Don’t give them an inch – don’t admit you’re an amateur, because they resent the fact they had to hire you on that basis. Once they get a leg up on you, you’re done for. You can’t admit you’re human, not even when your “boss” is out drinking with you: “Why are you telling me this?! Hello!”
People ask me what I thought of teaching, and my summation has been, “Teaching’s OK, I just can’t stand the politics.” People wonder what I mean by that. Well, in this particular situation, we were always combating a pervasive, institution-wide malaise. Things were such that it couldn’t be addressed – like everything else, it had to be covered up. You learn the meaning of the phrase “most ignorance is wilful.” Knowledge is paralyzing. Speaking out is suicide. Just put your head in the sand and finish your contract.
If things aren’t going well, the solution is always to work longer hours, and the blame is squarely yours. I came into the job with a self-effacing attitude, but I might have carried it too far as I began to be a magnet for rancour. I don’t behave like most people, either – even my contemporaries have difficulty understanding me, and many of the Japanese teachers probably thought I was an impudent little snot. I spoke out about things that I shouldn’t have and stood my ground when it would have been wiser not to. Eventually I learned to dabble in the low-grade deceit needed to survive. (For just one example, I couldn’t chase down every one of my students for every item of homework that they neglected to do and assign them extra homework like my predecessors would, and so I neglected this part of my duty but I also obscured it so that I would not be condemned again.) But unfortunately, the damage was done, both to my reputation and me.
Maybe I’m just not cut out for this sort of thing. I feel like I’ve been chewed up and spat out – just another (slightly squeaky, prone to seizure) cog in their wheel. All of the appearances and thank yous were there, of course, but it was all just for appearance’s sake. It was all counterfeit. So much of the actual job went that way, too. We weren’t even allowed to talk to the parents, lest they find out (again) that some of us weren’t accredited teachers in our home countries, and withdraw their students from the school in protest (again). Instead, everybody played this little game – well, I did, until I got sick of it and had nothing to lose. But then again, I would have felt kind of sheepish about it anyway, as those parents were paying good money and some of them were assuming that the school had changed its ways as it said it would and therefore I must be a real teacher, right?
It’s not that these little games and deceits kept me from doing my job. They just made me miserable about it, is all.
Among other things, I had to teach art, junior high math, and primary school science, and I knew embarrassingly little about any of it. If I had been trained as a teacher, I would have had to have some background in some or all of those things before any department of education would have admitted me. But I wasn’t, so I didn’t. However, I’m actually grateful for those experiences, however trying they may have been at the time, because they opened me up to the chasmatic gaps in my own, personal education. Because of what I lacked in math and science in particular, I determined to go back to school – not as a graduate student, but as a lowly graduated ever-student enrolled in university prep courses. (I must note that many of my friends are alarmed at this course of action. They’re wondering if I’ve thought about how it will feel to be nearly 30 and still a sort-of undergrad, with no career and few prospects (save returning to the Orient when I run out of money). Before I even graduated (the first time, in 2004), I was receiving criticism: “ur a loser cause u have no friends & have been in skool 4 like eva,” as one of my cousin’s friends once told me.)
Well, I feel that the best way to wash off the stench of failure is by succeeding at something, and I am bound and determined to spare no effort, no expense, nor leave any metaphorical stone unturned as I embark on my quest to become educated. I have to show people that I have some talent, some value, something to contribute to this world, both for my sake and that of others.
Your mileage may vary.