A typical Japanese school staff room.
I'm sure all of these people are lovely.
Thanks to Japan's system of workplace transfers, every new year of work here is like a co-worker lottery. The grand prize is a team of socially adept, caring, hard workers with whom you'll spend a smooth year of work. The grand un-prize is a year-full of people you can't stand and an all-you-can-eat buffet of frustration and despair.

Here are some bread-and-butter stereotypes that may or may not be remotely accurate of the kinds of Japanese English teachers you may work alongside as an ALT:


The Batty Woman
Occasionally power hungry, often ostensibly insane, always annoying. It's not uncommon for this woman to be an extremely capable teacher (but certainly not always); and students usually don't dare misbehave in her class. But she's a crazy horse. Stay well back and thank the stars you aren't her husband.

The Nervous Youngster
This teacher is either a first- or second-year newbie, or he/she is starting to realize that "teacher" was not an appropriate career path. Deathly afraid of the classroom, the Nervous Youngster will use any number of terrible teaching tools (word searches, connect-the-dots, subtitled (or even dubbed!) Disney movies, giant jan-ken games) over and over again just to cling to some shred of comfortable ground. Students' progress through the curriculum may be months behind other classes, and when it becomes absolutely necessary that the students move ahead in the textbook, instruction generally comes in the form of worksheets and 30 minutes of awkward silence.
You know when one of your classes goes badly, and you feel ill and wonder how the JTE sees you? That must be what it's like every class for these teachers.

The Verge of Retirement
This guy is in his last few years of teaching, and he knows that he's in an important enough position that no one could actually fire him. Whether he's lost interest in teaching or is simply too busy with all the other ridiculous non-teaching demands of a Japanese school teacher, his classes start to slide downhill into uselessness. When you're in the classroom with him it feels like he just doesn't care anymore, and it rubs off on students fast: Heads get buried in folded arms, and the classroom is filled with the familiar sound of hands fumbling around in pen cases to find Xacto knives--a sound always preceding the appearance of intricate and inextinguishable anime character faces all across the desktops in your classroom.
(A subset of this type is the veteran teacher who refuses to schedule any classes with the ALT because he's "really busy with club" or "just doesn't like the ALT".)

The All-Star
Thankfully, it's not all bad. Occasionally you'll find yourself with a fairly young but talented, rising-star teacher who you wish all your classes were with. This is the teacher with whom the whole concept of "team teaching" seems to make sense. You play off each other in the classroom, reframing boring textbook dialogues as dramatic soap-opera re-enactments and peppering lectures with interesting tidbits. The students absolutely love your classes, and even the ones who slept through class last year are awake, alert, and enjoying school. Nice.

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