Basic Grammar in Use
Basic Grammar in Use - Japanese Kids are Great!
This is probably the greatest experience Walker will take with him from being an ALT. The kids are great! They are just a joy! Their eyes gleam with light and potential. They smile. They laugh. They grab Walker`s long legs and hang on, they give him impromptu tours of the school. They give him high fives. They show him the English on their shirts.
Basic Grammar in Use - The LOVE
They show unconditional love of life and everything. They write him letters to say goodbye. They bring tears to his eyes when he finally realizes it is time to move on. Walker is greeted by the children as a kind of celebrity or a pop star and that never changes. Walker has a fan club of over 300!
Basic Grammar in Use -- Huge Classes!
All 41 of the grade threes enter the classroom. . Teaching such huge classes will be a big challenge for Walker, who asks his wife to help with the classes, as about half of the Japanese teachers are not of much help. They will do all the discipline? Yah right! I can teach any way I want? Yah, hand me another plate of BS. More pepper please. (See cultural note above)
Would you like to stay in a pleasant riverside cottage near hot springs and Hakone?
Basic Grammar in Use -- Trying to Make Changes
A meeting with the staff department chiefs doesn`t change much of anything. Though polite platitudes are expressed about the English lessons, Walker comes to feel he is not heard, nor are his opinions valued, as the problems he has mentioned are not fixed in any noticeable way. While his lessons are complimented, almost in the same breath he is politely criticized. So the impact of the compliments are quickly nullified and Walker comes to feel that he is not appreciated much by the staff. Perhaps this is not so. In retrospect, probably he was appreciated. But in the moment, it doesn`t seem so.
Basic Grammar in Use -- The Kids
The grade threes enter. The children as always are a joy and one of the teachers is fine, but another teacher is a pain. Her game is to tell Walker at least once per class that the activity he is about to do, just won`t work. "The kids can`t do this.""Let`s just try it." "This is too difficult." "Let`s try it."--Walker says.
"Shouldn`t we write all of this down on the board for them." (Fuck...g shut up!)Walker thinks, but says politely: "Let`s just try it."
" I really think this is too hard."
"It`s okay, it`s okay," (Ya c--t!) Trying to stifle a maniacal urge to strangle the 25 year old woman.
Basic Grammar in Use -- Pain in the Neck Teachers
His wife urges him to ignore the interference. Walker can`t. He has been doing this for 17 years and finds it really grating that a 25 year old is telling him how to teach, as well as what will work and won`t work in his class. Walker can`t imagine ever being rude enough to stop a Japanese teacher while she is teaching a kanji class, saying "this is too difficult." This woman is making the class harder to teach. Yet her job is supposed to be as a team member and help him teach the class. She seems to regard Walker as her rival. She seems to see him as some interloper teaching her students. He sees her as some kind of saboteur.
Basic Grammar in Use -- Hide the Problems and "Gaman"
In Japan, you are often not supposed to talk about problems. Simply bringing them up is something that shouldn`t be done. "Walker stops the 25 year old on the stairs, resists the crocodile urge to push her down them, and says "Please stop giving me advice during my classes. I am busy enough. Tell me after the class, plus I have done all the preparation, it is too late to change things right before an activity." She looks stunned.
Basic Grammar in Use -- Walkers Let`s Fly
Walker decides that is not enough. Acting like the Westerner he is, he goes to the boss and let`s it fly. Though he has mentioned this problem before Walker never named her, Now he does: The grade three teacher is driving me crazy. He tells him the whole story. The boss agrees it is really rude. The next week, she is on her best behavior.
Basic Grammar in Use
The grade six class is taught by a woman in her fifties. She turns out to be nice enough, but in the beginning she is cold. After the first or second lesson, she tells Walker the class was too difficult. Walker thinks, that Japanese really don`t know how to welcome the new guy. Why not give him a chance?
This was the lesson felt to be so difficult:
"Hello, my name is __________________. What`s your name?"
"My name is______________.""Nice to meet you."
"Nice to meet you too."
Yep, rocket science ladies and gentleman. Learning English is rocket science.
The new guy is expected to pay his or her dues and the dues seem to need paying a lot longer than in the West. He sees that at the tennis club, at parties and in the English class, where classmates don`t even know the other students` names. A Westerner in Japan, if lucky won`t be the new guy forever at his work place and the clubs he joins, but he will be the new guy a lot longer than any Japanese would. The society is certainly not geared towards welcoming people from other ethnic backgrounds, and that applies to any situation where you are expected to work together as well.
Basic Grammar in Use -- Am I simply a tape recorder?
"Japanese people love foreign ideas and things. They don`t really want foreigners around to instigate them though."-L.B, a company executive in Japan
It is a shame as the children really are great. Walker enjoys seeing their beaming faces. Even the junior high wannabes are not so bad. The teachers of the elementary schools are a real hit and miss proposition though, and Walker must work with them every class. Walkers wife finds the same thing at her school. Some people should never have become teachers.
The range in the teachers seems to be from fantasicly energetic and simply great teachers, to people who look like they are really not enjoying themselves on planet Earth, and want you tobe aware of it. "I`m having my period today and I want to eat you alive!" I hate my life, I hate my job and foreigners scare me. You might embarrass me in front of all the kids.
"Okay let`s do the hokey pokey..."
The grade four teacher informs him that he can`t dance, he must discipline those boys over there. Okay, Walker has learned to roll with things more.
"Five little monkeys dancing on the bed....one fell off and he was dead." (like some of the zombies Walker works with).
While reading the brown cow book, no one can hear him as the three boys in the front arebeing so loud. Not having to do any discipline Walker waits for the Japanese teachers to react. No one does.
"I can`t read this book with them talking, can you help me please!?"
The statues move, and take care of the culprits, then return to their pedestal.
One day a fax arrives at the Walker household: "Walkersan, sorry if you made your lesson plan already, but this is how I want you to teach."
Walker you will remember was told he could teach any way he wanted. (See cultural note)
Now he was being told to follow Suzukisan`s plan. In the preceding weeks, though he was praised a lot, Walker was criticized in a polite way almost weekly by the Japanese staff.
"Can you please hold the cards this way most honorable Walkersan?"
"We have these cards and these books for you Walkersan."
"Your books are too small Walkersan."
"Your cards are too small Walkersan. Please use ours."
"Please do the same songs that Noda sensei is doing."
Noda sensei was a volunteer teacher.
"Please watch our grade three teachers teach the class."
Walker did, found it boring and very Japanese--rote-memory, repeat after me, teacher centred, 1950`s style crap.
"Please watch honorable Noda sensei teach."
Walker did, grumbling about being asked to watch the volunteer teacher. More 1950s style bullshit. Repeat after me, sing the same weather song countless times; bore the students into stupor.--Teacher centered teaching.
Walker decides after 8 months that he will quit. He talks about being lied to about the job. (See cultural note eh!)
The job he agreed to was not the job he recieved. He outlined all of the gripes above.
He asks, "If you want me to teach like a Japanese, why not hire a Japanese teacher? Am I just there for pronunciation practice?"
An embarrassed silence ensues. Walker will never hear an answer to that question from any of the elementary school department heads he asks.
This last point is a commonly felt one by foreign teachers in Japan at some schools in Japan:
"Am I just there for pronunciation practice?"
If so, get a CD player.
Basic Grammar in Use -- Students Quotes:
"One Japanese teacher always tries to sabotage my classes."
--an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan
"The JETs say the same thing, that the schools of Japan are very unfriendly places to work."
--An official in the JET program who wishes anonymity
"The teachers in Japan are over-worked, under-paid, and are in an industry with declining numbers. They are stressed, under too much pressure, working too many hours, and not enjoying their jobs these days."
--An official in the JET program
"The teachers tend to be snobby." -- a Japanese, English teacher
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