Tough Teaching  

osm1_2win 53M
23 posts
9/11/2006 12:01 am

Last Read:
9/18/2006 8:47 pm

Tough Teaching

Being a teacher is tough enough but being a teacher with students who don't understand me is tougher still.

But I give it my best shot...even if it means I have to get tough.

The past few days I have been asserting my manhood and making some of the rougher students bend to my will. What I mean by that is that I haven't accepted any messing around in my classes and the so-called "Yankee" boys (those that think they are pretty tough) I have been chewing out in English. They do NOT like it one bit but I am SO tired of these boys chatting away while I am trying to teach. Unfortunately, they probably end up HATING me because I am making them lose face...but oh well. I am bigger, tougher and stronger than they are and if they keep it up, I suppose they will just have to lose more face. Of course, if this were the States, they would probably have shot me...but this is Japan and they just have to lump it.

I have also been known to cuss once or twice at the students...not on a regular basis mind you...just a few times in all of my years of being here. It seems to be quite effective. My tonal quality followed by the widening of the eyes and flaring of the nostrils does the trick. Regardless of what someone might think of using a few choices words, it does the work. If I used the same words back home, no doubt I would have been strung up by my lymph nodes. However, this being Japan, teachers are given a bit more latitude in their creative use of the vernacular.

Besides, it IS English.

There was one occasion where a group of kids were messing around in the back of the room and I just plain got fed up with it. I gave one of the boys my best "teacher stares" (you know the kind that all teachers have to perfect as a college requirement) and said in loud English, "I don't give a damn if you understand what I say or not, this is my class and when I speak, you are going to listen!"

He just looked at me and sank down into his chair. This quickly got my other little ducks into a row as well.

My fellow teacher understood what I said and she thought it was VERY funny what I was doing because she wished SHE could give that kind of speech herself!

Speaking of speeches, I've pretty much just been giving self-introductions of myself to the students...the same one that I have given for three years now. It's standard fare when meeting a group of students for the first time, so my first year students all get the benefits of my vhat. The only difference now is that I can back it up with a lot more Japanese than ever before. I talk about my name and where I am from. I compare Japan with California and talk about how much space American homes as opposed to the Japanese ones. I tell them about my family and then I wrap the whole thing up showing them my hobby of magic, juggling and puppets. When I show off to them, it reminds me just how much I have missed doing puppet shows and storytelling. What is really interesting, though, is how the jokes that I used in the States translate over EXTREMELY well. I guess because I always used physical humor in my shows, they find the same things funny here! I am VERY seriously considering giving up teaching and go back to the career I love most!

I recently gave a workshop here on putting creative dramatics into a lesson and I used a lot of my old shtick from my vaudeville days when I was performing children's shows on a regular basis. It makes me think about when I am going back home.

Staying isn't really all that tough. As my mother has put it to me many times before, "What do you have to lose by staying? When you return to Fresno, you'll just be coming back to the same old place...Fresno." When it's put that way, it really isn't all that hard a choice at all.

Yes, it's tough being a teacher. Most of the days at school, I spend doing very little, really. I go to teach in the classes, but because they still don't quite know what to do with me, I don't help plan and the stress is very low. This job is VERY easy, and it's not complicated. It's hard to adjust to a different culture. But, contrary to what people tell you, Japanese culture these days is not all that different from America. The ANCIENT or older culture is different. Some beliefs are also different. However, modern day students and people are not all that different from Americans. It's easier to adjust than you think. The hardest part is missing everyone from home. Don't get me wrong...I'm not lacking for company. Japanese people (i.e. ladies) are more than eager to be seen with a gaijin. Even the local ALT's (my fellow teachers) are so desperate at times that even I look good.

But, I can't wait to go back and see everyone. It's important to me to be able to keep in touch with them.

May I repeat that?


There is something called Culture Shock and I've been feeling it for a long time now. It's a feeling of being out of place and in different surroundings. It can cause a lot of problems from time, mostly at night when I am alone in my little apartment. I spend WAY too much time NOT knowing what people are saying around me. I can catch a phrase or two, but often, unless the conversation is directed right at me, I don't know what's going on. Sometimes, I kinda fade out for awhile, only to snap back when someone asks me a question.

