Overcoming Challenges

-Daniel Alderink, Shibushi City

When I found out I had been placed in Kagoshima, I had no idea what to think, seeing as I had never heard of it. Once I learned that it was a rural prefecture in the south of Japan, I thought, “Well, at least the winters will be mild.” Now after having been here for over four years, I can say that I couldn’t have been luckier to be placed here.

I have constantly been surrounded by a loving and helpful community made up of awesome ALTs and local Japanese neighbors. Seldom was there a time when I felt lost or alone. Thanks to the people here, I not only enjoyed my time here, but also grew more as an instructor.

Now, that isn’t to say that everything was sunshine and flowers every day. Being an education major, I was excited to come to Japan and put all I had learned in University into practice. Needless to say, I still had a lot of learning to do. From the teacher-student relationships, to the English education pedagogy, to the actual classroom itself, everything was different from what I had experienced and learned in America. However, thanks to awesome Japanese English teachers, and the advice from senior ALTs, I was able to meet these cultural differences, resolve them, and then utilize them to impact my teaching in a positive way.

I have honestly had so many impactful experiences like this that it would be impossible to talk about all of them here, so I thought I’d talk about my one of my favorite things here.

Three times a year there is a standard English proficiency test held in Japan. When students pass the written portion, they have to take an interview test. In order to prepare for that, they often ask me to help them with practice interviews. When I first got here, I volunteered to help with this, but became a little dismayed when I found myself staying at school well past the time that I would normally be going home. However, I gradually found myself enjoying these practice sessions more and more. During this time, I get to practice speaking English one-on-one in a more casual setting than the classroom. I get to hear students’ opinions on various subjects, and help them process the difficulties of speaking English. Sometimes I’m even fortunate to help students study for the next level of the test after the pass the lower level. Seeing my students grow and master English has truly been one of the most fulfilling parts of my time as an ALT.

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