Kanako Takahara’s Jan. 5 article, “Assistant language teachers in trying times” — on the problems faced by ALTs in Japan — was excellent, though it only mentioned a few of the issues we face.
I’ve worked as an ALT here for a few years and, while I’ve been generally fortunate in the support from the company and at the schools I’ve worked at, the sheer number of horror stories that teachers swap among themselves boggles the mind.
The rate of turnover at dispatch companies is a testament to the inconsistent (and blatantly illegal) manner in which they treat employees. The refusal to insure employees or provide leave as required by law and the frequent writing of contracts in varying language (one for the government, one for us) are really frustrating.
As someone who genuinely enjoys the work that I’ve put in at each school, it’s saddening to realize that teachers who want to commit to education here are shunted aside in favor of whatever is cheapest for the budget.
While there is definitely a variance in the quality level of ALTs in Japan, it is also rarely acknowledged that there is also a variance in the quality of Japanese English Teachers as well. Training reform is desperately needed at both levels. I plan on remaining in Japan for several more years, but at times I do feel that it amounts to little more than tilting at windmills.