William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

73. Open Lesson, One Long Week (Part 2)

Ah, it feels good to shave and get some laundry going. When I’m doing commiserative writing without something going on in the background, I feel like I’m just pointlessly spinning my tires in the mud.

- Some of my interactions lately have felt really disciplinary – kind of like the chastisements and dressing-downs I experienced when I was 19 and I had a short stint as a waiter. I also was in one particular discussion that was unnecessarily prolonged because a consciousness set in as to who was going to have the last word. I really hate that kind of thing.

- W-sensei and M-sensei bent over backwards to help me with this open lesson. (In most respects, it was more their baby than mine.) Early on, though, I didn’t thank them for one of the things they did. Our interpreter brought this up. Well, the reason I didn’t thank them was because I felt like they were doing my job, and how can I possibly thank other people for doing my job, and draw even more attention to that awkward fact? But our interpreter had a point, they had a right to be upset about not being thanked. So I thanked M-sensei profusely (and W-sensei by proxy) and I explained to her that I didn’t thank her before because it felt like a student thanking his mother for finishing his homework. She seemed to understand that, and I think I was more or less forgiven. It was just a big drawn-out misunderstanding.

More on this: One evening, when I was a kid and we were staying at my grandmother’s house, I couldn’t motivate myself to do my homework, so I decided to try doing it in front of the TV in the morning. The results were predictable, and I ended up missing the bus, but Mom said she’d drive me to school. I said, “Thank you,” and she said, “You’re not welcome.” So that’s where I was coming from, if anyone was curious.

- One of the stupid thing about all this is that they want me to be more confident, so they stage these confidence-destroying interventions just to tell me at the end that I should be more confident.


In many respects I had the wrong idea about everything. I felt, I think justifiably, put upon. But they really want me to succeed – if they didn’t care, they’d just let me hit the rails. I had thought that they were setting me up, but that wasn’t the case. So in addition to the stress, I got a little bit of well-deserved egg on my face. The experience has been humbling, if not humiliating.

Everything about this goshdarned lesson was choreographed, right down to the last breath. They should have told me this before, though – before I took a top-down approach that had to be completely reformatted to a bottom-up approach. And our interpreter was very intrusive – she asked why I didn’t remember some of the things that I had written down in the innumerable meetings, and had me go through my notes and explain everything I’d written about the lesson to her blow by blow. She asked to see my daily planner. I put my foot down and told her no. (“OK, you don’t want to show me?” “No, I don’t want to show you. It’s mine.” (It is – it’s my personal property.))

And the stupid part of this interaction was that it stemmed from a clarification question I asked W.-sensei earlier in the day when I was putting my notes into order! And she called in the heavy artillery! Holy crap, just because I needed to be reminded of one thing that I had been vague about in my notes doesn’t mean I need to be re-led through the whole plan in such a condescending, insulting manner! And do you guys think this is going to make me want to ask you guys for any help or clarification ever again in the future? NO!

And sometimes this interpreter interrupts me during my teaching demonstrations and says, “Oh, no, no, you should do this,” and I muster up my patience and say, “Really? Oh… I’m sorry, I thought it was this way,” and she turns to W-sensei, and W-sensei confirms that my understanding was correct – ha-ha, I guess I should be happy about stuff like this; for one, I wasn’t the one making the mistake. It was bloody annoying at the time, though. “I’m sorry,” I might have felt like saying, “I’m answering to W-sensei right now – you do your job, and let me do mine.”*

* - Ironically, back in Twelfth Night, I got the same chastisement from the stage manager when I was unsolicitiously prompting some of the actors when I had a script in front of me and felt that the actors and prompters were missing important minutiae. After that I learned to ignore the small stuff and go to the other actors privately and politely when I noticed they were making more significant verbal mistakes.

Geez, I’m getting riled up again just thinking about all this. But at least now all this torture is over for a while. I don’t feel put upon and as if I am in a hopeless position. I had to walk out of the staff room a few times this week just so that I could quiver and hold back my tears and rage in peace. I honestly thought I’d have to be carted off in a straightjacket. It came perilously close; I was a hairsbreadth away from saying, “That’s it, I quit” and packing my things and going. In a sense I would have ended up echoing the time when my father showed up in Sherbrooke unannounced and packed my things and me up and carted me back to PEI without so much as a word (I even had to change in the truck). But if it had come to something like that, I’d want them to feel like I did then, and I’d have tried to leave without so much as a word more. At any rate, I’m really glad I decided to think of the innumerable consequences of such an action, and stick with things. I’d have felt like a failure for the rest of my life if I’d left or done something similarly rash.

Somehow, though, I got back on track. I forced myself to. And in the next post I’ll tell you how it went, after I hang up my wet clothes.
Tags: japan, lessons, memories, notes, school, teaching, work

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