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 Bosses and supervisors and teachers...and section heads and department heads...
 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 the street 
 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 
  weeks ago.

  Your immediate supervisor - may or may not speak English, or have any experience
 with foreigners.  Being your supervisor is an 'extra', their responsibilities for 
 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 
 channels for getting it done.  High school ALT's will likely have a supervisor who is 
 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.

  Kacho, section chief - This is the person above your supervisor at the Board of 
 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 office. 

  The guy above Kacho - This guy is basically the top of the city Board of Education.  
 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
 conversation.  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.  
 Just follow everyone else is my motto.  baa.

School people

  Kocho-sensei - The principle.  He has a name, but you won't use it, just Kocho sensei.  
 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 might 
 find he's pretty easy to talk to, and more relaxed, since he's the guy in charge, and 
 can basically act how he wants.  He actually has very little or nothing to do with you 
 or your job.

  Kyoto-sensei - 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 
 Japanese culture.

  English 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 
 school or 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 
none at 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 and clubs.

Office people - They could prove to be a valuable asset.  They are organized 
differently at different schools.  One of mine has a little front office 
where the office workers live, along with the coffee and snacks.  They control 
the snacks, and they always have a box full, even if you can't see it.  Though they 
may 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.  You'll get
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 
girl who is the secretary is a year younger than me, and she sits next to me, 
so we 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 
in a while, but that's about the extent of it.   I think the average age of tea 
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.  




  Hey! What time is it in Japan?

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