In the world of project management, one of the initial processes is called “Identify Stakeholders” which essentially means to “identify all of the people who are somehow related to the project.“.
When I accepted the job as an English teacher in Japan, I thought of our contracts as projects with two stakeholders: ALT’s/(Foreign) English teachers and students. Over the course of my 2 years, I learned that not only are there more, but that we also have different priorities, stakes and interests:
- ALT’s/Foreign English Teachers – We come for a variety reasons but to summarize, we’re mostly here to teach the youth and explore another culture.
- Students – While they don’t directly have a say in things, students are the cornerstone of the these contracts. Possibly unbeknownst to them, their stake is in improving their English communication and learning about diversity.
- Japanese English Teachers – JTE’s interest is to effectively utilize foreign English teachers to ensure that students can pass the English portion of tests that transition them into the next chapter of their lives. For high school, this might mean the English portion of a student’s university, technical school or workforce entrance exam. In junior high school, it means passing the English portion of their high school entrance exams. For elementary school, though there’s no test, it means setting the baseline that that junior high school education starts from.
- School Staff (Japanese teachers of other subjects, administrative staff, maintenance staff) – For them, it’s less academic, and more along the lines of being cultural ambassadors and professionals. Their interest is in making sure that we foreigners get a good impression of Japanese people.
- School Heads (Vice Principals, Principals) – Making sure that the school runs smoothly even with the addition of a foreigner who may or may not know anything about Japanese culture and work environments.
- Board of Education (B.O.E.) – Making sure that all schools under their jurisdiction run smoothly, while providing enough Foreign English Teachers to adequately serve each school throughout the year.
- English Teacher-providing Organizations/Companies – Though they serve the public through their hiring, training and staffing of ALT’s/Foreign English Teachers, these organizations–with the exception of the government-sponsored JET program–are businesses, and with that in mind, their number one concern is money (as it should be).
- Parents – While not always as visible as the others, parents want to make sure that their children are getting a quality and well-rounded education from the schools, the teachers and even us ALT’s/Foreign English Teachers.
Just like in project management, ALT contracts also come with their own stakeholder balancing act. Though there’s overlap, it’d be impossible for such a diverse set of interests to not also occasionally bump and collide. It was easy to get wrapped up in my own priorities or focus on just one or 2 other stakeholders. But with so many connected parts, and because I came into contact with all of them on a regular basis, it was important to rememeber that each one had their own vested interest in it all.