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Thread: School Politics

  1. #1

    Default School Politics

    This post is about the stuff they don't tell you at job orientation or interviews which is how to manage your relationships with the other teachers, school heads, and BOE? What are the politics like?

    I am going to work in Japan but I'm completely in the dark about the real deal going on in the office and at class in school. I did read about some customs in Japan about never arguing with the JTE (just bow your head with a "Sou desu ka" or "Wakarimashita" for everything they tell you, etc), obey the Monster Parent, etc but I'm pretty sure I do have some major misconceptions about how to properly "behave" and avoid the inevitable faux paus that make you look like a jackass first (or tenth) day on the job. Basically I would like to hear some experiences from veterans on how to improve my relationships with everyone and get off to a good start and avoid the gaijin retard stuff (if any) that gets me treated as the foreign monkey in town. What are the things that aren't really known that you should avoid and what is recommended to get on everyone's good side? (Just so you know I'm talking about the stuff you find out in person that is not written on Google.) I was planning on bringing some small gifts (Omiyage) to introduce myself but thats it. I don't know what else I can do. This may be ESID but it could be helpful in avoiding surprises when I get there.

    From what I understand of the power hierarchy in Japan the BOE is on top, the principal can fire you for any reason, the JTE is your immediate boss, and the other teachers are your second bosses. Oh and theres also the ALT company that in theory is supposed to pay me and stuff. What did I miss here?

    Oh and I also don't drink or smoke so I don't see myself going out with teachers to bars and izakayas every Friday? evening to blow off steam from the week's stress. Is that gonna kill my social relationships? I could force myself to go and drink non-alcoholic while trying to cover my nose from the cigarette smoke.

  2. #2
    Feckless Manchild Otaku word's Avatar
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    Default Re: School Politics

    You will probably be treated like the gaijin monkey no matter what you do. It's just part of the job.

    You will probably do something dumb no matter how prepared you are. It's inevitable when immersing yourself in a foreign culture.

    You shouldn't be worried about any of this.

    My teachers don't hit the bar every Friday. Everybody usually just goes home on the weekends unless there's an enkai. When there is an enkai, several of the teachers don't drink. Only two of them smoke. If you're a girl, all of this will be a non-issue--nobody will be surprised if you don't drink or smoke. If you're a dude, they might encourage you to drink a little, but it's not gonna be a requirement or anything. They won't give two shits about your smoking habits.

    Giving gifts upon arrival is a weird thing that may confuse some of them. I dunno where this got started. Some ALTs may recommend it, but it's not a Japanese custom or anything, so nobody will be expecting it.

    Be polite and try to be social with the other teachers. Just do your normal thing, and don't worry about any internal office malarkey. It's gonna take a while for you to get a handle on shit like that, they know it, and they don't care. Long as you're bein' polite, doin' the human tape recorder thing, and aren't showing up to school drunk and naked, odds are you won't have any issues with any of this crap.
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    When I read your post I suddenly feel like I am so far away from being crazy.
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    It's festivals days like these on which I really try really hard to make up for not partying in college.
    yeah, because who needs free flowing drugs and alcohol fueling adventorous sex with taut, lithe young bodies when you could wander around a dying town in the freezing cold with a can of asahi super dry in your hand while some toothless old farmer shouts at you.

  3. #3

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    @word
    Cool thanks. That answered some of my questions. There is a reason I need to get some in depth info on the relationships. This job as you know is just a 1 year contract and I do have to plan ahead for after that and I remember someone else mentioned having a recommendation from someone at the BOE or your fellow teachers complementing your work looks killer on the resume should I want to shop around for after the year is over.

    So to get on Sensei X or Principal Y's good side I just need to be polite and never correct them in public (or ever) should they make some mistake, I get that part. But what kind of things do they appreciate that helps you form a bond with them should you ever need a reference for yourself or if you ever need them to let you in on a good job opportunity thats not advertised in the papers (the old boys club). Is it the same as in America like sending them birthday or holiday cards, giving a gift if they get a newborn child, chocolate on White day, etc? Or is it just to be patient, go to work, do my job well, and the friendship will just naturally form?

