Sunday, June 10, 2007

Here is my letter in response

Yukari-san,

I was glad to receive to your letter of June 6th. You see, I too am a fan of the written word. The letter, sealed in an envelope and splotched onto paper, is truly a lost art-form. I can remember as a child, and later as an eager teenager, memorizing the postal schedule and running expectantly to the box every afternoon in the hoops of a stray missive or a well-timed communiqué. Once it was a square-shaped floppy record from National Geographic entitled, “Songs of the Humpback Whales.” For some reason the idea of whales singing terrified me and I hid behind our mailbox refusing to reenter the house.

It was well thought out on your part to coordinate the placement of said letter so that I would find it while checking my box on the way out the door, rather than first thing in the morning. While I appreciate the effort it is truly a misunderstanding of the situation. If I were to be a prisoner of circumstance and foul mood, a slave to my own uncontrollable temperament, I would be your faithful compatriot and have no problem cheering you on. Unfortunately, when it comes to the workplace, I value things like stability and professionalism, so your exertion, while appreciated, was somewhat wasted on me.

I would also like to express my gratitude to whoever you retained to proofread the letter in question. I am assuming that that is what happened. I picture your beleaguered husband, laboring late into the night humoring your desire to craft a letter, filled with vague animus to an employee whom he has never met. Please give him my thanks. If my vision is off-track, and you did the work on your own, you must have really buckled down. The English was both focused and understandable. This certainly isn’t the Yukari I know, who will declare to a roomful of children, “I can see your unvisible cake.” It is interesting how mistakes in a foreign language can be charming in the right hands. Unfortunately the hands in discussion here are misshapen and palsied, metaphorically of course. The letter certainly wasn’t written by the Yukari who commanded me to teach ‘locations.’ When I asked, “What do you mean by ‘locations’? Do you mean ‘the bank’, or ‘Hokkaido’?” “No, no,” You replied. “Like ‘on’ or ‘under.’ “Oh! You mean prepositions.” I declared. You couldn’t pronounce the word, but you picked up on the general point-God forbid I invoke subordinating conjunctions- “Yes, like ‘next to’ and ‘between.’ When I laid out a model city and had the children discuss what was next to the bakery and what was across from the school and asked the kids to write down what their house was next to and across from, you charged into my classroom-who knows where from, but then again, you are always peering into the windows like a seaman’s widow who refuses to give up hope-shouting angrily, your face crinkled in the constant nonsensical panic that is your specialty, and declared, “Wesley, we do not teach our children ‘across from’ we teach them ‘next to” and between.’ I told you that in the office earlier.” I realize my mistake; I had taught the kids that there were options, that there was something across the street. Your lack of faith in a child’s ability to learn is truly inspiring. As much of a disappointment as I have been, I hope that you will always remember me fondly when considering the entire adposition family.

You may not be aware of the fact that I spent last year studying the LSAT exam for entry to law school. I did fairly well; well enough to get into a top tier school with a little begging and a second tier school with slight effort. Unfortunately I decided I would rather live by my own rules than enforce someone else’s. Looking back I find that living by my own rules involves eating peanut butter out of the jar for dinner and owning things that I find sitting behind apartment buildings. Considering all of that, the vaguely legal, yet non-binding tone of your missive was not lost on me. I appreciate the style. It is an interesting challenge. For example:

- On June 5th, 2007 The employee in question witnessed the owner of the school strike a child in her care no less than three times.

- On May 16th,2007 The employee witnessed the owner of the school become frustrated with a child who wouldn’t open his lunch box. She raised her voice to him, turned him over in her lap and struck him several times to his back.

- On numerous occasions, the owner of the school has forgone traditional first-aid measures for practices resembling faith-healing.

Anyway, as an exercise, it is amusing.

Speaking of legal matters; the only one that I think abstractedly exists between us, is the question of my apartment. A brief history: I found my apartment. I made all of the arrangements for it. I paid for everything concerning it. At the last minute, days before I was to move in fact, you called me and said that it must be put in your name. I relented. That was stupid on my part. I still assumed you to be reasonable and, therefore, capable of giving a reasoned opinion. You signed your name on the contract, yet paid no money pertaining to the apartment. (Of course-at your insistence- you have paid some of my rent, but have deducted it from my salary-so only in the most cursory of interpretations could this be considered you paying.) I posses the receipt and the paperwork for my down payments on the apartment. If you wish to be the actual owner of the apartment, I have no problem with you refunding me this money and taking control. If you would rather not, then I think we will have to come to another understanding. I will look into alternative remedies. I don’t mean that to sound threatening, I wish for the matter to work out to neither of our detriment.

