Bio: David L. Hayter is a teacher and freelance writer based out of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
He first gained experience in education by working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in Japan from 2014-2019. Although he primarily taught junior high school, he has taught all the grades from kindergarten through ninth grade.
During his time as an ALT, he worked in 11 junior high schools, 2 elementary schools, dozens of kindergartens with hundreds of Japanese teachers of English (JTEs) to teach thousands of students.
Aside from teaching, his other duties included training and managing new ALTs, designing and delivering teacher training workshops, and performing other duties for his local Board of Education (BOE).
Outside of work, he actively volunteers in his community, enjoys playing video games, loves to cook, trains hard, is working on a new podcast/blog, and helps run the ALT Training Online blog.
Why do ALTs need professional development (PD)? I guess the answer to that question depends on what you want to get out of being a teacher in Japan.
ALT Training Online actually started to address this need. The type of training and ongoing PD ALTs receive varies from placement to placement. (ESID, right?)
The Cambridge Dictionary defines professional development (PD) as, “Training that is given to managers and people working in professions to increase their knowledge and skills.”
If you’re going to pursue teaching as a long-time career, you most definitely would benefit from on-going professional development.
Even if you came to Japan looking to explore a new country in between graduate school or a job that’s more aligned in your field, you could still benefit from sharpening some of those transferrable skills.
While the focus of professional development should be enhancing your ability to perform your current position, there are a few extra things that you get out of it regardless of your future job prospects.
Benefits of PD
1. Stand out from your peers
Most ALT contracts have an end. These contracts also tend to end around the same time every year (either March or July). That means that when you’re going to start looking for a new job, there could potentially be a couple thousand other people doing the same thing!
A 2018 study from Ladders, Inc. shows that hiring managers spend on average 7.4 seconds looking at a resume.
It might seem trivial, but having a few more, or different, bullet points on your resume could mean the difference between starting a new job on Monday or heading off to your zannen-kai.
2. Build transferrable skills
You can lose material things but nobody can take away what you’ve learned.
Although you may be planning on entering a field other than education, most PD requires organization, writing, communication, and many other skills.
3. Show initiative
No matter where you work, employers are looking for people who can get things done without being told to do so.
Learning new things on your own shows that you have the initiative to do the best job you can and the passion to pursue it.
Chances are that there are other people participating in the same PD program that you are. While you may not also have direct interaction with others depending on the course, there certainly is a community of other like-minded individuals who are either have completed or are currently taking the same course.
Connecting with them is a good way to discuss the course, your industry, and make new friends!
This can go a long way to helping you build up your professional learning network and could lead to more job opportunities in the future.
5. Gain experience
One of the toughest parts about getting a job is that employers want to hire someone with experience. But you can’t get experience until someone hires you!
Having some type of training in a certain area is better than having zero experience. Taking courses that involve some type of performance task (like teaching a sample class) can give you a boost of confidence when you go for the job interview.
Another good way to gain experience is by volunteering.
1. ALT Training Online
If you’re reading this blog, then you must have some interest in teaching English in Japan and improving your skills. The ALTTO website has modules designed to make good teachers great teachers. Best of all, it’s free!
Aside from completing our modules, you can also join our team and help out!
2. Google Certified Educator
The course created by Google teaches educators the basics of using Google in the classroom.
Although you may already know a lot about how to use Google, it’s always good to get a refresher on the powerful tools Google has to offer.
There are multiple levels to the program and you can even become certified as a trainer. Lots of employers in Japan love certificates so it couldn’t hurt to have another one!
Improving your skills in using Google tools can also help you get jobs outside of teaching.
You can take the course for free and pay when you’re ready to take the test. Right now, the fee for taking the level 1 certification test is $10 USD.
If you’re going to be in Japan for a long time, having a high level of Japanese will make your life A LOT easier.
The most widely accepted way to show your Japanese ability to potential employers is through earning a certificate for passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).
There are many companies and schools that would rather hire someone who has limited experience teaching and speaks Japanese well over someone who has been teaching for years but wouldn’t be able to communicate with their staff.
There are tons of resources available online to help you study Japanese to pass these tests.
This can also be helpful if you’re planning to move into another industry in Japan.
Most employers want someone with at least an N2 level.
Obtaining a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate is a great place to start a teaching career.
Accredited courses cover the basics of how to start teaching including methodology, classroom management, and lesson planning. This can be a good way to get ready to start teaching or a way to get better at what you’re already doing.
Aside from learning how to teach, some countries (like Vietnam for example), require a TEFL certificate to get a work permit so you can legally work as an English teacher!
This certificate can also help you get better teaching jobs because it shows that you’re committed to the profession enough to continue learning about how to do it.
There are other types of certificates like TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Langues) and CELTA. Most employers treat these as equivalent certifications. Just make sure that whatever course you take is 120+ hours! Many schools won’t accept it if it’s not.
There are a lot of options for obtaining a TEFL including 100% online classes, in-person classes, and hybrid classes.
If you’re interested in a TEFL course, here’s a message from Philip Shigeo Brown. He runs the iTDi TESOL Certificate Course at iTDi and is a long-time friend of ALTTO’s founder: