The last week of August turned out to be a real anti-climax to the end of summer and the summer holidays (no, more than 16 years of “conditioning” has not made me switch to the word “vacation”), when suddenly temperatures dropped to the low twenties and even high teens. Long sleeves became the order of the day and we had to dig out blankets for night.
Not to mention the rain. Not always heavy rain, but at least drizzle EVERY day for nearly three weeks. Periods when washing wouldn’t dry in 24 hours, our front door wasn’t closing properly because it had swollen with the humidity… and I was forced to commute by train, really limited my contact with wildlife – although being stuck indoors will do that too…
Second term has started, and that means sports day and the overlapping preparation and coaching for the English speech contest, which will keep me extra busy for the next three weeks or so. Don’t expect much blog action during that time!
Taking a short time-out from wildlife, I have been thinking about some of the characters I’ve worked with over the last 16 years, particularly in my previous job at a so-called “conversation school”, which attracted all sorts.
So, sit back and enjoy
English Teachers I Have Known
*Note: These are composite characters, based on real people. It is not my intent to insult any race or nationality, but rather, poke fun at the individuals involved.
This one arrives at the workplace, shocked to find that the teaching staff is not comprised solely of Americans. (“You guys speak English too?”) His “lessons” (they tend to be lectures) have a very pro-American bent, usually about why America is the greatest nation on earth (“America is much safer than Japan, because I once saw…”), or how the Brits, Aussies and Kiwis speak some strange dialect (“They say ‘cont’ instead of ‘can’t'”). He also tends to think that students’ knowledge of things American somehow equates to good English. He can’t wait until his contract finishes and he can go back to America.
The Used Car Salesman
The most nasally accented Australian you will ever actually meet, unless you frequent used car lots. He doesn’t actually have a university degree, he’s just here on a working holiday visa, and the English school (read “factory”) hired him because they are both grossly understaffed and short on cash – he just doesn’t realize this. He doesn’t so much speak English as talk English. Every sentence ends with “Yeah?” or “Ya reckon?” He does the stupid motorbike joke every time he meets someone named Suzuki. (“Suzuki, eh? Brmm brmm”) He often has questions in the staff room about English use (“It’s ‘could of”, right?”) He generally has a good time, knowing that with the current exchange rate, he’ll make a killing when his contract is up and he goes back home.
New York, New York
No prizes for guessing where this one hails from. But she will remind you – frequently – several dozen decibels louder than necessary. She is actually quite surprised to find that not everyone who teaches English in Japan is from New York, or even from the U.S.A. She is even more shocked to learn that it is not the dream of everyone in Japan to visit New York. (“Can you believe it? I asked him if he wanted to visit New York, and he said ‘No’!”) She is a constant source of embarrassment to the really good guy from New York State. She gets homesick and quits within a few months.
Has been here for several years (the average length of stay is just under 12 months), and has seen more employees come and go than he cares to remember. He’s married to a local girl, has young kids, and is stuck in this job. Most of the people he originally worked with have left. He knows the damn stupid textbook backwards, he knows exactly what kind of mistakes the students are going to make, he can guess the student’s ability in under 30 seconds. He speaks functional Japanese, which adds to his frustration with students. He has little patience for new employees who think they know it all, and even less for newbies who showing off all their one sentence of Japanese (especially if it’s a pick-up line).
Oh, dear. This one couldn’t teach a cow to ****, but “Hey, it’s OK”. Flaunts dress code, punctuality rules, and especially rules about socializing with students. Gives the employer an incorrect contact number. Doesn’t plan lessons, just goes in and yabbers away about the cool stuff he’s done recently. Rarely does his paperwork or puts files away. Is hurt and surprised when his contract isn’t renewed.
She has no idea how to teach. She has no idea what to teach. She has no idea at all. But she is blonde and good-looking, and that makes everything alright. She’s “so excited to be here in Japan”, which somehow also counts in her favour. Spends empty periods doing her makeup, mailing her boyfriend and whatever else dumb blondes do when they should be working. Her popularity allows her to get away with incompetence far more often than is reasonable. Fortunately, she quits after six months.
Some day I might get around to writing about students I have known…