What’s an ALT?
ALTs are Assistant Language Teachers that work in public elementary, junior high,
and senior high schools across Japan. ALTs come from a wide variety of
backgrounds, some with teaching experience, and others just looking to make
a difference in the lives of students. While some Japanese language skill is
recommended, it is not required.
Elementary School ALTs
Japanese elementary schools have grades 1 to 6, and the students
are aged 6 to 12 years old. ALTs are placed in elementary schools
to allow students to become comfortable working with foreigners,
and ALTs are placed in schools to encourage students to communicate
as much as possible in English. Games, songs, and collaborative
activities become the platform for the use of English. ALTs play with
the students on the school grounds, interact with them in their clubs,
and at lunch. If you enjoy working with young children,
this is the place for you!
“The energy of the children and their smiles motivate me to teach. Not only do they learn from you, but you will also learn from them. Origami, karuta, ayatori, keidoro...These are what they taught me.”
Spencer, Koga City ALT
Junior and Senior High School ALTs
Some ALTs prefer to work with older students. Junior and senior
high school ALTs teach students aged 12 to 18. As the students are
tested on their English skills, there is a greater emphasis on reading
and writing, in addition to speaking and listening. Therefore the role of
the ALT is to foster communication between students by creating
interactive and fun skits and other activities. In many schools there are
English elective classes or after-school English clubs for students who
want to take their English skills to the next level. Also, in junior and
senior high schools, after-school clubs and sports are high priority for
the students. ALTs are encouraged to join in, and so many find themsel
ves playing such sports as soccer, softball, or basketball with the
students. If you are not good at sports, don’t worry. There are also non-
athletic clubs including the archery club, the brass band club and even
the art club.
“Over the summer, we practiced for the speech contest. My students told me, `Thank you for teaching.` There is no greater reward.”
Zoe, Yoshikawa City ALT
A Day in the Life of an ALT
The large majority of ALTs teach at both junior high school and elementary school.
This combination allows them to draw connections between elementary and junior
high English instruction, as well as provide the ALT with a broad teaching experience.
Please find a general outline of what an ALT's day is like at a junior high school.
When you get to school, you change your shoes
at the front entrance and make your way to the
staff room. The staff room will be your home base,
as it is for all of the teachers. Students in Japanese
junior high schools stay in the same classroom
the entire day, and you will go to their classroom
when you are scheduled to teach English there.
When you arrive at the school in the morning,you
will be touched by the enthusiasm of the students
as they greet you with a shy smile, a wave, or calls
of good morning and hello.
Everyone's schedule is different, but you will
teach up to 6 periods a day, working alongside
the Japanese teachers. The students eat lunch in
their classroom, and afterwards clean the rooms
and the hallways. After the students are finished
with their classes, they have club activities.
You can join in on a game of basketball, or watch
the kendo students practice. The dedication and
the comradery of the students will amaze you.
At the end of the day, you speak with the Japanese teachers of English about the the next English lessons
you will have at that school and prepare teaching materials such as flash cards or work sheets. With a smile
and a wave, you bid farewell to the staff and those students still practicing with their clubs.
Everyday as an ALT holds surprises and memorable experiences. It is a job that will change your view of the
world, a job that you will carry with you forever.