This conversation happened between me and a colleague the other day…
Japanese Teacher: I’d like to do a lesson about jobs, using He is / She is…can you put something together today, Loco Sensei? I know it’s short notice…so sorry.
Me: No prob…
Me: Ummm….no. But, we have a little time. I’ll just go pull some off the net.
I hopped on the internet, thinking I’d find some occupation Clip Art, print it out, grabbed some magnets and be done with it. But, a quick perusal of the top page Clip Art revealed a disconcerting bias in favor of people of European descent (or at least with European features) in most occupations. I was about to use those, as I have had to do many times before, when I had a flash. Here’s a chance to try something a little different for a change.I had an hour before the lesson so had to rush. After about 30 minutes of googling through an internet that would leave the surfer of color with the impression that the ideal employee’s hue is a light shade of pink, I decided to take a new tack.
Satisfied with my finds, I printed them out, placed them on my desk and waited for the following period to begin. The Japanese teacher came over to my desk between periods and noticed the photos.
JT: May I see them?
Me: Of course
JT: These are great!
Me: Aren’t they?
(I waited for another comment, but surprisingly nothing was forthcoming. He handed me back the photos without as much as an air suck. So, I headed for the classroom. 10 minutes into the class…)
Student: He is a carpenter!
Me: Wow, that’s a cool job! Anyone else? (Hands flew up.) Yes? What does your father do?
Another Student: He is ごみ収集車.
Me: Ah! He is a…um... (I was about to say Garbage Man and caught myself. Then I thought, “Sanitation Worker,” and having to explain PC and figuring I’d need a whole lesson just for that…) Trash Collector.
Student: Trash Corrector? Ah, I see…thank you!
Me: Anyone else? How about any working mothers? (One hand sheepishly began to rise.) Yes? What does your mother do?
Student: She is a teacher…大学で
Me: Ah! She is a university Professor! That’s great…you must be very proud!
Everyone was looking at her with surprised looks on their faces. Apparently no one knew.
Me: How about this guy? (I held up a picture of Muhammad Ali)
A third Student: He is a boxer!
(I was tempted to explain to my diversity-challenged students, whose clip art has mostly been relegated to manga character-looking Japanese and Europeans since kindergarten, that he was no typical boxer but, indisputably, the greatest boxer that ever laced on gloves. But nah…sometimes you just gotta leave a teachable moment alone, so I simply said…)
Me: Yes, he is!(Once I was done I looked at the board and the Japanese teacher’s and kid’s glowing faces and smiled. Here’s what the board looked like when I was done):
I left the class once the bell rang, feeling pretty good, like I’d done something productive with my day.