  4. #4
    writes letters to Edwin mrfahrenheit's Avatar
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    Yeah, as long as you do your work and do it reasonably well (like word said, don't show up drunk or call in sick every week or something), they'll give you stellar recommendations should you ever need them (in Japanese; most schools won't have the capacity in which to write an English reference fyi).

    Something to avoid as to not strain your relationship:

    If something goes wrong/you're unhappy about something, go to the lowest-ranking person you can -- like, another teacher who isn't your boss or anything. I made the mistake of going to my principal with a problem my first week because she speaks nearly flawless English. She handled the problem and all was well -- but EVERYONE between me and her on the totem pole was really offended that I "went over their heads."

    Something that may help:

    This helped my relationship with my supervisor, which has been strained since I arrived (because I've given him hell; I needed help with EVERYTHING -- setting up Internet, a phone, moving apartments -- because I speak little Japanese). I've started writing down my questions rather than walking up and asking him. For example, I wanted to know the class schedule for March, right? So I wrote out a little calendar and wrote beneath it, "Hello! I was wondering, what days do I have class? Thank you!" And left it. He handed it back with my classes filled in on it and didn't even seem as frustrated/terrified as usual! It was awesome! I think it helped because he didn't have to strain to think of an English answer on-the-spot. Hopefully this helps you somehow -- just know that it's somewhat of a burden for your teachers to have to try to speak English instantaneously, so try not to pressure them too much?

    Otherwise, most of the stuff in your post you won't have to worry about. No one expects you to smoke or drink and you only do that stuff during an enkai. No one goes out drinking on Fridays -- at least, not at my school (a low-ranking academic high school). Don't expect invites out after school/on weekends -- the fact of the matter is that most teachers are too busy to do stuff with you outside of school. You MAY have an opportunity here or there -- when I first arrived, I went out to dinner with a JTE and his younger sister who was interested in English -- but they aren't common.

    Good luck!
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    They're FUCKING MEETING ABOUT POTATOES AGAIN

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by adrianjet View Post
    So to get on Sensei X or Principal Y's good side I just need to be polite and never correct them in public (or ever) should they make some mistake, I get that part. But what kind of things do they appreciate that helps you form a bond with them should you ever need a reference for yourself or if you ever need them to let you in on a good job opportunity thats not advertised in the papers (the old boys club). Is it the same as in America like sending them birthday or holiday cards, giving a gift if they get a newborn child, chocolate on White day, etc? Or is it just to be patient, go to work, do my job well, and the friendship will just naturally form?
    I tend to do more American things... One year I passed out Christmas cards that I made, this year I gave Valentines to the JTEs in the classes that were part of my Valentine project, I've shared homemade pumpkin pie around Thanksgiving and Irish Soda for St. Patrick's Day and also Christmas cookies in December... During my mid-year seminar, some of the JTEs commented that they like when the ALTs bring things from home to share with the students so I try to include my coworkers in on that too. I usually do things like this instead of the typical omiyage that I get on my desk sometimes when a teacher goes on a trip, but I never know who it's from... seems kinda impersonal so I share other things when I have them so everyone knows it's from me. I usually get a big smile and an excited thank you.

    Little obvious things help too: dressing appropriately (one of my JTEs thanked me for dressing so nicely for graduation one year), being on time and prepared for class (even if your JTEs don't always do this), being politely critical if you have a problem (don't outright bluntly tell them that you don't like their ideas because they're bad), being flexible...

    Lay low for a bit until you get a feel for your work atmosphere because you'll get some advice in here that you'll find won't apply to you. For example in mrf's post above, with most of my JTEs I can pop right up to their desk and ask something in English and get an English answer right away without much confusion. Some of my JTEs tend to lose notes left on their desk or take so long to answer that I think they're lost, so I just talk to them instead.

    I have three big enkai each year - year-end party, start of the year in April, and English teachers enkai... plus an occasional dinner invite with other teachers. Not everyone at these parties drink so you don't have to if you don't want to, and my coworkers are pretty considerate of what I will/won't eat or drink. I'm not sure how it is for other people, but these events are always non-smoking.

