Bosses and supervisors and
teachers...and section heads and department
and tea ladies... oh how the list goes on. You'll meet so many people your first few
days of work it'll make your head spin. Unfortunately, they don't wear name tags
like the kids do. You'll find yourself being extra polite to strangers on
just in case they happen to be someone you work with. Everyone
will remember you,
but its pretty difficult to remember everyone else,
especially when you have several
schools and a base office. You just have
to be really good at bluffing sometimes.
For example, if someone calls you at work,
never ever ask who it is. Its probably
your boss, and that would be a bad bad question.
Fortunately, lots of these
people have titles, so you don't have to remember their
names right away.
This is just a short list
of the people you'll be working with. You'll likely have a
similar list buried in all your orientation
materials. I recently found mine a couple
Your immediate supervisor -
may or may not speak English, or have any
with foreigners. Being your supervisor is an 'extra', their
you may have little to do with their normal job. Therefore, they may or may not
know what they are doing. I have had two
supervisors, both have been extremely
helpful and friendly. If you are a
junior high ALT, your supervisor will likely
be at the BOE office while you are at schools. You may find people at your schools
who can help you with
things, but basically the first person you go to for work
related things is your
supervisor. Your supervisor can then determine the appropriate
for getting it done. High school ALT's will likely have a supervisor
a teacher at the school. Your
supervisor can help you get your bank accounts
and apartment stuff set up and squared away when you arrive, if they
don't, you can ask.
section chief - This is the person above your supervisor at the Board
Education (JHS). Kacho is a title used like -san, preceded by his
name. Its a
good idea if you remember his name. Within your office
people will call him
Kacho, or maybe Kacho-san, just follow their lead. He/She is
your boss and is
pretty high up the ladder, so speak politely to them, in
English or Japanese.
Always greet them specifically when you walk in to
The guy above Kacho
- This guy is basically the top of the city Board of
You'll probably meet him once and never see him again. You'll likely meet him over
coffee while everyone but him sits there noticeably uncomfortable, making polite
When you go into his office, if
no one tells you where to sit, sit
several chairs away from him, and don't sit down first. Let any
other bosses sit closer.
Place his business card on the table in front of
you. Don't laugh at his funny hair.
Do feel free to be more outgoing
than the average Japanese person in there though,
but don't feel any extra need
to make conversation, the meeting is just a formality.
everyone else is my motto. baa.
The principle. He has a name, but you won't use it, just
He has his own office, which you'll maybe get to see once on
your first day. You'll get
a little tea reception in his office, he
may or may not sit and chat with you. You
find he's pretty easy to talk to, and more relaxed, since he's the guy in
can basically act how he wants. He actually has very little or
nothing to do with you
or your job.
The vice-principle. Again, you'll use his title, not his
name. His desk
is at the center of the front of the teachers' office,
always greet him and say goodbye
if you see him when coming and going from work. You
should get a formal introduction
on your first day. He has more to do with
you, he'll approve any vacation days or
whatever, but your supervisor should be
asking him, not you directly.
Like Kocho-sensei, you may find he's pretty
relaxed about talking with you,
I used to spend quite a bit of time chatting with my Kyoto sensei. If you visit
a school infrequently, you should make
a special effort to greet the Kyoto-sensei
to announce your arrival and departure. Do that and they'll think your a whiz at
teachers - They do have
names, so its a good idea to remember them.
They'll probably be as
nervous as you at your first meeting, so you may have
to be the outgoing one. Remember you'll be working closely with them, so try
to open those lines of communication early. Some of my
English teachers have
been decidedly unchatty, if you notice this, try asking questions about the
town or whatever, something they are familiar with, and doesn't require
complicated answers. They may
also have a hard time adjusting to your accent,
if its unfamiliar, so speak clearly. You may unfortunately find
you have a JTE
who understands little spoken English at all. It'd be nice if they all understood
just how nerve-racking it is for us to start an unfamiliar job in a new culture,
but they frequently believe we know what
we are doing, and are sometimes reticent
about telling us things. Ask questions about how they
typically run class, what
sort of stuff the last ALT did, suggest to them that you'd like to know so you
can get a feel
for what sort of things the students are used to. Otherwise they
may toss you into class the first time with
little help or advice, believing you are as experienced as the last ALT was when he left.
Other teachers - What
to expect from these people is anyone's guess. You may
find they speak English quite well, thanks to years of ALT's, or they may speak
all. They may may be outgoing regardless of language skills, or they could
be afraid to talk
to you even if they do understand English. If you happen to speak
Japanese, they'll be
quite relieved, and probably much less shy. Try your best to
get to know them, it would get
quite lonely with only your JTE's to talk to.
Coffee breaks are common, so there is plenty of
opportunity for conversation.
Standard fare is a comment about the weather, they'll
probably then ask about
weather in your country. Run with it. If you are studying Japanese
for the first
time, try asking about words or kanji. They'll be very
excited to see you are
studying, and quite eager to help. Knowing the
other teachers also makes it
much easier to get involved in other classes
Office people - They
could prove to be a valuable asset. They are organized
different schools. One of mine has a little front office
where the office
workers live, along with the coffee and snacks. They control
and they always have a box full, even if you can't see it. Though they
be as busy as the teachers, they don't have class, so they are always there at
the same time as you. This is why its important to befriend them.
coffee or tea brought to your desk in the morning, first dibs on
snacks and an
ever-present conversation partner. I am sure they have
better things to do
than talk to me, but they always seem happy to keep me
company, so I don't ask.
My other school has the office workers mixed in with everyone else, but the
who is the secretary is a year younger than me, and she sits next to me,
often waste time chatting over coffee. There are usually a couple office
workers. There's a handyman, secretary, dietitian, nurse and sometimes a tea lady.
The secretary usually acts as
the tea lady too, but I have heard of places with a
lady who just serves
tea. And coffee, of course. And probably some snacks once
while, but that's about the extent of it. I think the average age of
ladies is about 78, you might not find much common ground.
Most schools have a little coffee
break area, but this could range from a shelf with stuff to make coffee, to an
area with cushy couches and tables. If you find your school has the
latter, then your probably in luck. The teachers at my one school that has
a separate break/smoking area actually take coffee breaks and chat
frequently. The teachers at my other school hardly ever do.