ALT Agorà is a series of monthly free professional development events with the goal of improving the quality of foreign language education in Japan schooling system by focusing on the role and potential of ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) in the classroom, and their relationship with HRTs and JTEs. These events take the shape of interactive webinars where participants are actively engaged and contribute to each sessions hosted by guest facilitators. Topics are targeted to both new and experienced educators.
An initiative that aims to be universal, reaching out to all ALTs belonging to numerous organizations (JET, boards of education, schools and dispatch companies) to create a common set of skills and competencies on which each employer can build upon, while also making full use of the academic heterogeneity (natural consequence of the current lack of a clear career path) and cultural diversity of those taking up this profession.
Agorà is part of the ALT Training Online (ALTTO) project, a nonprofit grassroots organization that develops free and open access learning materials for ALTs.
The Ancient Agorà of Athens was the primary meeting ground for Athenians, where members of democracy congregated affairs of the state, where business was conducted, a place to hang out, and watch performers and listen to famous philosophers. These seminars share the same intent. The goal is to stray from the usual set up of offline/online conference where the main speaker talks for most of the time. ALTs teach in many different contexts and there is never one single answer to their needs, which is why we have created this place where they can listen to many answers and find the one that works better for them.
Every Agorà session offers a range of interactive themed breakout rooms focused on specific topics where people share experiences, bring up problems and help each other. Each room will be assigned to a facilitator who will introduce a topic, support the discussion, and answer questions. While, at first, most sessions were led by experts and professors, in time more and more ALTs have decided to actively contribute, with numerous ALT-led sessions now happening every month.
In 60~ minutes you will have both the chance of hearing something new and discuss topics of interest with other ALT colleagues based on your specific needs.
DEVELOPMENT, NOT ADVANCEMENT
ALT Agorà aims at professional development, not career advancement. ALTs have an invaluable role in the classroom, one that can and will influence students’ approaches towards foreign languages and the rest of the world. There is more to being an ALT than just “teaching grammar” or “being a cultural ambassador”. The mission of ALT Agorà is to help you go deeper. To figure out how you can really impact your students learning in the classroom whatever your years of experience.
Q: I’m a first year ALT and planning on doing this job just for a year. Is Agorà the place for me?
A: Yes, we are aware of the differences in terms of experience between ALTs and make sure that every session can be understood by both experienced and new teachers. Plus, it is your one a month chance to ask questions about your role and about teaching practices.
Q: I’ve been working as an ALT for 20 years. Is Agorà the place for me?
A: Yes, teachers are always learning something new, and the monthly setup allows us to dig deeper into all topics. Having also access to researchers and experts in specific topics allows you to directly ask more advanced questions.
If you feel you have what it takes to support other ALTs, get in touch!
Q: Because of COVID-19 I’m still stuck out outside of Japan. Can I come to these events?
A: Yes, we are well aware that many contracted ALTs and JETs are still waiting for their placement because of travel restrictions. Even if you have never stepped into a classroom before, do join these events. They can give you the necessary head start. And don’t worry, nobody will force you to speak!
Q: I am a Japanese teacher / trainer / researcher / professor interested in the topic / event. Can I join?
A: Of course you can. While the event has been designed with ALTs in mind, there are many professionals working together with them inside and outside of the classroom. Everyone is welcome!