Continuing to build relationships with the Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching

Writer(s): 
Rick Bales, Domestic Affairs Chair, and Sarah Louisa Birchley, Conference Program Chair 2009

 

“What kind of shoes should I wear in class?” “I already have an MA—can I become a university teacher after JET?” “What do I do if I make a mistake when I’m teaching grammar?” These were some of the questions posed by new ALTs to JALT presenters at this year’s Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program orientation in Tokyo. These types of question represent the diverse set of new ALTs working in the Japanese public school system—all of whom can and should be supported by JALT. Those with previous teaching experience and qualifications are looking for opportunities to present and to do research. Those for whom this is the first experience in a classroom need support, encouragement, and training. Thanks to the Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (AJET), JALT continues to play an important role in providing training and resources for ALTs at critical points during their time in Japan.

AJET is an independent, self-supporting volunteer organization that promotes and supports exchange and teaching in Japan in cooperation with the JET Program. AJET’s primary purpose is to facilitate a successful working relationship between JET programme sponsors and participants. It promotes peer support and fellowship, sponsors special projects, assists in the organization of conferences, and carries out other activities, to achieve this purpose. It is AJET that coordinates the JALT presentations at JET orientations, while members of the AJET national council represent JET at the JALT national conference, often through presentations, an information table, or as panelists on the Domestic Forum.

This year, JALT has been extremely fortunate to work with an excellent AJET team, particularly AJET Chair Jen C. Park who, for a number of years, has been extremely supportive of AJET’s relationship with JALT; and Education Liaison, Ian Matthews, who is keen to address the different experience levels and training needs of ALTs.

AJET is in a unique position in that it holds a biannual opinion exchange meeting with the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations and three government ministries to discuss issues relating to the JET programme and the working lives of ALTs.

This year, AJET produced reports to CLAIR and MEXT on theuse of eigo no–to (English Notebook—an elementary school textbook currently piloted as part of the 2011 English curriculum reforms for 5th and 6th graders), the general activities of ALTs, and the training and development needs of ALTs working at multiple schools. With the extension of JET contracts potentially to 5 years and the increase in the number of ALTs working solely in elementary schools, there is a greater need to provide ALTs with more specific training relating to TESOL. With regard to elementary school, the AJET report concluded that, in order to improve team teaching, and for ALTs to provide better assistance to JTEs, a greater effort is needed to help ALTs better understand the goals and structure of the new curriculum. Increasing ALTs’ awareness of, and participation in, JALT Junior events is one way toassist these new teachers. The extension of JALT Junior at JALT2009 to include teachers in junior and senior high schools will hopefully also encourage more ALTs and their JTEs to attend the conference together.

Rick Bales, Domestic Affairs Chair, has been working hard to build a better grassroots relationship with AJET, by connecting the regional AJET blocks with local JALT chapters. This year JALT will also provide information and seminars for developing graded reading programs in junior and senior high schools.

Finally, huge thanks must go to Rick Bales, Decha Hongthong, Colin Graham, and Andy Boon, for giving such well-received presentations at the 2009 JET Tokyo Orientations and to Nathan Furuya for his support on the JALT information desk.

Watch for new JET members at your chapter events and give them a big JALT welcome to the language teaching community. Also, drop by the AJET information desk in the EME at JALT2009 to talk to AJET representatives, or go to the Domestic Affairs Forum on Sat 21Nov, 4pm, room 1101, to join the discussion on a new three member team-teaching system being applied in grade five and six elementary school English classes by many city boards of education. For further information about how to reach out to JETs in your area, please contact Rick Bales, Domestic Affairs Chair, <rickbales@hotmail.com>

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