Finding Comfort in Unlikely Places

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jessica, you’re gonna love this one!

So while I was in Tokyo I picked up two books that I had heard of and actually tried reading at one point but I couldn’t really get into either. I knew they were decent books to say the least and both were best sellers. I picked them up because they were guaranteed to be at least decent and I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money on a book that would turn out to be utter crap.

One of the books I started reading last night and I can’t put it down. I couldn’t get into it before but now I actually find comfort in it because I can be anywhere here in Japan and suddenly I’m transported to a place where I understand all the social contexts and even the language! It’s perfect for me…for right now.

The book that I’m talking about is Bridget Jones Diary. I put down Pride and Prejudice (second read) and picked up the modern day version of it. Personally, I believe it is the poorer of the two. The first isn’t always the best but in this case, it definitely is. I think Bridget is a horrible self hating destructive character but I like the story and it’s just what I need.

So…yeah. If I start writing in short incomplete sentences, it’s because of my current book.

My classes get better and better everyday but…every day has it’s down classes. They are never perfect and sometimes…I just don’t feel like being genki. I don’t feel like being an entertainer when the students don’t really seem to give a crap either way.

For example, at my country school, in one of the first year classes, there are 7 students. They are always sitting in different places with different arrangements of desks but today was the perfect example and I wish I could have taken a picture. There were 5 desks in a line next to eat other, all touching and about a foot away was the 6th desk in the same line just not touching. Behind that desk was the 7th. This is the exact structure of how these students relate to one another.

The first 5 desks are all pretty normal kids. The student at the very end however is one of the smarter kids (not saying much) but absolutely every single day he has his head down and is sleeping like a log. The students (particularly two of the three girls) will draw on him or make loud noises or poke him and generally be annoying but he continues to sleep right through all of it. On the other side is the one desk that is in the same row but not touching. This boy is the one who does magic (the magician if you will) and he seems to be friends with everyone in the class but he’s not completely accepted by them. I don’t know if it’s by choice or by bad luck….my hunch is that it’s mutual feelings of slight dislike for one another. It doesn’t seem that any of the students have problems with one another, they just aren’t friends. So the magician sits a little further away but still close enough to converse.

The student in the back is the self proclaimed Otaku. He is constantly drawing in class and I’m sorry to say…unless the pictures are of cute miniature people (chibi) he’s not all that good. That’s saying a lot too. Most every student will doodle on their papers and about a quarter of both my schools’ students want to be manga artists when they grow up. These kids are constantly drawing and they’re good too! I’m always impressed when I see little drawings on homework :)

But I digress.

So in class today, I was doing a particularly easy assignment that for a little while I actually thought the students understood at least a little bit of but that’s where I was wrong. They didn’t understand a bit of it and I don’t see why because half of it was in Japanese to begin with! I know because I was the one who translated it. It wasn’t easy because I had to keep bothering my fellow teachers to make sure I was right. But that’s neither here nor there.


So I start walking around the classroom helping students with the worksheet. It doesn’t matter how many times I point at the map, they’ll never understand that they need to turn left to get to the school. Turn left…left….left….hidari…..yes left………l, e, f, t. Yes it’s right there on your paper….hidari – left….yes left!!!

I could point to the word until my finger fell off. It doesn’t matter. If they don’t want to do it, they won’t.

So I walk around and I see that Otaku boy is drawing a gundam and not doing his work but…I’m too tired to really try and argue with him so I leave it and watch to see what my JTE will do. She leaves him be. So I do too.

After a while we switch assignments and now it’s dialogue time! Time to repeat over and over again that you need to turn left to get to school! I tried to pair up the students to get them to talk…and here’s another anomaly about this class in particular!

In all my classes, the teachers make a big deal about how they want students to work in groups. Personally, when I was in language class, working in groups never ever ever helped. I just used the time to goof off. In fact, the break was always welcome because when you really try learning a new language, it’s exhausting! But for Japan, group work is perfect because no student wants to be wrong and if they are together, at least they can be wrong together. The key is to never be alone here. Always the group!

But in this class, the teacher specifically said do not put them in pairs. They don’t really like one another so just don’t go there.

Well, it’s dialogue. It can’t be helped.

So since I’ve noticed by now that Otaku boy always sits by himself I decided to partner with him. Mind you, I’m sure this sounds very organized but it’s not. I’ll tell and motion till I’m blue in the face that I want them to pair up. The JTE will say it in Japanese and the kids will just….sit there. In the end only two girls paired up. The others just waited for me or the JTE to walk around and speak with them. Guh, that get’s old fast!!

So I walk over to Otaku boy and I place my completed worksheet in his desk because he hasn’t done his and I tell him that it’s really easy and I begin reading out loud. He is then supposed to read the next part and I ask him to. I point to it. I say it in English…Japanese…and slowly his head goes lower and lower until he just puts his head down on the desk and pretends to go to sleep. The second I walk away he wakes up and goes back to drawing gundams. Whatever.

I can’t say that I’m insulted or even angry. I’m just….disappointed! God. How sad. I wonder if he understands how sad it is to be ignored!!! (this is otaku boy I’m talking about…he’s probably ignored on a constant basis!) I understand he doesn’t want to do it but….

You know, when I was in high school I’m sure I wasn’t a prize student myself. Well….sometimes I was...hahaha ;) But whatever, I know I was an ass sometimes.

In fact, I remember being in Mrs. McKenna’s class and there was one assignment in particular where she put us into groups and gave us all a chapter of the book. She gave us one day to read it over and create a presentation for the class. This way, we could all teach our own parts to the class and we would then learn what everyone else had learned about in different and interesting ways because everyone teaches differently.

Well, I remember standing in front of the class in a very informal setting and trying to present when I realized that two or three people were completely asleep! This is when I realized that I wasn’t giving teachers enough credit. I used to think that if I sat in the back and didn’t bring attention to myself, she would never notice that my mind was completely elsewhere. No, she probably always knew I was sleeping.

These students are the same way. I’m not a person, I’m their teacher. I don’t have feelings, this is my job. This is what I do. I make their lives a living hell…in English. That’s who I am and what I do. I am nothing more to them.

In the end, I like and dislike both of my schools for completely different reasons. They both have their pros and cons and I haven’t picked a favorite yet. In fact, I’m waiting to wake up one day and realize that I absolutely loath my job like so many other people seem to. Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong people. I have the hope that once I get the hang of this I’ll enjoy the idea of going to school everyday (though I don’t expect to love it as much as the computer lab…*sigh*) but maybe one day I won’t see a student in the convenience store and start panicking because I really have no idea what I’m going to do when I get up in front of his class.

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