Bio: Neal Graham is an ALT from Canada. He first worked in Japan over 20 years ago and later returned to teach here again.He has a BA in English and a CELTA. He also lived in Japan for 5 years in the mid-2000s working in the eikaiwa industry. Before becoming a city ALT, he taught at the university level in Japan.
Foreward: The following is a now-and-then comparison based on my experiences as an ALT. This is not meant to be an absolutely definitive tale of the way it was versus the way it currently is. Rather, it’s just a few casual observations based only on my experience and my situation. There are differences between my employment situations now and then that may have affected my perspective. For example, now I am a direct-hire municipal ALT whereas I was a prefectural-JET ALT many years ago. Other people will have completely different experiences.
I was a prefectural ALT with the JET Program 22 years ago. I stayed in Japan for 2 years and then returned to Canada. A while ago I came back to Japan and now I’m working as a direct-hire city ALT.
A lot has changed in Japanese schools in those two decades.
Compared to other countries Japan is still a very cash focused country, although this keeps changing bit by bit.
When I first worked as an ALT in the late 90s, I was paid in cash.
I remember some Japanese teachers in the school were regularly paid in cash. Was this because they preferred to be paid in cash? Or was it a systematic quirk of my school?
To accommodate all the cash floating around the teachers’ room, a bank representative would come to our school once a week to take care of our banking needs.
Another change I’ve experienced involves ALT school assignments. When I was a prefectural ALT in the 90s, each ALT was assigned to only one school.
Now, as a direct hire city ALT, I work at many different schools – sometimes more than one in a single day.
The most significant change I’ve seen has been around smoking.
Since the majority of teachers at my school were smokers, their smoking habits were completely accommodated.
Clearly some of these changes are more significant than others. It’s nice to see schools change their attitudes towards smoking. I miss the personal touch that the weekly visits from the bank employee brought to banking. I always struggle to have good conversations with the ATM. I enjoyed working as an ALT 22 years ago and I’m happy to be back in Japan working an ALT again. I wonder what changes will occur in the future?
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