So it’s been over 7 months since I started being a teacher, and packed it all for a new life (in pretty much every meaning of the sense) on the other side of the world. And after a few rocky moments at the beginning it seems things have definitely settled down, whether or not for the best I’m still not quite sure.
The new life bit has definitely been an interesting one so far, challenging, rewarding and also downright frustrating at times – which is rightfully as it should be I’m sure. The career change bit however has definitely been a lot weirder than I ever imagined it would be.
I can’t say I’ve ever wanted to be a teacher… ever. I love languages though, that’s no doubt, especially having spent so much of my youth learning them and the last ten years living in a foreign country (which has definitely become another home) and I’ve always maintained that English is: a/ the easiest language of the three I can speak (French and Italian being the other two) and b/ the most fun one to use, because of how maleable it is (I’m actually pretty sure that’s not an English word, but hey it sounds like one – in French it means ‘easy to shape’). Having done a CELTA course to become an accredited teacher (the irony of which still amazes me) I’ll now readily admit that English isn’t so easy when you break it down – Japanese most definitely ranks much higher in the mindfu*k category. Though I still think it’s the most fun one to use, I’m just not quite sure how I can convince people of this now, having been reminded of the darker side of grammar and pronounciation .
Teaching though is an entirely different ball game – and teaching English in a conversation school in Tokyo, an entirely different ball park. I quite like this new game though, and I regularly find myself getting all genki and motivated about new ideas for lessons, new games, new ways of teaching certain things – and then I also find myself brought right back down to earth by crappy schedules and shitty pay amongst other things. Not that I can think of a job I’ve ever done that was always 100% good (not even the stuff I do for free, and for which I have utmost love and dedication most of the time) but this one has definitely shown me new sides to business and other things which I’ve always told myself I’d like to stay away from as much as possible. Anyways…
After 7 months of a majority of private lessons, I can frankly say that I would murder for some proper group lessons, a la CELTA course. I need some interaction, badly. I also would like to kick in the head of whoever thought it would be a good idea to call private lessons ‘man to man’ (as it seems to be the general case in most big eikawas). I’ve never been one for political correcteness, but there’s a part of me that feels slightly disturbed about having a man to man with a sixty year old granny or a thirteen year old boy
And while I did have a right old moan and worries about working conditions at the beginning (see previous posts in teaching) I’ve now decided to take the higher road and focus on the positive as much as possible. Not always possible when you’re confronted with retarded managerial decisions on the regular but hey I’m improving I’m sure, or at least I’m trying to. It’s bad, but truth is it ain’t as bad as it could be, and that’s word. You take it on the chin and move on – I’ve met quite a few people who work in the industry recently and who’ve reminded me of what I already knew: keep away from the bullshit and don’t let it bring you down.
Which has meant a nice bit of refocusing on what I’m supposed to be doing (and partaking in drawing contests with kids isn’t one of them unfortunately – though you got to admit that drawing at the top is pretty good for a lesson on parts of a house). Cue finding some nice materials to help liven up lessons a little and make them more interesting for both the students and myself. That’s another thing I’d like to kick as well – the heads of the people responsible for producing the school’s own teaching materials I have to use. Anyways…
Another thing I’ve been thinking about recently is how nice it is to actually be in a job where human interaction (or a pretence thereof) is the focus – after nearly ten years working with a computer for most of the day, it’s nice to actually talk to people all day long. It does get grating don’t get me wrong, but by and large it’s reminded me that whilst I can be unsocialising I do enjoy talking all day long (yeah I know I should be teaching). The human element of teaching is definitely pleasurable – even if in the case of teaching in Tokyo it tends to also highlight some of the more unattractive sides of Japanese society and people’s behaviour towards ‘learning English’. Japan being a hobbyist society doesn’t help so much on that front.
Adults I can leave and take for the most part – we had a funny discussion with Ella the other night about the irritating aspects of housewives/overworked salarymen, which for the most part could probably suck the life out of the best of us. Kids are definitely a lot more fun, and I’ve curiously also found myself enjoying teaching teenagers more (probably because I teach less of them, and the ones left are a lot more interesting and up for it for the most part). I guess there’s a lot of truth to the belief that for one Japanese kids display the kind of reactions and emotions which most adults won’t as it hasn’t quite ironed out of their system yet by society. Hell years of juku schools would suck the life out of anyone and iron out any individualistic traits (though it seems not the darker ones).
One thing I’ve enjoyed more and more is being able to listen to the kids chatter away in Japanese and actually understand them or pick out more words than I previously could. It’s a nice way for me to practice my Japanese on the sly as well as make sure they understand what the crazy gaijin teacher is saying. It also leads to some pretty funny and memorable moments, though none come to mind right now, ha ha.
So yeah by and large I’m enjoying the challenge provided by teaching – being the unsatisfied, moaning Frenchman I am I do yearn for a little more challenge and a little less bureaucratic and managerial nonsense, but hey it could be worse. I keep remembering the title of this article I saw before I left which said ‘can teach, will travel’ and thinking that it’s most appropriate. Now I just need more better things and I can have enjoying aplenty.