04 February 2010 ~ 18 Comments

The trials and tribulations of teaching English in Japan pt.3

“Do you like to make lessons for our classes?” I asked Yoshida-sensei making sure my smile was intact.

She flinched and said, “Unnnn chotto….” (well, kinda, sorta…) which I’ve learned is as strong a “no” as you’re gonna get sometimes in Japan. But I treated it like a half-hearted yes.

“Well,” I said, keeping upbeat. “I really like making lessons! I mean, I LOVE it! ”

“Hontou?” (really?) she asked a little suspiciously. “I didn’t know.”

“You didn’t? Haven’t you noticed that I make all of Tsuchiya-sensei’s and Morita-sensei’s lessons?”

“I did notice that,” she said, her smile growing  just a little brighter, perhaps anticipating where I was going with this conversation.

“…And the students really seem to enjoy them. At least I think they do.”

“Yes, I heard from both of them that the children really like your lessons,” she said, looking giddy as a school girl herself.

“Well, ” I said with great gravity. “Here’s what I wanted to say: You seem to be very busy quite often. Sometimes I worry that you are working too hard,” I said, laying it on a little thick, wondering if I should pull back. “So…I know that you enjoy making your own lessons, but, can I please make a few lessons for you?”

“Well, I…” she began, about to no doubt humbly accept, but I cut her off…

“You don’t have to commit now,” I said, waving her off like I had been expecting a negative response. “Just let me do it for a few weeks, maybe a couple of months, on a probationary basis, you know? And if you don’t feel like the students are benefitting or enjoying the change, we can go back to your wonderful lessons. How about it…will you give me a chance?”

She stared at me for a second in wonder and I thought maybe I had overdone it. But most of the Japanese I know have no irony or sarcasm radar whatsoever when it comes to me.

“I think that’s a great idea!” she said.

“Yatta!” (I did it!) I cried out, trying to restrain the great urge I felt to tell her, ‘if you had said or even hinted, even subtly, that you wanted me to make lessons we would have been where we are now months ago…without the involvement of the Board of Education or my company!’ But I bit my tongue, as the BOE Lady sagely advised, and as I knew I should from my experience with Ono sensei at the high school. “That’s wonderful! I’m glad we had this talk. So…what’s next week’s grammar point?”

Later that day, I got a call from my company. When I saw the company’s name on my cellphone I knew it was something bad. They never call for good news. And then when I heard one of the head trainer’s voices, it all but confirmed my suspicions that something was amiss.

“Mr. Loco,” came Tony’s silky voice. Tony has been a teacher trainer at the company longer than I’ve worked for them, and from the first time I heard his voice I knew how he’d obtained and maintained his job: He bamboozled the pants off of them. Sold them an image of smooth and cavalier and utter competence. It was all in his voice. I respected him for having the wherewithal to do it but that didn’t stop me from hating him from day one.

“How are you?” he asked, his words terse from overuse. He doesn’t waste his silk on me. He saves it for the new teachers and the Japanese.

“I’m good what’s up?” I said, matching his desire to dispense with the pleasantries and cut to the chase.

He appreciated it I could tell from the sigh that followed. It was a heavy sigh, laden with shit he’d rather not spend his life attending to but this is how I live well here while my friends and family back home are getting laid off left and right in a plummeting economy that hasn’t found bottom yet so going home remains out of the question…

“Well we just received by mail some feed back from one of your schools…”

I assumed it was related to what had transpired at the school I was currently at so I told Tony,” Yeah, I just met with the woman from the BOE, and…”

“This feed back is from the other school.”

“Oh really? Great! Let’s hear it,” I said. The other school’s teachers were Kawaguchi-san and Takahashi-san (which I have discussed in previous posts) , so I didn’t anticipate any bad news coming from there. Kawaguchi-sensei and I were tight, and if she ever needs anything, unlike Yoshida-sensei, she speaks up. And, Takahashi-sensei, though she had shown me last year that she had no qualms with going over my head, I’ve never given her reason to give me a bad review.

However the company only calls when there is bad news so I was a little anxious. And you can probably get a feeling about the company’s ideas on professional development by the concern they show holding this feedback session over the phone while I’m still at work, there by limiting the amount of time that can be spent on it.

“Well, there were a couple of answers to our questions that we felt we needed to forward to you so that you can make the necessary changes in order to remedy the situation…” 

“I see…such as?”

“Now, don’t get upset…”

“I’m not upset,” I snapped, a bit, in my defense. “I’m just…anyway, what were the questions?”

He ran off a list of questions that the company sends to the English teachers for them to answer with either an excellent, a very good,a  needs improvement or a poor. Though I hadn’t received any poors, I had received several needs improvements. One was in the area of spendng time with the students outside of the classroom. I was shocked!

