Thursday, April 15, 2010

New Teachers

There is a new teacher at my school. She is an older lady. She teaches English. This year before classes started I typed up a list of things I wanted to discuss with the other English teachers before we began teaching classes. The meeting was brief and not as productive as I would have liked but most of the teachers were willing to talk about the points that I had brought up and how we should conduct class. This new teacher didn't come. The first time I spoke to her, even though her desk is a few feet away from mine, was the morning before we had to teach our first class together. I had assumed we would be doing the lesson that I had planned and was doing for every other class. No. She informed me we would be doing the ridiculous "Magic Rings" lesson from the first page of the book. She even told me what to say. "You will say 'Today we have a special lesson: A trick show." "I don't think 'trick show' is English." I told her. Not any kind of English we want to teach. I did this lesson last year and I think it is a terrible first lesson for 3rd year students. It contains nothing of value and is about a Chinese guy doing a magic trick with paper. The good parts of it are that all of the students can participate in doing something. I like that, but I would rather them being trying to speak English. Also, it wastes tons of papers. One student called me over, "Wesley, why are we doing this?" "I don't know. Let's just play along." "Ok, but it is kind of boring." "I think so too."

Today, the new head of English at school, who I believe got the post off of my recommendation to the principal asked me what I thought of the new teacher. "She seems like a teacher. She isn't bad, but I don't know if she can teach English." "Well, to put it frankly, she hates working with ALTs. (my job) She had some bad experiences in the past. Some of them quit. So she is not interested in working with you."

I think that anyone who has worked as an ALT, or maybe any foreigner in Japan knows this story. I hear it all of the time when I say that we shouldn't have to work as temps with no job security. "Well, there was some trouble in the past." But this is where the arguments about phasing out the concept of gaijin comes into full effect in my life. Let me demonstrate. My counterargument goes like this: A lot of teachers in my position have had problems with Japanese English teachers too. Does that mean we can dismiss working with them? Now, if this argument was met with "I see your point but...." or "I disagree, you aren't a real teacher." Then I could pose another line of discussion, but it is met with that odd gap of silence in which you can firmly see nothing happen that is hard to explain to someone who hasn't lived here. The thought actually cannot be processed. We have to be seen as a quantifiable group with common traits and qualities, not a diverse group of people whose only commonality is a language and a career path. Another ALTs troubles are conferred on to me. I can never have autonomy as a teacher and will always be a representative of a falsely constructed group. If the discussion ever goes deeper, and it usually only does amongst non-Japanese, I bring up the Japanese teachers who have been caught with girls in the pool after dark. Or the teacher this month busted molesting a boy on the train. Not to mention the drunks and washouts and morons who manage to get jobs as professional teachers. No. They fail on their own merits. We, falsely constructed we, have to dwell in the subjective reminiscences of myopic racists.

As a brief end note I must add that I think it goes without saying that the reason people quit jobs like mine is that they don't pay enough, there is no job security, and the only repsect you get is the little bit you work hard to make for yourself. I love lots of elements of my job, but people shouldn't be looked down on for leaving a job that is of no real benefit to them. It isn't a career and you get fired on a whim. Then, the excuse for not providing you with stability is that you aren't stable. I would be if I was paid a living wage and given a contract.

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attempting to silence the voices in my head.