Richard'. Well I'm sure this will come as no surprise to any of you that sometimes (read 'everyday') I'm asked for my opinion and advice on various things. The most common request from ALTs being "Richard how do I make my life better" (read ' more like yours'). Now many ALTs want to know how they can have as great a relationship with their students and teachers as I do, and how at the end of the day they can leave with a feeling of something other than shame and frustration. Well sit back, listen carefully and I'll tell you.

One thing I always find interesting is ALTs expectations of their role. Why aren't they using me in class? Why am I used as nothing more than a tape recorder? They have been dealing with ALTs for 15 years...they know most of us have no teaching experience. Have you shown them you are capable of more? Have you taken the initiative really?

So 'oh wise one' what do we do? Well I'm pleased you asked...

Nishi has always made use of the ALT, in that we have a schedule of TT classes and we go to all scheduled classes. But in my first 6 months I wasn't really expected to do much than follow the plan the JTE's had made. In fact, it wasn't until I was made to do a seminar, which a couple of my JTE's came to, that I was given more responsibility. At the end of the seminar the JTE I had worked with told the other JTE's that most of the work was mine. My JTE's were suitably
shocked and in true Nishi style-told me so! From that day on I was given a lot more responsibility. I guess they felt more comfortable giving it to me as they had seen what I was able to do. Makes sense really. Now I make the lesson plans (with the help of my lovely assistant Lee-Ann) with in what ever guidelines the JTEs give us and teach them solo."How lovely for you Richard, but I don't have that luxury, you had it easy" I hear (my hearing is exceptional).

Well at my other school it was quite a different story. The expectations that the teachers themselves had of the students' ability was much lower. But this seemed to be coupled with a much more difficult T.T. cirriculum that followed a text and taught useful things such as -"environmental damage" and "wind generated power" to a group of kids who really had to think about, "where do you live?". Their interest in English had gone out the window because what they were being taught was of no interest-to anyone. At the start I sailed through and went along with it...silently cringing in the corner and spending most of my time in front of a computer. It wasn't until I was made to watch one poor sod write the alphabet on the board and then have the JTE ask me about each letter and if it was 'ok' that I thought, that's enough.

So I started to look at the text!! Shocking really. I started to make some plans. I started to make some warm-up activities that introduced the topic. Maybe even an easy listening task based on the text. Nothing too radical so far. I presented these to the JTEs. There came the usual reservations "hmmm too difficult" etc so what you do is shove a very basic question at the start or show them how it's just like the text minus all the Japanese. Say how you know someparts are hard (at the end) but you want to challenge them! Even set them a little bit of writing that you collect at the end. That way you can see what mistakes are common and go over them next time.

I know some teachers will come out with some ridiculous statements, my favourite being...

JTE: "Oh but this is new so they wont know what to do" From a teacher!
ALT: "Yeeees, but everything is new for the first time, that's how they learn"
JTE: "ahhh hahaha Richard you are so wise and clever" (edit).

This can be the biggest challenge. I was told from day one..."Students here are not clever but they are genki". To then teach them difficult stuff creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The reason their English wasn't good was because, as I said earlier, they had lost interest as it was too hard. I found that the new 1 nensei at both my schools where generally equally as capable.

To conclude.

Now from all the complaining that I hear about lazy JTE's and incompetance all over the show ... wouldn't it follow that they would welcome someone doing the work for them? I think that the trick is not to be too ambitious. Do something easy at the start. Let them see you doing something relevant to the lesson. Let them see the kids enjoying it! Any decent teacher should surely welcome this and any crap teacher would surely welcome the break. You're all clever people I'm sure you can think of someway to make your jobs better. I'll leave you for now with two quotes...

"Oh thank you Richard, you saved me having to do any work for that lesson". JTE, post lesson.

" Oh Richard, you are great". Richard, post post.

* March 21st, 1995-I doubted myself.