Oh, I have played the fool and erred exceedingly.
I was summoned to a private meeting today and essentially read the riot act. They will watch me over the next week to determine whether or not I will fit in here.
The thing of it is, I can’t really blame them. I’m only learning how to be a teacher as I go, and so far finding the time to do all the necessary work has been an enormous challenge. Nevertheless, it is teaching me how to become better organized. Even if I am a wash-out (right now it’s a toss up in terms of who will throw in the towel first), I will still have gained much from this experience. For example, my Redneck Palm Pilot* may finally be going by the wayside.
* - When you write notes for yourself on the inside of your hand…
The biggest issue the teachers had, among dozens of others, was that I got too far ahead in the math, because I was moving through the book much too quickly. I also needed to be giving out worksheets. After the meeting, they showed me where I could find some.
The meeting itself was one of the most stressful experiences I’ve ever had. Everything was by translation. Later J. told me that I was exhibiting all the wrong facial expressions – the other teachers were thinking that I wasn’t taking their statements seriously. Also, the one or two miniscule jokes I made during the meeting? A serious, serious No-No. That’s why J. had been so hard on me during my first days in Tokushima. She was trying to prepare me for the reality that here you CAN NOT KID. EVER. IN. A. MEETING. … EVER.
(And you can forget about smiling or laughing, too. I mean even a little.)
It’s hard for me, because whenever people talk to me, lines pop into my head. It just happens. Sometimes they’re even kind of witty. And I more often than not say them, or wait for a chance to. And humour has for many years been my go-to way of dealing with and (at least making an attempt at) defusing things.
So later on in the one-on-one meeting-after-the-meeting, I let J. make the jokes. One of her best ones was remarking that she found men don’t like to ask questions as much as women. For instance, driving directions? And then I remembered how many questions F. had been asking. She had been asking a question every time she wasn’t sure about something important.
I sometimes think I’m an atypical guy, but I am very much the same as most in one sense: I do hesitate to ask questions that I feel would betray my inexperience. Oh, I ask some questions, of course. But half of them are to confirm what I think I know already, and the other half come out only when things are really serious.
In other words, men like me need to learn to ask questions before things get serious. Like women usually do, for instance.
Speaking of men, Mt. couldn’t stand to be near me after the first meeting! He asked me to hold out my hand, saw how much it was shaking, and he said, “I can’t stay here; you’re freaking me out, Mate!” It’s really kind of funny.
I told J. (and I had to tell her that it wasn’t a joke, because it could easily have been construed as one) that since nobody understands me in North America, I should have known that it would be even worse in Japan.
Really, though, only part of this is Japan. A lot of the rest of it is “Welcome to the Real World™,” of which I have experienced
J. knows how it is, too. She reinforces the things that I tell myself; like that I’ll be better off for staying here and learning more about people. “It’s good for you,” she says. Even though she didn’t tell me anything new, she still helped me put things together from a more constructive and logical perspective. I don’t envy her her job.
Well, I think it’s time to cook some hash browns. You know, maybe teaching’s not for me. I’m not sad or reluctant to say so, because maybe that’s just the way things are. I’ve also completely changed my attitude about professional teaching programs. (“Two years to learn how to teach?! That’s ridiculous!” I’d say.)
Look at it this way, though: Would you let the amateur – and, wait, we also need to debunk the myth of the amateur if it hasn’t been trashed already. To be an amateur was once a gentlemanly thing. (Look at Bobby Jones for one of the very last great examples.) You took your pursuits very seriously, and your amateur status meant that you were independently wealthy or had independent means, meaning that you could call your own shots. You had the freedom to emblazon your name across history. The great amateurs of our past are without number.
Today, amateurism in that sense is dead. The Olympics used to attempt to hold onto it, but not anymore. If you’re doing anything, you’re doing it because you’re paid to. Social conditions have changed now – you have to be paid to do these things by someone who calls the shots (in general athletics, your sponsor and the organizers of your national teams; in team sports, your team’s ownership) because otherwise you can’t. That’s it, period. There may someday be another Tiger Woods, but there will never again be another Bobby Jones.
And today, sadly, amateur has become synonymous with inexperience. I deeply lament the loss of the amateur. To be a great amateur in multiple fields has been my dream, too. But it’s pretty much impossible today. I’ll do my best to keep the spirit alive, but that’s about all I can do.
And so let’s move on. Amateur means inexperienced, just like gay has come to mean homosexual and hacking often means criminal and not creative interaction with a computer.
So, using today’s sense of the word amateur, would you let an amateur handle your defence in court? Would you get an amateur to perform the live-saving surgery for your child?
Would you hire an amateur to teach your children?
I rest my case. I now realize that in the 21st century, it is no longer fashionable to take pride in my lack of official certifications, degree aside. There will never be another Bobby Jones, who won the only real grand slam. There will never be another Paul Lutus, the seventh-grade dropout who went on to help engineer the electrical systems for the space shuttle, the same man who later created Apple Writer, one of the very first word processors.
Today, amateurs, perhaps rightly, languish.
Still, I’m really happy I didn’t get a B.Ed.. Could you imagine how upset I would be if I had found out that I wasn’t cut out for teaching, after investing one or two years and probably tens of thousands of dollars? YIKES! At least non-professional education is good for its own sake, and that’s actually why I gravitate towards it, because I’m still sentimentally attached to the spirit of the amateur. I now want to learn about languages, about sciences… I don’t want to waste precious time with any education that only fits me for one purpose. This will mean I’ll continue to be a misfit – parents, please don’t let your children grow up to be amateurs; they’ll either become disillusioned like me, or they’ll become drug and/or fantasy addicts. (Or all of the above.)
And all is not lost. I’ve been taught a few new tricks now, and their deployment can only improve my teaching. (They could hardly make it worse…)
It’s time to cook some hash browns.
Tomorrow: More adjustments, and some tales from the weekend!