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Working With ALTTO by Nicholas J. Wilson

Foreward by David L. Hayter: It has been a great pleasure to have Nicholas J. Wilson (or Nick as we call him) join the ALTTO team. 

His time working with our team hasn’t been the longest but his impact has been immense. Since he started working with us this year, he has done a lot to support the team by heading up our monthly newsletter, working on the new website, assisting with projects, sharing valuable ideas, giving timely feedback, and implementing new systems to make our work better/easier.
Below is his entry in our “Working With ALT Training Online” blog series. Please join me in welcoming him to the community!

Hi everyone, I’m Nicholas J. Wilson of ALT Training Online. I never had the chance to formally introduce myself so I’ll take this opportunity to do so.

I moved to Japan in 2016 and have had since then the lucky chance of working for a great ALT dispatch company (a needle in a haystack!) active specifically in Nagano Prefecture that provides continuous professional development through the year in the form of general training days, in-school workshops and specific one-on-one class observations.

When I started teaching back in 2012, I was in the middle of writing my Master’s Degree thesis and had already received training during the Cambridge CELTA course. While both had given me the necessary skills and knowledge to identify learners’ needs, I was still lacking the necessary field experience to successfully apply what I had learned, so the training and suggestions I’ve received from my trainers really did make a difference in transforming me from someone who knew things to someone who could teach things.

During my time (4 years – and counting) working in public schools I’ve had the chance of meeting many other less fortunate ALTs complaining about the lack of training from either their dispatch companies or town’s BOEs.

While some of them weren’t interested in seeking further professional development, many understood their weaknesses and wanted to improve but simply didn’t know how!

The education system is always evolving: teaching in Japan has currently moved towards a student-centered style, putting an end to those never-ending classes where students used to passively listen for hours to their teachers while in fact daydreaming.

Recent changes brought by the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT), one of them being recognizing English as a real subject, requires HRTs and ALTs to engage the classroom in what’s called TEAM TEACHING, a practice that involves working together by planning, discussing contents and then teaching accordingly in synergy, constantly switching roles throughout each lesson according to who would be better suited to support or lead specific activities.

In light of this, many BOEs have recently updated their guidelines for hiring ALTs and are now looking for candidates who can understand Japanese classroom dynamics like never before, thus putting an end to the idea that ALTs are just “tape recorders” or “dancing monkeys”.

Unfortunately, the lack of funds and training resources many dispatch companies and BOEs suffer from prevents them from providing new teachers with the necessary knowledge to succeed in the classroom.

The consequences are dire: in a country where ALTs grow in numbers but not in quality, students are the unfortunate victims, losing years of potential education that might have changed their approach towards the world, cutting their chances to succeed in a global society.

Our mission with the ALT Training Online project is to empower ALTs by providing the necessary set of skills many can’t access and create an equal starting point for all teachers in the country with the ultimate goal of ensuring that all children in the country can receive the same level of high-quality English instruction whatever the school, whoever the teacher.

My role in ALTTO involves powering up the platform in order to meet our users’ needs. The “Monthly Trainer” newsletter service which began in March was only the first step towards a new age for the project.

I’m currently working on the new website, an evolution towards a more user-friendly interface which will definitely make things easier to find. Then there’s another secret project which will really make the difference. So stay tuned for more!
–          A note from ALT training online’s David Hayter

If you have something ‘ALT’ to write about that hasn’t been covered in these blogs, email me at so we can work together and spread your story.

Don’t have any ideas? We have a list of topics to write about that need a writer. Email in your interest to write and we can set you up.

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Nicholas J. Wilson

Nicholas started his professional career in Italy in 2012 teaching adults after completing the Cambridge CELTA course in Edinburgh, Scotland. He began working with young learners in 2014 after receiving his MA in English Literature. Since 2016 he has been teaching at numerous elementary schools as an ALT in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Outside of his contributions towards the ALTTO platform, he also writes peer reviews for various journals. His command of five different languages has sparked his passion towards comparative literature research, with a keen interest on the influences westernization has had on Japanese Meiji/Taisho writers. You can find him inside old-fashioned cafés enjoying a good cup of coffee while playing around with his 1970’s Asahi Pentax film camera.