Communication classes are triggering a new kind of team-teaching. It is a system where the ALT and JTE are vitally important — where classes just aren’t the same without you.
Fitting an ALT into the grammar-translation method is a pretty awkward stretch. Often it seems as if it could be done with or without the ALT’s help at all.
Steamrolled JTEs may have had similar experiences with an overactive ALT. Maybe they’ve thought, “I should have just waited in the teachers room…”
Or there’s this: I used to come into a classroom sometimes and hear the infamous “Bar Code Repeater” speaking to me glibly from the desk in the front of the classroom. The Bar Code Repeater is a technology that allows a JTE to scan a bar code in a text and have a native speaker on a CD read that sentence with a click of a button. Every time I saw it, I thought, “Oh God! I should have stayed home today, huh?”
The truth is, the grammar-translation method lends itself to this type of zero-sum game dynamic, where one role trumps the other, where styles compete and one teacher always loses. Put a Bar Code Repeater on the desk and you can send the ALT packing. Have the ALT learn a lot of Japanese and send the JTE on her way. This system is flawed because people are interchangeable, talents are underutilized, and people feel like they’re not really needed.
But for the past few months I have seen a better way in action. It is taking place in our communication classes.
It’s a system where The ALT and the JTE are vitally important to the success of the class. We have real lesson planning, real team teaching, and a real exchange of ideas. It is a system that truly can’t be done without BOTH teachers.
And it is completely different — for the JTE, for the ALT and for the students.
I think we are going to see more of “The Real Team-Teaching” in action as more schools start communication classes of their own. It is exciting and revolutionary, and it is a system that can’t be done without YOU.