Aug 1, 2019
One of the best parts about being an ALT is the long summer vacations, or they used to be. Recently, schools have been asking more and more ALTs to help out in the summer for speech contests. That includes my school. However, for many contracts, including my own, it is kind of gray area. It is considered “voluntary” by my company, but at the same time there is a lot of pressure coming from schools and boards of educations. So, what do you do?
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For me, I was luckily able to get out of it. However, I will attend the speech contest itself. In my town, there are five ALTs spread out across different schools. Three of the ALTs are direct hires and two of us are company ALTs. My contract doesn’t grant me paid holidays aside from summer. That is all I get. However, the direct hires are granted 20 days. So it is a big difference. Not to mention they are paid more.
Luckily, the direct hires in my area are all of aware of the situation with the companies. One direct hire worked for the same company last year. Another one has a daughter working for the same company. They are very sympathetic of the situation, so they look at the speech competition as their responsibility. In reality, it is because they are not automatically required to use their days off in the summer.
The JTEs at the schools are not so aware. I was receiving a lot of pressure from my head of English at my school, even after trying to explain my situation. He even asked me why I don't want to help students. I feel bad too, because he is working a lot of overtime, so me pushing for my summer vacation feels selfish, but in reality, it is important to take care of myself.
I had a lot of support from the direct hires and they shielded me and were a bit more stern about the situation. I cannot thank them enough. However, that does not mean that I should not help at all. I did a lot of the prep work. I helped with the translations, recorded a practice video for the students to view, and helped work out the schedules.
I guess the moral of the story is to offer to help with prep work before vacation and to stand your ground. The more you give in the more schools and teachers will expect. Since it is voluntary, it is essentially free work. Your well being is important so don’t let the pressure push you into it and know your rights!
Teacher, Traveler, Dancer -
Currently living in Gifu -
I love Japan, dance, cats, food, and fashion!