  6. #6
    writes letters to Edwin mrfahrenheit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JackAttack View Post
    Lay low for a bit until you get a feel for your work atmosphere because you'll get some advice in here that you'll find won't apply to you. For example in mrf's post above, with most of my JTEs I can pop right up to their desk and ask something in English and get an English answer right away without much confusion. Some of my JTEs tend to lose notes left on their desk or take so long to answer that I think they're lost, so I just talk to them instead.
    Well yeah, obviously, every situation is different. Like I said, I wouldn't worry too much! Especially about relationship stuff -- you may find everything is easy/effortless and won't need any advice at all to help you get by.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cataphract View Post
    They're FUCKING MEETING ABOUT POTATOES AGAIN

  7. #7

    Default Re: School Politics

    ALT Hierarchy:

    Town office > Board of Education > kocho-sensei > kyoto-sensei (who is usually the useful one) > PTA > teachers (including JTE; he has no special powers over you) > Office lady > inanimate carbon rod > ALT > tea lady.

    Gifts:

    Little gifts for co-workers are for when you return from a trip, not when you first arrive. If you're going to show off your knowledge of Japanese culture, be sure that you get it right. Coming back from orientation? Bring a little something back. Stepping off the plane for the first time? Don't bring anything (well, perhaps a little something for your supervisor/whoever helps you get set up as a thank-you gift).

    Relationships:

    Eyes and ears open, mouth shut. That's the way to succeed, and that's how new people (Japanese or otherwise) are expected to get acquainted in a new office in Japan.

    Also, a good way to avoid being treated like the Dancing Gaijin Monkey is to avoid acting like one. Dress smartly, don't act like a dipshit, and generally be a mature and responsible person and you'll be treated as such.
    "In his heart of hearts, he knows that you're on your own at this level..of big nose monkey snooker"

  8. #8
    Smashes through the wa Miss_igirisu's Avatar
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    There is so much awesome advice here but I have a tiny thing to add.

    The key to relations with other Japanese teachers is being told "you are more Japanese than Japanese people". Some people love being told this. I don't care for it personally, but, one time a few female teachers and I went out for lunch on a test day to celebrate a jte being pregnant. One woman mentioned to me that they'd used holiday time (nenkyu) for it so I went to the Kyoto-sensei and asked if I could take 2 hours nenkyu and go too. Ever since then he has thought the sun shines out my arse because I treat my nenkyu like a Japanese person does. He talks about me like a proud father, haha.

    And on the gifts thing, I did bring gifts from England when I got here (twinings green tea bags in weird flavours- green tea and apple etc) and I also brought in chocolate eggs for Easter and made them rice pudding during the summer and so on. When my family came to visit they brought liquorish which didn't go down as well haha!!
    Quote Originally Posted by tenderRondo View Post
    they said your uk blood has extremely high levels of tea and crumpets in it.
    http://osharejunks.blogspot.com/

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    Default Re: School Politics

    I haven't found any difference between work politics in Japan and work politics in the UK. And an enormous amount will depend on your school, or your region. At my school last year, the teachers didn't really hang out together and if you're placed in a similar school you won't need to worry about izakayas; if you're placed in a smaller place, where the teachers all hang out, then yeah, it might come across as a bit aloof if you don't make some sort of effort to hang out with them (again, this is exactly the same as British workplaces, in my experience).

    Just be polite, try to be nice to people, use common sense and I think you'll be fine.

  10. #10

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    Thanks everyone. This is great advice and shed some light for me on the situation. I'm really looking forward to that trip soon!

    One last thing. Now I have an idea on the workplace relationships but is there anything I need to know for the students? I heard in Japan teachers make home visits to the students if they are sick, absent, or if there is any problem like that. Do I need to do that if a student is failing tests or turned into a hikkikomori, etc? Should I meet each student's parents and introduce myself after the first day of school (I think I saw that on TV so I don't know how accurate it is in real life.)? Do the monster parents make all their ridiculous demands on the JTE or am I also joining the club?

