My first full day of teaching went better than anticipated. While I wasn’t exactly planning to have any epic failures, I was feeling extremely overwhelmed yesterday by the sheer number of classes staring back at me from the schedule. I was to have 6 classes today that I have never taught before – not even as demo lessons in training. However, something started to click yesterday evening as I was attacking the first of my 6 lesson plans. Most of our lessons are grouped together by type, and once you know the structure for that type, you can pretty much handle any lesson easily – you just need to adjust a bit for English level and get to know the materials involved in the specific lesson. Last night I began to realize that I actually know one of the structures pretty well now. Then a few students ended up canceling, so I ended up with a smaller course load and more time to plan. That at least kept me from having an internal Fukushima Daichi.
I went to dinner last night and tonight with some various staff members as sort of a farewell gathering for the outgoing teacher whom I have replaced. People generally seem to go to Izakayas for these types of group events. These are sort of like tapas bars – you order lots of small plates to share and plenty of drinks, and everyone splits the bill evenly at the end. Some Izakayas are especially cheap – with prices as low as 270 yen (about $3) per item. The 7 of us had a huge feast and paid only about $30 per person in the end. It was myself, the other “foreign teacher” (an American girl from Pittsburgh), the Japanese manager, assistant manager, head teacher, and part time teacher from the school, and the foreign teacher I am replacing.
My outgoing teacher could not be more different from me. Not only is he a 24 year old guy, he’s also the type of hyperactive person whose mouth is forever sprinting in a failed attempt to keep up with what his brain wants to say. He’s young, and it shows, but I was very impressed with his poise in the classroom, and his skill with handling all levels of students – from rowdy children to erudite businessmen. I’m being reminded that getting older does not automatically equal being more knowledgeable. I think I knew this about other people, but I am forever having to be reminded that it also pertains to me. My eyes glazed over for a good 30 minutes at dinner tonight while some of my fellow teachers, mostly 5 to 10 years my junior, expounded at length on different types of fencing, ‘flavor profiles’ in cooking, and their favorite ancient books of the bible. Que? When was someone going to bring up Oprah’s final season, or whether Transformers 3 will be any good or not, I wondered.
I managed to feel somewhat knowledgeable in most of my classes today. I may have lost control of things at various points, but for the most part, no one seemed to know it. That is, with the exception of the 5 year old I taught today, who was very sweetly telling me lots of things in Japanese and trying her best to show me how the games are supposed to be played, until she finally got distracted by coloring a kitty picture that really should not have been in her bag. From then on, she could barely be bothered to point weakly at the vocabulary pictures while I more or less ran around the room like an idiot trying in vain to get her attention back. The kids classes are by far the most terrifying. On the list of things I am afraid of, the disdain of a group of bored 7 year olds is right up there with the possibility of dismemberment or falling from a very high place. I also have some extremely high-level discussion classes that are fairly nerve-wracking as well. They are so high-level in fact, that I don’t think simply being a native English speaker qualifies me to teach them – I should probably have a PhD or an MBA from Columbia. In one class, I am to build my own curriculum from news articles on current events which we will then discuss in class. The previous teacher’s sources included The Economist, among other weighty publications. I have to do research just to understand what it is I’m teaching. Have you ever heard of Moore’s Law? Neither had I.