William Matheson (nova_one) wrote,
William Matheson

115. Complicity

I got up this morning to find another egg on my balcony. I really wanted to drop it over the side like the last one, but there were ball players doing exercises in a circle across the street, and they would have seen me tossing something off my balcony. It wouldn’t have looked good. So I begrudgingly let it be. Maybe it was just a freak thing, I thought.

I came back this afternoon to find one of those [deity-cursed] [excrement] machines brooding the egg. Stupid birds. Stupid rotten lousy pieces of [excrement] with [excrement] for brains, I want to strangle every [deity-cursed] last [intercourse] one of them. [Excrement]! [Intercourse]! I will recommend that my successor show no mercy. I want to kick and stomp the very life out of them; they bring out the very worst in me. It’s something primal; they’re intruding in my territory and making a mess of it. Be gone, fowl fiends!

Skipping ahead a bit, this evening I discovered I had to defrost my freezer. I guess I should say “absolutely had to” – I’d been putting it off, but tonight the freezer door wouldn’t open all the way because of the mass of ice. I had to give it a tug and crack the inside plastic a bit. Then I gave F. a call, put everything in her freezer, and then unplugged the fridge. As the evening progressed, I started tugging on the ice, which came out in large pieces, which I could then just toss in the sink. It was all easier than I had imagined – all I needed was patience, the sink, a towel to soak up much of the water at the end, and then some paper towel to wipe up the rest. I didn’t need no stinking blow dryers or ice chests.

Today was full of ups and downs, and as I’ve noted, we spent a great amount of time under the cruel, unrelenting sun. I sad that some of the teachers were a little harsh. I did see one handling a few kids rather roughly – there was definitely some arm-grabbing and short-distance heaving / dragging. I also hear of some hitting, but I’m usually looking at the ground when it happens because of the embarrassing yelling that accompanies it. I wasn’t even around yesterday when the worst of it happened – this same teacher lashed out and threw a kid to the ground.


And this is all on top of the fact that the kids are out there for well over an hour at a go without water or shade – today they had a five minute rest between two gruelling hour-plus sessions. So F. took these concerns to H-sensei and Mk. To their great credit, they were reportedly very receptive. We weren’t the only ones raising an eyebrow – some of the junior high students and teachers (who happened to observe us practicing when they were walking by) were shocked to see what was going on.

What’s more, they’d spoken to this teacher before about her, erm, aggressiveness. That kind of makes it seem like there’s a double standard – one foreign teacher of yore was shown the door after striking a kid, although it was because the parents complained on the child’s behalf. Also, foreign teachers are expendable compared to Japanese teachers, and this foreign teacher may have been on the rocks with the senior Japanese teachers and the administration already anyway. I’m not at all suggesting that this teacher ought to be fired, but she (and at least one other teacher in my opinion) ought to invest in a bottle or two of chill pills. The sky isn’t falling because so-and-so-kun in second grade isn’t raising his knees high enough on the march.

I must thank my lucky stars that the Japanese teachers I’ve shared homerooms with have been as cool as cucumbers the vast, vast majority of the time. I haven’t had a harsh or harshly-delivered word with either of them. They’re fantastic. Not that the others aren’t cool too, but let’s just say that I’m not known for my ability to get along with temperamental people.

Anyway, getting back to the main thread: Although the parents involved in the incident with that former foreign teacher complained, it seems that many parents are complicit with the sometimes cruel manner of Japanese teachers. Many parents feel like they have no control over their children at home, so they see school as the only place where they can have discipline. So many parents are workaholics and so many children are coddled (perhaps to offset parental guilt), and the teachers are left to do the heavy lifting. The parents are more than willing to turn a blind eye to professional misconduct if the desired effect – a subdued, easily managed child – is achieved.

This and more was talked about at that meeting. The result of it all is that we will be getting a reminder about the rules at tomorrow’s teacher’s morning meeting. F. and C. predict a lot of downcast staring and quiet “Sooooooo des”es. Also, the teacher involved in the recent incidents and the teacher who usually translates things for us… is the same teacher. This will be interesting, to say the least. =)

[Update: Nothing more was said about it.]

I was really glad that F. had the scruples to bring this matter into discussion and suggest a meeting about it. Her heart was certainly in the right place. I admired her for this – I even said that I was non-condescendingly proud, not to suggest that she needs my approbation to do what’s right. I said that I was tempted to suggest a meeting myself, but it would have started with, “Hey, can we go at 12?” F. joked, “The kids can run all they want as I long as I get something to eat.”

It’s true, though. I see what the kids are enduring, and I’m like, “When’s lunch, so I don’t have to see or hear this anymore?” I’m as complicit as anyone. All I want to do during these trying times is survive this job and go back to school. I care about the kids I teach, but it’s easy for me to forget that when I’m roasting and listening to kids being roasted.

Way to go, F., for standing up for what’s right, and for doing it in an appropriate way – you got the issue the attention it deserved. [for five minutes, behind closed doors]

Some happier anecdotes:

1. The phone rang incessantly this afternoon. It was one call after another practically begging for a Japanese teacher to come to the phone. None were around. The final time it rang, I took pity on the caller and asked them to wait (while I looked around for a teacher). As luck would have it, a Japanese teacher did come into the room. I indicate the phone, and that the caller is looking for a Japanese teacher. “OK. Understood.” And then he went to the photocopier, and then sauntered to his desk (walking past the off-the-hook phone, which I was looking at expectantly), applied lip gloss, then walked back out again. I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned, and I broke into laughter just after he slid the door shut behind him. To top it off, this is a guy I have “seniority” on. =) Actually, on that note, I think F. has become the de facto Senior Foreign Teacher. Despite the fact that I may be technically entitled to that distinction (we started at the same time, but I was hired before she was), I think it’s for the best. I don’t have a head for the kind of generalities needed to take on a leadership role. F. does, and she’s also really good at seeing other people’s points of view. Meanwhile, I’m getting good at knowing how to do stuff, but it’s mostly technical / logistical stuff – ask me to make up a dance for the kiddies, and I’m completely clueless. Thus F. should really be the Senior Foreign Teacher. We complement each other, and it wouldn’t be bad to be 1A, and as things are it’s not bad being 6D (up from 19Z when D. was still here).

2. Every afternoon, the children change from their S.G. shorts and tees back into their formal school uniforms. The Year Three and Four classrooms are next to each other, so the boys go over to / stay in H-sensei’s Y4 room (H-sensei is male) and the girls go to / stay in M-sensei’s Y3 room (M-sensei is female). There’s usually a bit of a wait in the stairwell as the quicker third-year boys and fourth-year girls emerge from the rooms and wait for the all-clear signal before reentering.

Some of the Year Three girls are notoriously slow changers. Today one of the girls identified A-chan as the last girl who was still changing – not the one who’s habitually the slowest, and one who’s pretty well-humoured – so I playfully shouted, “A---, hurry up!” Boy, did the boys ever latch onto that one. “A---, hurry up! A---, hurry up!” they started to chant. Oh, boy. I apologized to A-chan, and said I wouldn’t do anything like that again.

Alright, it’s time to get myself ready to go to Hiroshima tomorrow. I wish I didn’t have to go this weekend – I’d dearly love another easy weekend of relaxation and sleep, but my
train ticket expires on the 10th, so it’s now-or-never. Luckily, next weekend is a long weekend, and I have no plans, so I’ll get my naps – and I hope some catch-up writing – in then. I still have to finish writing about the open lesson just past (#110)!

Tags: birds, children, discipline, japan, meetings, pigeons, professionalism, school, sports festival, teachers, teaching, work

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