I also realize that I owe you 7-man yen. I fully intend to pay that back on the schedule we discussed earlier. It was truly kind of you to offer the money, but I must remind you that I never asked for it. As I have told you before, I respect how you conduct yourself financially; you have been up-front and clear, as well as generous. I think you could be very effective as an administrator or in the accounting field.

I find it hard to express how disheartening it is that you find me a disappointment as a teacher. At first I thought you might be joking, or possibly trying a new motivational technique gleaned from a small book, with a shiny cover that you picked up somewhere. One Saturday, you emerged from nowhere to sit in on my ALC class which you had commanded me to teach how to make and read charts and graphs. Although I had carefully prepared several charts with easy to understand information for the children to convert into graphs, you had decided to bring your own worksheet. It read something like this:

Many childrens attended a picnic this weekend with their parents. The childrens were many years old. Two were five years old. Three were four years old. Four were three years old. One were two years old. Two were one year old. Four were no years old.

When the children(s) had difficulty understanding how to make a graph from this information, you threw the worksheet down on the table, stood up and, bending over at the waist hissed, “I guess YOU should have explained it to them better.” And stormed out of the room. “Okay," I said in explanation, "kids, let me try to break this down for you; Yukari is insane.”

As to your allegations of my selfishness, I understand where you are coming from. You own your own school, and are the sole operator. As such, you make all of the decisions regarding hiring, firing, budgets, curricula, and any other matter that might arise. If anyone, especially someone who you have hired as a professional educator, professes a difference of opinion with you and tries to discuss it in an adult manner, they are selfish. I don’t begrudge you that position. I try to live my life by ideals of honesty and integrity. I fail many times along the way, no doubt. But the undertaking requires a strong sense of self, a sense that can be easily confused with being selfish. It can also be very annoying, but I find it better than resorting to manipulating people in opposition to each other and timing your gossip and criticism for the maximum results of confusion and disunity. It is also easier, in the long run, than lying. Then again, I don’t own my own school so my theories are essentially worthless. In fact, the largest thing I own is a refrigerator, which I found in the garbage.

Even the worst educators are blessed with great kids. I am not sure if that is a blessing or a curse. As much as I feel your talents lie in other areas, you are lucky to operate a school with so many great children. I truly love all of them, and will miss them terribly. I imagine that their foundations outside of the school, and their own innate senses of decency are strong enough to propel them to greater things in spite of the questionable environment that they may be exposed too. I realize that you are not one given to self-questioning, but I hope that you will ask some of the other staff if they find me to be selfish. While I don’t wish to involve them in this, I am sure if Richard or Mellani were asked-without the threat of losing their jobs-they would tell you that I am surely not. If Makikio, or Miki or Hiromi or Megumi were asked-again, in an honest environment- I am sure they would give you an answer contrary to your conceptions. Most importantly, If you asked any of my students I think that you would hear that I was always giving of my time and my patience and my energy. I really believe that, even if they don’t remember me in a month or two, they will grow up to be great people.

I realize the uncomfortable dilemma I have presented you with; although you own and operate an English school, and see fit to criticize all of the native speakers who work there, you probably won’t be able to understand this letter. You will sit with it and debate its meaning. Was it a threat of legal action? Was it a warning that I was planning to tell the parents of your miraculous talent to heal? I think, in the end, pride will keep you from asking for help on this one, but you will sit there and agonize over it. Agonize the way I did that even though I could have explained a reduplitive copula, or revealed that a podium is something you stand on while a lectern is something you stand behind, sometimes I forgot to sing, “Big D little d ddd” and was therefore a severe let down as an educator.

I fully intended to work at your school for a year, possibly longer. After initial disappointment at your conduct towards me, I truly felt that, if I spoke to you as a professional, we could come to an understanding. You have made it clear that you are under no obligation to regard me as a professional, and that your small, noble pre-school exceeds both the Saito Board of Education, The Appalachian Institute for Creative Learning and the Miyazaki National Medical University in its rigorous standards. It is not for me to burst your splendid bubble. I think that a powerful sense of belief, running counter to all actual evidence, is a fine fight to pick with reality. It is just not my fight, so I thought to bow out gracefully now.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

Wes, you continue to impress me. I hope everything works out for you in Osaka.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.