Guest Post – Ghost Teacher

April 16, 2017 Inside the Classroom

(Note from james: The following is a guest post from the pen named “TGG the ALT”. If you’d like to take a crack at a guest post, send me an email here -> Checking the guidelines here before doing so would be much appreciated!)

Ten years already. How the time flies.


I still remember my first day of work as an ALT. I was squirreled away in a remote village in Miyazaki prefecture, far from civilization, surrounded by forest and amazing beaches, wild monkeys and horses, and only one other foreigner in the village with whom I could carry a conversation. At that time, my Japanese proficiency level was roughly terrible. And that’s how my adventure started: teach at 17(!) schools, one being on an island.


Now it’s been ten years, and I’ve come a long way from that village. I’ve taught at many schools, different BOEs, with so many different JTEs, and in so many situations. And when I thought I had experienced it all, that my ALT life wouldn’t give me any more surprises…well, I was wrong.


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It all started at the outset of my assignment at my new school. I was met by a very Genki (energetic) JTE, full of energy and laughter. He was also a hardcore fan of the city’s soccer team: his necktie had the team’s name on it, his jacket, scarf, hat, lanyard, basically everything had the team’s name and logo on it. This seemed to be a great start for my new contract. This JTE was in charge of me, the new ALT in their school. He was in charge of making my schedule and deciding which classes I’d be teaching throughout the year and with whom. This school had 6 JTEs, and 6 classes per grade. So it was a busy school, which means a busy schedule and a whole lot of messes. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to my year at this school.


I got my first schedule from my company, which that genki JTE had made and faxed to my dispatch company for approval. As I could see on the schedule, I wouldn’t be teaching with Mr. Genki this first week. Like I said, many classes many teachers, so I would be rotating JTEs and classes. Fair enough.


So the second week comes, and I’m still not teaching with Mr. Genki. This went on and on and on. So I began to wonder, will I ever teach with him? Just like the other 5 JTEs, he was a full-time licensed English teacher. Then something even more peculiar happened, which got my spider senses activating. The school hired another JTE. Why?


This I just couldn’t figure out at all. We have this full-time English teacher, who doesn’t teach a single class, but they hired a part-timer to cover extra English lessons! My curiosity eventually got the best of me, and I gently and politely asked one of the other JTE: “Why isn’t Mr. Genki covering those lessons?” “Why doesn’t he have any lessons at all, but the school saw the need to hire a part-timer”? The other JTE just laughed and couldn’t really answer, as she didn’t really understand it herself.


So I went to the vice-principal and asked the same question. I got the vague answer, “I don’t know.”


A full-time English teacher, full salary and all the benefits that the good education system is paying their teachers (our tax money), but doing nothing at all?! How could that even come to be? No one really knew.


This is when I started to refer to him as “The Ghost Teacher.” A teacher on paper, still getting paid, but a ghost in the school. I guess he was making my schedule, but he couldn’t even do that right. Classes were wrong, the period I was supposed to teach was wrong, the teachers with whom I was supposed to teach the lessons with were wrong, everything was wrong. I had to double check with the JTEs every day for every lesson to be sure if the schedule was right or not! Even worse, every time the “Ghost Teacher” handed me a copy of the schedule (cause he always gave me a copy before faxing it to my company, and then he would give me the faxed one to show that it was faxed), he always made sure to tell me how much work he had and how tired he was from it all. Tired? From what, exactly?


One day, one of the other teachers got sick and “Ghost Teacher” had to fill in and cover for the sick teacher. I was eager to hear how the class went, but I later found out that the “Ghost Teacher” had given the class a self-study hour, rather than teaching the lesson. This happened again, but he asked another JTE to come in and help him with the lesson. And then another time, the absent teacher had written down point by point what Ghost Teacher was supposed to teach that day (like a lesson plan, written by a JTE for a JTE).


Well, it turns out that the “Ghost Teacher” was utterly and totally incapable of teaching English to students at a Junior High School. And knowing this himself, he somehow managed to filter through the educational system and hack his everyday life as a teacher in the school. And seeing that “Ghost Teacher” was closing in on 60, it wasn’t the beginning of his hacking career, but more the pinnacle of a career of hard work.


All the other JTEs seem not to care, because it didn’t directly affect them. They got their salaries, their bonuses, they taught their lessons and went about their way not dwelling on why one of their equals could slip through the system and be still doing just fine.


“Ghost Teacher” and other teachers like him will continue to infiltrate the system, hacking their presence in schools until they retire. They’ll get some nice awards for their many years of service as full fledge English teachers, and they’ll give a nice speech about how they loved teaching the students and how they cheated the system (that part they’ll probably leave out), and that’ll be the end of that.


And there is just nothing I can do about it.


My company lost the contract with that city, so I’ll be going somewhere else to teach. What adventures awaits me next, who knows. But “Ghost Teacher” will always remain in the back of my mind.


Anyone else have any interesting JETs they work with? I’d love to read about them.



Thanks TGG!