Category Archives: TEACHING

Cultural Sensitivity for ALTs Giving Christmas Lessons

Source: Gaijin Pot
Japanese boy decorating Christmas tree

In today’s uncertain world, one of the few things many can agree on is that Christmas is the most nostalgic and family-oriented time of the year. So for the ALT in Japan, preparing a fun and entertaining Christmas lesson should be the proverbial piece of cake. However, Japan — like many other countries — has its own way of doing Christmas festivities.

As a teacher, you need to be aware of local cultural ideas in all of your lesson planning, but this is especially relevant when planning a Christmas lesson. Classes about festivals and celebrations that have faith-based origins can be problematic in a country where teaching religious doctrine is officially banned in public schools. This is perhaps why Easter has never really caught on here in the same way Christmas and Halloween have in recent times.

So, with this in mind, here are five common pitfalls to Christmas lesson planning and how to avoid them.

1. Santa is still real for many of your students

This is an important point that you really need to remember. Most of us foreigners probably learned the truth about Santa Claus when we were in grade three or four of elementary school (spoiler alert: he’s not real!). However, in Japan, this happens later — and in some cases much later.

In my current job, I teach English mostly to elementary school fifth and sixth grade students (10-12 years old) and a lot of them still believe in Santa. Just today, as I was doing a Christmas lesson of my own, one student, a fifth grader, asked me: “Sensei (teacher), is the santa who delivers presents in Scotland the same Santa who delivers my presents here?”

Sometimes kids here say the most adorable things. Of course, this means that we need to tread carefully when discussing that jolly …continue reading


The Dos and Dont’s of Class Control for ALTs in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot

“All kids in Japan are polite and well-behaved.”

A common trope, but this is absolutely not the case.

Japan isn’t so different from anywhere else. There are good kids who will play along with an almost angelic demeanor and there are difficult kids can who make The Incredible Hulk seem calm and rational.

What is different here, however, is the way that we tackle such behaviors and how we maintain discipline in our classroom.

It’s important to remember that — from an official standpoint — ALTs aren’t supposed to be handling disciplinary issues. It is the responsibility of your Japanese teacher of English (JTE) to handle classroom disruptions. There are, however, a number of situations where we will have to get involved.

Sometimes, your colleague may be young, nervous or feel intimidated by their students. Other times, you may be left to run a class by yourself due to teacher illness, events at the school or other unforeseen circumstances. In short, you need to be prepared to take charge because chances are it will happen to you at some point.

So let’s run down three common scenarios you’ll face in the classroom and the do’s and don’ts for each one.

1. Students talk over you while you teach

Don’t shout at the students to be quiet. Like any troublemakers, showing the students that they can provoke a reaction from you through disruptive behavior is a pretty destructive precedent to set.

Instead, respond positively and enthusiastically to any positive behavior the students show. As much as possible, ignore the negative occurrences. If students are too unruly, stop what you’re doing and tell them to settle down in a firm, yet calm manner.

… many classes, even at the elementary level, have a strong, self-policing element to them.

You will quickly notice that many classes, even at the elementary …continue reading


Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you’re single

Source: Gaijin Pot
Table for One: How to survive Christmas in Japan if you're single

Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. As the songs say, it is a time for joy, a time for family, a time for presents and various other forms of merriment.
In Japan however, Christmas is very much about families and in particular couples.

Perhaps even more so than Valentine’s Day, Christmas is the time of year in Japan when couples fully express their love for each other, usually in the form of elaborate, extravagant dinners and over the top gifts.

However, for some, it can be a very depressing time. If you’re single, Christmas can be a pretty depressing time. It can often seem like you are the only man or woman in the entire universe who doesn’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

And even for those of us lucky enough to be in a relationship, Christmas can often be a solitary experience in Japan, as our Japanese partner, and sometimes even us too, are forced to work on Christmas Day, since Christmas is not a recognized holiday here.

It would be very easy to go all Ebenezer Scrooge on the whole thing, just say “Bah! Humbug!” and try to forget Christmas even exists. It doesn’t have to …continue reading


It Snowed in Hamamatsu!

prints on snow

*Originally intended for posting on Dec. 18

It snowed in Hamamatsu! Yay!

I’ve lived here for almost 3 years and this is the first time I saw a considerable amount of snow. It snowed enough to cover the grounds in thin white blanket. When I walked to school this morning, the looked winter-picture perfect. Soooo lovely and a little slippery.
Snow Surprise
Hamamatsu is on the coast of the Pacific so it rarely snow like this. It doesn’t snow in Shizuoka prefecture actually. Most cars in Hama are not equipped to deal with slippery roads. The result? Heavier traffic than usual. Even the buses are slower than their usual turtle pace so they are late. Because the bus was late, I was late in going to school too. Just for 5 minutes though so the vice principal didn’t mind it. Other teachers were late too.
This is the snowfall data from Current Results. See, it doesn’t snow in Shizuoka where Hamamatsu is.


Average annual snowfall
Days Place Inches Centimetres
25 Aikawa, Sado Island 46.9 119
13 Gifu 18.5 47
50 Kanazawa 110.6 281
63 Nagano 103.5 263
6 Nagoya 6.3

…continue reading