Hello! My name is Erica Visness. I get many comments here in Japan that my name sounds like a Japanese name because Erika and Eriko are Japanese names. I am the Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at Akashi Kita Senior High School. I work closely with the Japanese Teachers of English (JTE) to teach the students English.
Ifm from America; Minnesota to be exact. Ifm used to heavy winters and hot summers. In Hyogo Prefecture, the winters are wonderfully mild and the summers are boiling hot. Many people were shocked when I was wearing short sleeves into November.
I am enjoying my work at school, but I also like to relax. In my time off, I like to read, cook, and walk around Japan. I havenft studied enough Japanese to read their books, so most of my literature is still in English. I also have been enjoying learning all the wonderful ethnic dishes Japan sports. Because it is winter, I have been eating enabef, Japanese Hot Pot, and I have enjoyed it very much.
I was very, very excited to be accepted into the JET Programme, because I have been interested in Japan for a long time. It has always been on my radar, because my sister was one of the first JETs. She now teaches Japanese in America. Also, when I was younger I practiced Karate diligently and one of my teachers lived in Japan. He often spoke fondly of Japan and instilled in me a desire to go there someday.
Now, I am in Japan and learning how to adjust to a different culture and how to be a good teacher for my students. I think I was very lucky with my placement in Akashi Kita Senior High School.
Akashi Kita Senior High School is considered a very high level school. The students are quite good at English. I consider myself lucky to be at a school where I can communicate with my students outside of class.
Recently, Akashi Kita SHS has worked hard to become a Super Science High School. There is one class per grade that is the Science Class. These students were accepted into Akashi Kitafs Science Program and receive extra classes on different aspects of science. These students work very hard to understand all the difficult things they are taught.
I think that all students work hard, not just the Science Class. After school and during the summer I saw most of them practicing in their clubs. Many students are in baseball, soccer, tennis and other sports clubs, and they practice even during the scorching hot summers.
As an ALT I help with English Speaking Society. Right now, the club is quite small, less than 5 members. Yet, the students who are in it have worked very hard at the club activities. In the winter term we had both an essay writing contest and a speech contest. The students worked hard to memorize, have correct pronunciation, and convey emotion in their speeches. One student had to work on both contests at the same time!
The Science Class students receive a couple extra classes which are science-based, one of these is Science English. Science English is exactly how it sounds, it is Science in English. I teach it with another JTE, and for the most part I work with the students on the Science parts and the JTE works with the students on the English parts.
Because there are no course books and no set guidelines for what to teach, I can teach whatever I feel the students need to know. For example, the ALT before me taught about DNA because the class was going to travel to the USA and meet with some people who would talk to them about DNA research.
A good way to approach the class is to teach them English terms of things they already learned. However, I wished to challenge my students and myself, by teaching them something new. So instead, I gave my first-year Science English students a very shallow overview of Polarity.
The concepts were very difficult for students just starting out in the Science field, but they overcame every challenge I set before them. I spent much of the unit impressed by them and how they worked hard to learn everything I asked them to learn.
My second years were learning something completely different. They studied debates. They wrote a persuasive essay on a topic over summer vacation and then wrote out arguments for a spoken debate during the term. At the start of next term, the students will debate against each other using the arguments they spent the last term carefully crafting.
There are many things that I can do with Science English class, because it has no guidelines. I would love to be able to use the class time to inspire a curiosity and a love of science in my students.
As an ALT, I most often teach English Conversation 1. Every class I teach is team-taught with JTE. We work together help become better at speaking English. The classes are based a situation requiring spoken English, things like giving direction or meeting someone for the first time.
Classes at Akashi Kita are quite small, only 20 students. This is half of a homeroom class. Therefore, I only see one class every two weeks. It can make it difficult to cover all the material and make sure than every class is on the same page, but I prefer it this way because it gives me time to refine and plan new lessons.
The job of an ALT varies from school to school. At Akashi Kita, I am in charge of making the lesson plans for conversation class. I am also in charge of leading the class, both because I am the one who crafted the lesson and so that the students can get used to hearing a native speaker of English.
I also teach Science English to both the second and first year classes as mentioned above. I teach the Science portion and the JTE helps make sure the students are understanding the lesson. The JTE is in charge of translation portion of the class, using the book. During that time, I only read the text out loud for the students.
Two times a week, I travel to a different school named Akashi Shimizu and help teach English there as well. At Shimizu, I teach a Culture Class, which counts as a 3rd year English elective. I can cover any material in that class and am normally in charge of lesson plans. This class is the most time-consuming for me because I see the student twice a week. It can be very hard to stay ahead of the lessons. However, I am already planning for next year and hope to have a large portion of my finished going into Term 1.
I am very glad that I was placed in a school that does itfs best to utilize me to the best of itfs (and my) ability. Being busy is far and away my preference to not having enough to do.