Audience Without Joy Teacher Bringing Anger

Yesterday I mentioned a failed business and how I ended up teaching the classes I’d hoped to teach, sort of. I also mentioned there were some issues. Today I thought I’d talk about those issues.

Basically, you have to keep in mind that although Japan managed to reduce its workers unions to empty, somewhat  noisy shells, the teachers’ union still maintains a certain amount of influence and prestige. The mandatory four skills classes were, essentially, a shot across the bow from the government to the teachers’ union that they’d be facing new rules and, possibly, regular evaluations. They also took place during summer vacation.

I taught the classes in two phases. First I was called in as a substitute on weekend for a shortened proto version of the course I still don’t understand. The Japanese English teachers were polite enough but there was a lot of sighing and eye-rolling every time I said it was time to do an activity. (It was a lot like telling a teenaged daughter to clean up her stuff and/or a lot like me when I’m forced to attend such workshops.)

Not a lot happened, to me but one of my friends came back from a break to find “Fuck You” written on the blackboard–remember what I said about teenaged daughters. He went through their handwritten assignments and using handwriting analysis figured out who wrote it and then strangled the guy and threw his corpse out the window. (So I heard; my friend may have simply discussed the issue with the guy but that doesn’t seem as plausible to me.)

Eventually the courses went “live”. They were Monday through Friday six hours a day. At first the students were actually pleasant because the ones who went early were keeners/ass kissers apparently intent on impressing someone. I came away from the first classes with several friends among the students until the voice came down from on high “Thou shalt make no friends among thy charges! Neither shalt thou have any friends amongst these masses which are around thee!” (Something like that.)

Towards the end of the four years, as the deadline for teachers to complete the course came closer, we got the diehards. We got the teachers who’d fought the course as long as possible and when I arrived to teach my class you could feel the anger and hatred.

Oddly, they were not the ones I managed to piss off.

I started class by saying I appreciated them being there because I was sure there was nothing they’d rather be doing on a beautiful summer’s day than sitting in a room in a school having some foreign guy tell them how to do their jobs. I then told them that I sympathized because there were a lot of things I’d rather be doing too–I just left out the part about me being there voluntarily, which is not, technically, lying–and that I hoped I could give them something to take away and that I didn’t waste their time.

Everything went well after that. They relaxed and participated, even when the curriculum was clunky. While I and the other teachers taught, we had a woman from the Tokyo Board of Education office roaming around listening in on us. At some point I told them my students were lucky. Because they teach at public school and when the students asked “Whey do we have to study English?” they could just say “Ask the Ministry of Education”.  (I said it with it’s Japanese name “Monbukasho” This brought some laughs. I said because I was at a private school I couldn’t say “Ask Monbukasho.” This brought more laughs.

Then, at the start of lunch time, I was told by a Japanese staff member from my company that there were some issues about my class making fun of the Ministry of Education. I said that’s not what happened and I’d talk about it after lunch. By the time I got back from lunch things had hit the fan. The staff member panicked and high level people from my company were already there. Apparently the woman from the BoE, who’s English wasn’t that good, heard:

Me: blah blah blah blah Ministry of Education. (snort)
Students: LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL They suck.
Me: blah blah blah blah Ministry of Education. (snort)

I explained everything and apologized and during their brief interviews/interrogations–yes, this is how things are done where I work–my students vouched for me as well.

Luckily for me, other teachers were doing worse. The course was supposed to be conducted only in English and one guy was holding a major graded discussion in Japanese, which actually did make his students angry. In the end my students rocked their final presentations much to the delight of the woman from the BoE. I praised the students but she said they had a good teacher. I thanked her and said “Do you have any BoE positions available?”

Apparently she didn’t, but I was invited back the next year, so it wasn’t a complete loss.


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