Thursday, September 14, 2006
Piddling In A Stream Of Consciousness
Fans of pithy, witty comments may want to look away now. This post is a bit of a rant and does go on a bit. But I was feeling a bit blue and was on a roll.
Actually, if you’re a fan of pithy, witty comments you may want to try a different website.
So, it’s nearly two months on. How am I faring? Alright, I suppose. As usual, in my head there are two columns: one for pluses and one for minuses.
As a country, Japan is fantastic. Once you’ve got past the initial whole “wow I’m in living the future” thing, you find a country that is polite, efficient, tidy, welcoming and exciting.
Also, like the moment you find a really nice sleeping position after tossing and turning, I have found a series of routines with which I am now comfortable:
I know my school timetable inside out, I have a handful of restaurants which cater for my tastes and I have learned the usual stock phrases: how much, can you speak English and Chicken McNuggets, please.
I will continue to push myself, but for now I am in a safe holding pattern.
The other thing I am glad about is that the temperature has fallen dramatically. Monday was a shirt sticking to your back day. Wednesday was a get under the duvet day. There has been no transitional period; it’s gone from mid 30s to high teens overnight.
Teaching is getting easier (I managed to prepare all my lessons in one and a half hours yesterday) but the job is still unrelenting.
This splitting up your weekend malarkey is harder than you think. One day off doesn’t seem enough somehow. Knackered, you wake up late, potter about all day then fail to get to sleep at night. Then you have to do it all again.
A 57-hour week is tough. A 65-hour week is very tough.
More important, I am still not really enjoying it yet. That’s not to say I hate it, (although I used to), but there have been precious few times when I have really been pleased with a lesson.
Kids’ lessons are blighted by the fact that no matter how dedicated or studious, they are still learning under protest. It’s very disheartening to see a row of glum faces staring back at you whilst you try to lever knowledge into their brains.
Adults’ lessons are OK, because you know they are there to learn. However, there is the added difficulty of you being under constant assessment; the student is bound to have an opinion on whether you are value for money.
Looking back over previous posts I may have been overly negative towards SHANE and the job itself. However, at the time, I was very angry with my predicament.
The point at which you need the most support from SHANE and for them to be at their most efficient is at the very start. And that’s when they are so very lacking.
Now I’ve become accustomed to their quirks, I’ve worked out ways of getting round its foibles and inefficiencies, sidestepping their inadequacies.
So now I am less critical of SHANE. Not because they have improved in any way but because, through experience, I have managed to work out my solutions to their problems.
However, I do have more respect for teachers than I had before. It requires completely different set of skills from my previous job.
With respect, teaching doesn’t actually require much intelligence. Instead, it requires stamina. It’s just a slog. You can’t really have any off days - you have to be on top form all the time.
We’ve all had a job where you can waltz in 10-minutes late, maybe with a hangover, check your emails for another 10 minutes and then think about getting down to some work.
But the point is, as long as you delivered the right result, it didn’t matter. If you did all those things and completely ballsed up a presentation, then you’d be in trouble.
Conversely, teaching is a horrendously inflexible job both in terms of time and task. Not only is your timetable set in stone, but the actual subject matter is too.
For example, I have been looking through all my text books and have now realised that nothing is going to change. This time next year I will still be teaching kids to point at Leo the Dragon and say “he is big” and still be really over-enunciating the question “so…what…did…you (point) … do…at…the…weekend?” to the adult learners.
That’s going to get boring. I just hope it gets easier before it gets boring.
Ultimately, I could consider this experience the first leg on a bit of World Tour.
I have been mulling over the idea of giving it another month or two before heading off to Oz or NZ. Maybe I can call in at South America on the way back.
Paul informs me that no one really gives a shit about anything in Oz, but that this can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand everything is so easy but on the other, everyone lacks drive and ambition. For people who are accustomed to the cut and thrust of London, or even in my case London and Tokyo, that could prove interesting.