  11. #11
    Smashes through the wa Miss_igirisu's Avatar
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    Default Re: School Politics

    No, you wont have to worry about any of that. You keep making the mistake of thinking you're a teacher.
    Quote Originally Posted by tenderRondo View Post
    they said your uk blood has extremely high levels of tea and crumpets in it.
    http://osharejunks.blogspot.com/

  12. #12
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    Default Re: School Politics

    You will most likely have zero interaction with parents. Even on PTA observation day, the parents were too scared to come into the LL room where I teach.

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    Default Re: School Politics

    I think you're worrying way, way too much. Just wait to see what the standard practice is at whatever school you end up in, and then apply common sense.

    (I think the general JET line is that ALTs aren't responsible for student discipline; and if your school is anything like the one I was at, I'd be surprised if you ever meet any parents unless you pass them in the street.)

  14. #14
    writes letters to Edwin mrfahrenheit's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss_igirisu View Post
    No, you wont have to worry about any of that. You keep making the mistake of thinking you're a teacher.
    This has more wisdom than you might think; don't get your expectations too high on being considered "one of the team." Not to say your school/fellow teachers/students will treat you poorly, but the "A" in ALT is emphasized much more than the "T" in most situations. Not all, but... You aren't exactly an equal to the other teachers in the staff, no matter how you look at the situation.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cataphract View Post
    They're FUCKING MEETING ABOUT POTATOES AGAIN

  15. #15

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    Maybe.

    You might not be expected to go to the PTA meetings, but if your school has a lot of PTA activities (ie PTA-teacher volleyball or enkais or whatever) once in a while, you might be "strongly encouraged" to go.

    I always enjoyed those; you get to have some fun and show off how the kids aren't terrified of you. And meet the occasional parent who says things like "My name is Inaka Taro; I have a ham radio license".
    "In his heart of hearts, he knows that you're on your own at this level..of big nose monkey snooker"

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrfahrenheit View Post
    This has more wisdom than you might think; don't get your expectations too high on being considered "one of the team." Not to say your school/fellow teachers/students will treat you poorly, but the "A" in ALT is emphasized much more than the "T" in most situations. Not all, but... You aren't exactly an equal to the other teachers in the staff, no matter how you look at the situation.
    ALT (or was it JET? I forget) also means something really different in the Japanese translation. Something like "Youth Exchange Volunteer".

    Just be professional but don't demand kocho-sensei polish your knob right away. Chip away at it over time and they'll start to see you as little more than a chair moistener.
    "In his heart of hearts, he knows that you're on your own at this level..of big nose monkey snooker"

  17. #17
    ITIL Spokesperson tenderRondo's Avatar
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    Default Re: School Politics

    i have to go to all the pta events, but im not in charge of dealing with a student's problems. that a job for the japenese.
    guys, im not playing anymore

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by adrianjet View Post
    I heard in Japan teachers make home visits to the students if they are sick, absent, or if there is any problem like that. Do I need to do that if a student is failing tests or turned into a hikkikomori, etc? Should I meet each student's parents and introduce myself after the first day of school (I think I saw that on TV so I don't know how accurate it is in real life.)? Do the monster parents make all their ridiculous demands on the JTE or am I also joining the club?
    I don't know where you're getting all of this from... You should focus researching ALTs, not Japanese teachers (which others have pointed out will not be you). You might meet parents through the PTA or at school events, but that's pretty much it.

    *Homeroom* teachers might meet each student's parents, not sure... but in the case of a school that has over 800 students like mine, that seems the most likely.

  19. #19
    Code of Conduct Lego's Avatar
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    Default Re: School Politics

    People who think being an ALT is a rewarding job that draws on one's true abilities as a teacher in a wide variety of situations need to read more about the job. People who think it will be reasonably simple and in some cases almost demeaning should avoid gathering information at all costs in the event that they become misinformed. I fully expect some new people to show up and throw Coolleadean fits when they find out that their tasks at work differ from what they heard in various corners of the internet.
    minor rant: abe vigoda

  20. #20
    Senior Member Jojo's Avatar
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    Default Re: School Politics

    i think ideally you should try and visit the perants at work too. Bring some gifts from home.... also calling early in the morning to make sure they're up is also expected. How's your keigo?
    How are you? Yes yes!

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