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You Could Drive A Person Batshit February 21, 2008

Posted by Mitch in Random.

I stand in front of a class full of first years. They’re either 12 or 13. Some of them shiver. Most of them have their eyes closed. All of them sit there sniffing at me. The teacher comes in and after the introduction, the lesson begins. As does their apathy.

The first year of my Junior High School is made up of sinfully boring human beings. Any attempt at a fun lesson falls flat. Flatter than a hermaphrodite’s chest. They manage to suck the energy out of the most enthusiastic teacher. They say they can’t speak English. They don’t even bother trying – they read somewhere once that it was kind of difficult and therefore they can’t do it. Plain and simple.

Welcome to the world of Japanese high schools. Of course, I can only use my own experiences, but if a week spent in first grade English classes here in Kuga doesn’t sap away any desire you may have to be a teacher, then you are superhuman. I dread being asked to go to the classes as they’ll inevitably be awkward affairs that seem unplanned and spontaneous.

I moan about the ESIDL, but 50 minutes with this life-feeding year is enough to send me back there full of the joys of spring. After a day at elementary school, I realise why people become teachers and entertain the idea that maybe, later in life, I could do it too. One lesson with this lifeless bunch sends me running for the hills and has me now sworn against ever becoming a teacher. I would sooner walk through the fiery pits of Hounslow and live my life as an unemployed leech than suffer at the hands of The Class That Never Was.

Today’s task was a simple self introduction. I can do it in Japanese and I’ve hardly been studying it at all, despite all my initial good intentions. These kids have had an exposure to English for at least 6 years. This one boy sat there drawing pictures instead of writing out his simple introduction as the rest of the class was doing. He’d cleverly written “wakaranai” (I don’t understand) in Roman letters. So I went over and wrote the first bit for him: My name is. All he had to do was write his name in Roman letters there. Seeing as he’ll have learnt these since the age of 10, this shouldn’t have been a problem. When I was handed the stack of papers at the end of the class to correct, I found his sheet. All it said was:

Wakaranai My name is

So I wrote in my best script (and in nice, bright red pen):

This really is easy. Perhaps if you tried it you’d realise that…

It won’t make the slightest bit of difference. The teachers don’t seem to get all that upset if a kid doesn’t do their work. How different teachers in England are. I can’t count the number of times I was hunted down for a piece of work at school. But here, it seems that his English education will not further itself at all and he’ll sit and fail all consequent tests. And it’s that part of this job that I find so demoralising. The lack of effort by the students. The apathy of the teachers. The fact that “I can’t do it” seems to be a warning to teachers to back off and not push the point. If every teacher gave up when a kid despaired “I can’t do it”, where would civilisation as we know it be?

Any flame of enthusiasm for this job that may have remained through the 7 months I’ve been here has now dwindled, sputtered and gone out, leaving barely a trace of smoke…



1. Lucy - February 22, 2008

Love you, Mitch! Teenagers are vile creatures – don’t take it too personally. Back when I used to teach at youth theatre I was astounded by the kids’ attitude and laziness – and they had CHOSEN to be there! I can’t imagine how frustrating mainstream teaching must be.

(Get this, though, I’m hopefully about to cover two classes in ‘acting for dancers’… should be hilarious!)

Chin up, chicken. xxx

2. Wendy - February 23, 2008

So now you’ve discovered you really don’t want to be a teacher – some people take 20 years to discover this, so you’re heads up!

3. Lia - February 25, 2008

Don’t let the bastards grind you down! At least you can be smug with the knowledge that they’ll either never get the job they want, or they will and then discover they really need to speak english for something and wish they had listened all those years ago…! And on the bright side, there’s always the occasional prodigy to restore your faith in humankind 🙂

4. Me - February 28, 2008

Haha! the kids here are the scum. To be fair though, thinking back to French and Spanish classes at school, I reckon I couldn’t have given much of a toss either!! Most of the kids are never going to leave Japan anyway so they’ve not got much incentive to learn English…
Maybe the teachers empathise with the kids too, as most of them have never left the country either. It’s like being in the US!! 😦

just don’t take it personally.

Thank the good Lord that this country is full of fine girls though!

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