About Agorà,  ALT,  Improvements,  Professional Development,  Reflection

Considerations on 6 months of Agorà

6 is the magic number! Well, not really but it’s still quite an achievement!

When Agorà started back in February 2021, nothing was set in stone. The entire concept started from a simple consideration: standard training sessions are not enough to support ALTs in the classroom. And this is not a complaint towards those who hire ALTs. It’s a problem due to the nature of the job.

The lack of clear guidelines on what ALTs should be doing in the classroom leaves things to open interpretation. The most common answer to the “What do ALTs do in the classroom?” question is the infamous “ESID” (Every Situation Is Different). Add to this the fact that ALTs come from different countries, with different cultural and educational backgrounds. It’s no wonder that generalized training sessions often miss the target.

Agorà was conceived as a possible solution to this deadlock: instead of relying on trainers, give ALTs a chance to support each other. Instead of top-down one size fits all suggestions, gather as many variables as possible and let them be heard by everyone. You ought to find some solutions that can be applied to the unique situation you are facing.

In short: for one problem, give multiple approaches.

Yes, we have “spotlight speakers” and “room hosts”, but they are there to facilitate, to provide that additional experience. They are not there to tell you what to do. Their goal is one: let ALTs be in charge, give them (well, you!) the chance to share your unique approach and at the same time listen to other 20 different ones.

In these six events, the community around Agorà has grown, got stronger and took responsibility towards the success of each session.

I want to share some numbers with you:

6 monthly events

16 unique speakers

22 topics covered

120 unique registrations (average) per month

60 unique users (average) attending every month

And while the name is ALT Agorà, there has been an influx of Homeroom Teachers (HRTs), Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) and even university researchers. And all of them contribute with their experience and knowledge.

Everyone joining this event is here for one reason: to learn and to teach. At the same time. The feedback forms you send every month confirm the fact that this project is going in the right direction.

And again, it’s all thanks to you.

As for the future of Agorà, new “experiments” are currently in the planning stage. The idea is to find new ways for you to be able to meet, learn and teach in the most effective way. As usual, things will succeed and things will fail. It’s part of the job of a teacher, to learn from failure.

So let’s fail and learn together also for the remaining six events this year!

Enjoy your summer break and see you at the end of August!

Nicholas J. Wilson teaches English in public elementary schools in Nagano, and is a Google Certified Educator focused on fostering student’s 21st-century skills through foreign language education. An active JALT officer, Nicholas also organizes independent professional development opportunities for ALTs including Agorà, a monthly interactive live event as part of the ALT Training Online grassroots initiative.