Article by: Emily
As an ALT, your supervisor is your first point of contact for a lot of questions at school. However, sometimes your supervisor may be occupied with their other work, or may not be the person who has the information you need. Here are some profiles of people at school you can ask for help when your supervisor is busy, or just doesn’t know the answer.
Next-Door Neighbor Sensei
The teachers sitting near you, whether they’re right next to you or at desks nearby, can be good people to ask quick questions about things like the school schedule and events. Try asking the teachers near you about what happened during the morning meeting, or where everyone’s going then they leave the teachers’ room. Your “neighbor teachers” may not speak English, but you can get pretty far with some simple Japanese, a smile, and occasional shared snacks!
Tech Wiz Sensei
It’s good to find out which teacher is in charge of technology at your school, for times when your computer’s not working, or you really want to figure out if there’s a way to use PowerPoint in class. Technology teacher(s) are often marked with 情報(jyouhou) kanji on the teachers’ room seating chart You may also notice that other teachers always come to them when the printers and copiers get cranky.
The homeroom teachers of classes you teach can be good sources of information if you have particular students who are acting up or are hard to reach in class. They usually have more information about students’ family situations and performance in other classes, and they may be able to help you speak to the student if things get too hard to handle on your own.
Kyomu and Kyoto-sensei
Your school’s head teacher(教務の先生 kyoumu no sensei) and Vice Principal(教頭先生 Kyoto-sensei) can be helpful if you have questions about logistical matters like business trip paperwork,taking nenkyuu, or filling out the attendance book. While they are also very busy, they field questions of this kind from Japanese teachers as well, so they probably won’t be thrown off by your question. Just make sure that you also speak to your supervisor AND team teachers directly about business trips and nenkyuu, even if you’ve already filled out the paperwork with kyoto-sensei!
Other English Teachers
Other English teachers at your school, especially those close to you in age or gender, can be good people to help with delicate cultural or personal questions once you get to know them. As English teachers, they’re the most likely to know relevant information about your job as an ALT. Some may have been supervisors in the past or at other schools, so they may know answers to questions about ALT protocol if your supervisor doesn’t. They may also be able to help you talk to any of the people above if you’re struggling with the language barrier.
For better or worse, when you’re in a foreign country, every local knows more than you do. Even if the person you talk to first doesn’t have the answer, they can probably help you get one step closer to someone who does. It’s better to take the long road to the answer than to sit in silence wondering about things, so ask around! You never know what you might find out.
Who do you ask for help when you have a question at your school? Post your suggestions in the comments below or on the facebook thread!