By Jackson Hale
Hello everyone, and welcome to Forward All Inquiries. My name is Jackson, and I am a 2nd year ALT in Gonohe!
You may be wondering, “Jackson, what exactly is Forward All Inquiries? Is it an advice column? Is it a lifestyle column?” Well friend, for me it is a place where we can talk about living in a foreign country and how to deal with cross-cultural communication issues. Also, we try to have fun here.
That emoji proves I am a fun person. Let’s go on ahead to this column’s question!
How do you deal with a JTE who has a very different discipline style than you? I am often shocked at what teachers get mad about in the classroom. I’m really struggling, because I see students getting yelled at and disciplined all the time, but I don’t think they deserve to be treated like that considering the offence. What should I do?
Signed Shocked N Appalled.
Thank you for your question. I feel like I can answer it right away, sadly. And I think the answer might leave you feeling a little unsatisfied. For me, I also have had this experience, and it continues to this day.
I teach all grade levels, but what I am really good at is teaching little children, from preschool to early fifth grade. I am really good at making a high energy classroom that is fun for these students, probably because I too am a kid at heart, and the only time I can feel feelings not processed through layers upon layers of irony is around children.
But one teacher was so so strict. I would be playing a game with the students where they would need to run around and collect pieces of paper or something. And in it, the kids are meant to be left a little free to talk to buds and also use the grammar of the class with one another.
And two teachers at this grade got into the activity, played with the kids, and helped facilitate the rowdy mood into an effective activity.
This strict teacher would stand in the corner, and every time the class got a little too loud, she would just yell at them at full force. Every single time, the students would clam up and stop doing the activity as it was intended. For me, this kept on ruining the part of the lesson where they use whatever grammar or vocabulary we drilled in that class (and in my opinion, because the students didn’t have that fun outlet at the start of class, they didn’t bother staying focused until the end).
So I went to the teacher after one of these lessons, and told her as best and as polite as I could muster, “please chill out”.
And the teacher told me, to my incredible irritation, that sometimes the class would get in trouble before English with me. So she would yell at them because she wasn’t ready for them to have so much fun and forget about what they did. And then after class, they would still be rowdy and get into trouble again.
And while I thought this was a little unfair to me and my class, it did remind me that the teacher has a long view of the students that I may not necessarily have. The HRT (hypothetically) knows the students ability, mannerisms, and what might set them off. So, they really have full reign when it comes to discipline.
So my disappointing answer is, unfortunately, “discipline is the job of the HRT, so you just have to accept it, probably.”
I know, sucks right? But it is also for the best.
You don’t want to undermine the authority of the teacher in the classroom. Even if you think that the teacher is nuts, drastic, and weird, you have to let them lead in the realm of discipline. And their leading in discipline allows you the space to be an alternative. You can be the good cop to their bad cop, or the Kim to their Kanye.
Most ALTs are not the main teacher, but a supplementary teacher. You should be getting kids jazzed for English, and tricking them into thinking communicating in English is fun. You shouldn’t be yelling at the kids to focus.
But as a nasty side effect of that, you are absolutely at the mercy of teachers who may have stricter than necessary attitude.
I would be surprised if it was every teacher you had that was unreasonably strict. In my situation, there are two teachers who are just wonderful in class. That is a majority positive experience. So while I can plan a lesson for those two which are stellar, I have to change the lesson a bit for the third class, and that works out OK.
Lastly, if this behavior in class is directly interfering with the goals of the lesson, that’s totally cool to bring up to your teacher after class.
If the teacher uses you as a prop, as in: “Jackson works really hard to come to class, but you don’t do your homework, so you let him down.” Dude, that situation stinks, and you can make some sad faces about it, but it also means that the students probably like you in class and so, hey, that’s a positive.