On my 3rd day I arrived at the school office near the station in Kasai. As it was only one stop from my hotel in Nishi-Kasai, I walked, having timed the journey the previous day, capybara and all. Unlike the previous day it was bright, sunny and very hot.
The school is on the 4th floor of a building above KFC restaurant. One rumour I heard was that many of the school’s offices were on 4th floors of buildings because the rent was cheaper, Japanese believing the number 4 to be unlucky (because the word for it sounds like the word for “death”).
I had arrived with time to spare and was hanging around outside when I saw another western-looking fellow going in, so I followed him. I caught up to him just as he was greeting another guy in the lift, these were my fellow new teachers Samson and Eugene.
We found the office and were welcomed in by Ian, one of the senior directors and our first trainer of the day. Gradually other teachers joined us until we were 9 in total, mostly from the UK but with an Irishman and a New Zealander. Strangely three of the UK contingent were from Glasgow, and some of the trainers also turned out to be Scottish.
Ian began the orientation, telling us a little about the school, our working day and week, our annual calendar, holidays, cover arrangements, and drilling facts and numbers into us that we would be tested on at the end of training. He also explained all the things we needed to sort out so the school can start paying us – address registration, health insurance, bank accounts etc. Some of the other teachers had already done all this, as for me I still hadn’t had my permanent address confirmed so I was hanging on for that, as were a couple of the other teachers.
He then introduced us to our Directors of Studies (and Assistant DOS’s) – as we would be working in different districts, we were split into smaller groups. They were able to explain a bit more about where exactly we would be working and the kind of thing we would be doing.
My DOS, Colin, took me aside and explained that because of my experience they had assigned me a kind of outreach teaching role one day a week, called CSD, where I would visit non-school premises and deliver lessons to clients. In particular, there was a kindergarten… I masked my alarm (my experience teaching very young children has not been an unqualified success) and resigned myself to an opportunity for development.
Later, we were introduced to Gavin, who would be our main trainer through the week. All the trainers and managers were former teachers so they all knew what we were going through and they stressed that once we got through the first few weeks of getting used to everything we would have a great time.
We were all wrapped up by lunchtime, some of the teachers dashed off to sort out things like registration and accommodation, but five of us went to a nearby café to have lunch and debrief. One of the other teachers, Adam, had pretty good Japanese skills so we let him do most of the talking when asking for a table and ordering. I think he, his fellow Scot Caitlin and the Irish guy Jack were the only ones with any knowledge of Japanese, so I wasn’t alone in my ignorance.
After lunch I headed home to see if I had heard anything from my accommodation providers. Ian had provided me with a company phone until I got my own one sorted out (I got the sim card but it didn’t work in my handset), so I had no excuse not to chase them up. More on that next time.