My Journey of How I Went From Teaching English in Japan to a Career in Tech With The Coolest Company in the World

My ALT Experience

So let’s first get a few general questions out of the way:

What exactly is an ALT?

Assistant Language Teacher. The bread and butter of Japan’s currently implemented English education system. They are dispatched to elementary, junior high or high schools. An ALT’s most fundamental role is to serve as, well…, an assistant to the main teacher of English in class. The ALT might commonly be asked to prepare speaking, listening and or writing activities. In addition, they might also have to do pronunciation drills (commonly known as “tape recorder” work) or lead lessons from the textbook. In some rare cases, the Japanese English Teacher (JET) might just hand over their entire class to the ALT and expect them to conduct the whole lesson. Basically, whatever the JET asks, the ALT does.

What were your thoughts while being an ALT?

At first, being an ALT was a little stressful, especially since it was my first time for doing a lot new things at once i.e. moving, living and working in a new country. The initial training I received really set the tone for what I thought I should be expecting to do as an ALT. It was a week long and for me it definitely felt like a bootcamp. I have very vivid memories of instructors doing various demo lessons with bottomless enthusiasm and energy. Everything they showed us was by their book and they constantly preached to us that whenever we were in front of the class, it was OUR time—we are the teacher. The Teacher? Quite far from the truth. There are two sides to being an ALT that I think are worth noting. One, the experience you get while being in Japanese schools and “teaching” students. And two, dealing with all the technicalities of working in a dispatch company.

What are your thoughts now?

In the end, an ALT is just that, an assistant language teacher — emphasis on assistant. The ALT is not the lead teacher. If assistance is needed, you will be there to assist. If no assistance is needed, and by that, I mean the JET doesn’t ask you to prepare anything because they have their own lessons they need to get done, then sadly you’ll have to take a seat. Depending on how you look at this, you might think “it’s so good to relax!” but on the other hand, you might also think about how unfulfilling it is to not be doing anything that matters. It’s a misconception they feed you—ALTs are teachers. If we’re teachers, then shouldn’t we be the ones in control? Sorry, we are not. And that’s what any person looking to be an ALT needs to understand before they decide on taking the job.


Jump to a Section

  1. Oh So Bittersweet
  2. Post-University Life
  3. Sapporo: My Second New Home
  4. My ALT Experience
  5. Living On The Poverty Line
  6. #NotAboutThatLife Part One
  7. #NotAboutThatLife Part Deux
  8. Learn To Code The Hard Way
  9. Democratize Publishing Part One
  10. Democratize Publishing Part Deux
  11. Welcome To The Chaos

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12 thoughts on “My Journey of How I Went From Teaching English in Japan to a Career in Tech With The Coolest Company in the World

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Paulo. Even though I knew the outcome I still held my breath a little there at the end, nervous for you! The GIFs were perfect too. Congrats on finding a career you love and on your beautiful family as well!

  2. I believe they’re always hiring. Lol. How long did it take you to do all those self-taught courses? I’m planning to apply, and I’m pretty glad I ran into your blog. I think I might do the same thing you did – take a lot of courses to prepare myself for the application.

    1. I’m pretty glad I ran into your blog.

      Thanks for stopping by! And I’m glad you were also able find something useful 🙂

      How long did it take you to do all those self-taught courses?

      In total, give or take 3 years — a bit long, but this was on top of a full-time job, parenting, and not having any background in web development. And I literally dipped my hand into everything i.e. programming, digital marketing, design, etc.

      I might do the same thing you did – take a lot of courses to prepare myself for the application

      Yeah, that would definitely help! If I were to look back on what I could have done to prepare more effectively, maybe I would’ve considered focusing more on CSS proficiency, WooCommerce, and making sure I know how to work & navigate the WordPress.com platform like the back of my hand 😄

      I’d be glad to answer any other questions, so feel free to shoot an email anytime: https://peaeb.blog/contact/

  3. What a journey! I recently applied to become a Happiness Engineer, and I’m very anxious. This would be my dream job and I can’t wait for my first interview.
    I’m currently learning JavaScript with TreeHouse and Codecademy at the same time, using the second to practice rather than as the primary source of learning tool. I’ve also learned CSS, HTML and Python from Codecademy but I might need to practice and start working on some websites of my own, to experiment and stuff.
    While the degree I’m pursuing at university is not related to tech at all, I really want to be a developer and I think the best way to do it debt free is through self-teaching.

    1. I recently applied to become a Happiness Engineer, and I’m very anxious. This would be my dream job and I can’t wait for my first interview.

      Nice, and best of luck! If you haven’t already, check out the Happiness Engineer blog:

      https://happinessengineer.blog/

      I really want to be a developer and I think the best way to do it debt free is through self-teaching.

      Absolutely. Being self-motivated to continuously learn is an invaluable quality to have. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually find that many opportunities start opening up for you 🙂

  4. Hey,
    This is the very first time, I read any post for word by word without any break. Most of the time, I read few sentences and just get the overview.

    But your post and the journey to Automatic keep me curious to read what will happen in the next line.
    It will really awesome.
    It also encouraging me to do my preparations for Automatic.

    Thank you for inspiring. 🙂

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