Fortunately the answer is usually, "Yes." I like that about Japanese. I can say 'hai' (yes) all I want BUT it doesn't mean I necessarily agree with what the person is saying.

Tough though it may be, I am getting to the point now that I can understand people without having to translate every word for the meanings. I pick up the gist and move on from there. One of the secrets of translating for yourself is to NOT stop to figure out a word, but rather the meaning of the sentence as a whole. I pick out a few key words that I may know and then, hopefully, I can figure out the rest based on the situation at hand. An example is that just now, the Office Lady had to leave the room while all of the other teachers were at a meeting. There was no one else to answer the phones but little ol' me. In Japanese, she told me she was leaving the room and asked if I could answer the phones (she might not have said it quite that way and there is NO WAY I could quote WHAT she said, but I pretty much understood what she was SAYING).

Without really thinking about the consequences, I said that I would.

Then it dawned on me. There I was...alone...with no one else around. It was just me, the teacher's room, and...insert dramatic bass music...the telephone.

My mind, being the wonderful place that it is, realized quite on its own that if the phone actually DID ring, just what the heck would I do? I would have to answer it? I would have to speak in...Japanese!!!

The logical thing to do would be to run, my mind concluded.

My mind is very smart.

I opted to stay and decided to not worry about those things until the moment actually came. Fortunately, she returned long before the phone begged for any attention.

I'm just counting the days until I can get home for vacation. I even sat down and made out a list of things I want to buy and bring back. Surprisingly, it's not all computer stuff. I even included packages of Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese. That is NOT available here at all and so what some ALT's do is have people send just the mix to them from home. I'll be buying a few and then passing them around amongst my friends here.

Part of the responsibility of being a teacher is going to parties.

LOTS of parties.

It's tough but someone has to do it.

I went to an onsen (hot springs) last week with some of my teachers. The hot spring's water was very strong and had a strong sulfuric smell (like eggs) and looked like ocha (Japanese tea). But it was supposedly good for me so I went in. Every time I get into these things, I feel like a broiling fish. Afterwards, we had our enkai (party).

This party stuff is becoming old hat. We had a great time but I am getting awfully tired of eating Japanese food. I looked down at my plate of sushi and sashimi (raw fish) and decided that after having tried the stuff 20 or 30 times, that all in all, I really do NOT like the stuff! In fact, I hate it! I gave myself permission to NOT eat it and passed it on by.

I did, however, decide that it was OK to drink the beer.

We sang karaoke and they had VERY few English songs so I ended up singing VERY bad renditions of Yesterday and Stand By Me. I like singing at these things. Nobody cares HOW badly you sound; they clap and ask you to sing some more. I think it's more the idea that we are doing something together and it doesn't matter if you're good or not. But, amazingly enough, most Japanese people sound pretty good.

All of the paper work is tough as well. I had to go to the Immigration Office and apply for an extension on my VISA so that I can stay in the country for another year. The form was easy to fill out, but the way it was worded was very confusing and it took several people to explain to me just what I was supposed to do. It will cost me 4000 yen (about $40) to be allowed to stay. What is interesting is that I also have to get a Re-entry Permit so that when I leave for vacation, they'll let me back into Japan. That will cost me 6000 yen (or about $60). In other words, it costs more to go and come back a few times in a 6-month period than it does to stay in one place for a whole year.

Are they trying to tell me to NOT leave the country?

I'll write more later. It's sooji time (cleaning time). That's when all of the students clean up the entire school! I think it's a great practice that we should have at home. But the custodians would not go for it because we would put a lot of them out of work. The kids clean up everything! They even scrub the floors. So I had better go.

I have to go be tough with them and make sure they do it right.

rm_verriberri 80F
1849 posts
9/11/2006 12:24 am

Well, I understand the culture clash - and feeling out of one's element. A friend of mine has been talking with me about 'surrendering' to the culture; while I'm not convinced it's possible in one splash, I am more receptive to it than I have ever been.

Good luck -v

hinoeuma 52F

9/15/2006 3:16 am

For your little angels.... Minus points. Works wonders. Talk in class and they get one percentage point knocked off their next midterm or final. Each and every time they do it.Same for no textbook, sleeping, being rude, not participating... etc.

Plus points too for always trying hard, doing extra well on homeworks, pointing out typos... etc.

Strongly recommend it for your little yanks.

Sounding a little bummed today, you are...

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