“You mean, aside from the tennis and basketball club activities I join periodically?” I asked sarcastically.

“That’s what it says here,” Tony said. “Says you don’t spend time with the kids…”

“Well, it’s bulls…nonsense!” I said. And then I realized something. The tennis club was mostly second year and third year students and so was the basketball club. I hardly participated in any first year club activities because…welll…because…

“What?” Tony asked, sensing I had something to add.

“Nothing…” I sighed.

“You know I can’t tell you the teacher’s name, but I need to know what your thoughts are about the statement and what you intend to do to rectify it…”

I was picturing my big tit, dime-dropping colleague filling out this questionnaire, trying to urge the company to urge me to take control of her First Year class so that her life could be easier.


“Well, obviously, I plan to spend more time with the kids, (Matsui-kun, Satou-kun, the little yakuzas) and take part in their club activities (who can throw the biggest rock at the teacher, who can design the best tattoo on the bathroom wall, who can get the most squeeze money from the other students), and do whatever I can do to make the Japanese teacher’s (Takahashi Sensei’s) life easier…”

“Glad to hear it, sir…” Tony said, with that silky voice I just fucking hate.

to be continued…


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18 Responses to “The trials and tribulations of teaching English in Japan pt.3”

  1. Cedric Domani 4 February 2010 at 7:16 pm Permalink

    “They smile in yo’ face
    all the time they wanna take yo’ place
    oooooh. backstabbers– baaaackstabbers”.

    • Locohama 4 February 2010 at 9:35 pm Permalink

      Hey Cedric
      yep, don’t they? but what you gonna do….live and learn
      thanks for the shout

  2. kuroshirohaiiro 5 February 2010 at 8:13 am Permalink

    is it XXXXXXXX you work for?

    • Locohama 5 February 2010 at 8:18 am Permalink

      Kuroshirohaiiro, the company’s name is iirrelevant and private but thanks for reading (-:

  3. Matt 5 February 2010 at 10:25 am Permalink

    First time for me to comment but love the blog! Being an ex Nova teacher myself the "Black and White in Japan" posts were particularly funny.
    Being rated/scored by your colleagues behind your back must be unbelievably frustrating. It's difficult not to put the negative comments down to arrogance on their part, especially as it seems so flippant to do so without consulting you. Either that or my western mindset has totally kicked back in since I lived in Japan (7 years ago).

    Anyway cool blog, enjoying the flurry of posts recently

  4. Julie L 5 February 2010 at 11:31 am Permalink

    Hiya Loco, love the blog.
    However, you do know what it means to be "dooced", right?

    I'm sure you know what I mean… just be careful.

    • Kevin Smith 5 February 2010 at 12:27 pm Permalink

      Takahashi, say it isn't so! I believed in you!

  5. Chris B 5 February 2010 at 1:46 pm Permalink

    “I respected him for having the wherewithal to do it but that didn’t stop me from hating him from day one.”

    I’ll say it.

    Dear Tony,
    Could you spare any and all bullshit and speak in plain fucking English? I ain’t into the hesitated criticism like I’m some kinda fucking kid or idiot so go grease someone else’s asshole before you fuk em ‘ cuz I don’t need no vaseline just do it!!

    Dear co-workers,
    The one’s who keep messin with me should get down on your knees. The rest of ya’ll are solid so keep on your feet ( you all know which position you should be taking) so I ain’t gonna call out names.

    Dear students,
    I’m tryin. Lord knows I’m tryin!!

    • Locohama 5 February 2010 at 2:55 pm Permalink

      @Chris B
      Lord knows I do!
      sound like my mother LOL
      thanks Chris for putting thoughts I didn’t even I know I had into words LOL
      My man 40 grand!

  6. kuroshirohaiiro 5 February 2010 at 6:57 pm Permalink

    I was just curious because I know a guy named Tony who works for said company and is pretty much exactly like you described…which is, I suppose, irrelevant. But none less I can relate to your story. Thanks yous-from an avid reader

    • Locohama 5 February 2010 at 7:46 pm Permalink

      Kuroshirohaiiro-san, No problem (-: I never use real names anyway. But I'm sure there are a lot of "Tony"s in Japan.
      And I appreciate the support
      Loco (not my real name either) lol

  7. mike 4 June 2016 at 3:58 pm Permalink

    Ive never been an ALT, and glad Im not one after reading this. There might be some benefit of the “fellowship” with other gaijin, but spending time with the kids after school? Nah, they can shove that and write up whatever memo or power trip report they want, Id just wipe my ass with and hand it back to them and ask them to rate the smell. Time is money and if I aint getting paid for my time, F that.

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