An auspicious start…

I apologize for the lack of posts this week – i have been attending a business meeting all week. Speaking of business meetings, the purpose of this trip was ostensibly to “foster a closer, more professional relationship between JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) and ALTs (Assitant Language Teachers)”. Also, we are supposed to teach them english, since that is sort of what we are paid for.
So for three days, I have been attending this meeting with one of the JTEs from my school. A nice enough man, save for an unusually deep interest in George W. Bush and some conservative opinions that would make even the GOP blush, he sits right next to me in the teacher`s room. Not only this, I have been spending several hours per day with him during this trip, not counting the hour-long commute each way – and every day, I asked him: “Do you think I have to teach class this Friday?”, knowing that school started on Thursday (though I was on the business trip until friday).
To which each time he would dutifully reply: “No! Don`t worry about it! You`ll start teaching next week. Just come in at 9:30 like you usually do in the summer!”
And, perhaps foolishly, I believed him.
Whether it was a guardian angel, or perhaps just all those refried beans I ate the night before, for whatever reason I found myself tumbling out of my futon, unable to sleep, at 6am this morning. After trying everything to get back to bed (taking a shower, cleaning my room, trying to sort my garbage correctly according to this fscking 40 page garbage manuals…!!!) I finally gave up, and decided – what the hell, i`ll go in to work early.
So I roll into work at 8 am to find the staff room absolutely abuzz with a million teachers I had never seen before, and everyone looking very very serious and actually working for once… I have barely sat down at my desk before the kyoto-sensei (vice principal) stands up and starts the morning staff meeting…!!!
Of course, since it is almost JET tradition, they spring the whole suprise self-introductory speech on me, which I did okay, but imagine if i had listened to my JTE and not been there until 9:30…!!? *sigh*
After the meeting, I am about to settle back in my desk, to plan some lessons for monday, and maybe meet some of these teachers, when my JTE – the JTE who sits next to me, the JTE whom I have been attending a business trip with for the past three days, the JTE who I had asked repeatedly for the past three days about friday`s class ….!!! shuffles up beside me with a very grave expression on his face.
“Michael…” he begins, – “I forgot to tell you. We are teaching a class together in 10 minutes….”
*cue ferocious rage*
arrrrrrrrrggghhhh………!!!! I could have killed him right then and there with the little collapsible straw attached to my carton of juice….!!
I have NOTHING ready – no lesson plan, no handouts, no name plates, no activities – I don`t even know what damn textbook they are using…!!!
I hurredly grab up a bunch of random crap my predecessor had left stuffed in one of the drawers and run off down the hall after my JTE.
As I have previously mentioned, I teach at the lowest of the low level high schools. Let me just say that my first class did not go well. Half of the kids were asleep…! including one poor bastard who sat in the very very front of the class, not more than 3 feet away from me, who promptly passed out on his desk, drooled a little bit, and sort of snorted every once and again when I would walk past him. There was another kid, with a sort of fluffy mullet with mad split ends, who actually leaned out the hallway window (they`re these huge windows which open up) and started talking with one of his friends as I`m teaching class…! (my lord, that mullet made me want to cry, and I actually used to have a mullet…!) Then there was who I shall now have to refer to as “Kamen Rider” (“masked rider” for those of you back home) – who sat through my entire class wearing headphones and listening to his MD player…!!! When I tried to play off of that, to try and get him to talk a little, I asked him what he was listening to. Of course, he, like the rest of the students in my ENGLISH CLASS doesn`t actually speak english, so I had to repeat it in japanese – at which point he informs me he listening to some episode of “masked rider” and then launches into a litany of which masked rider he likes best, what is happening in this episode, etc, which would have been great if he had been doing it in english instead of japanese. Then there was this one kid who spent the entire class fiddling with his cell phone chatting on and on about what he would like to do with his girlfriend when he got home… *shudder*
But perhaps worst of all was poor, sad, depressed, angst-ridden suicide girl. I swear to god, this poor girl, dressed in a shabby, stained school uniform that had seen much much better days (our school doesn`t require uniforms, by the way – she must have been wearing it from a previous school) (kids come to our school when they drop out of the others) sat in the back in a little lump, occasionally quivering and always looking as if she was on the verge of absolute mental breakdown. She refused to speak, and when I finally managed to get her to say two words (her name…!) her tormented little death rattle of a whisper barely registered in my ears despite the fact that I was less than 3 feet away. She sat far far away from everyone else in the back, burying her head in her bag on her desk, never looked up, and constantly fiddled with her arms. I never saw any expression on her face other than absolute depression – as much as I hate to say it, when I first saw her, the thought that struck me, as clear as a bell, is “my god, this girl is going to kill herself before the year is done…”, a thought that was reinforced when my JTE leaned over to me (as I was struggling to get her to say two words) and whispered “best not to even try – she has severe mental problems – she is always like this…”.
In short, my first day was pretty much a disaster. However, it was mitigated by a couple of factors. The first was the realization that actually, I had a couple of students who were actually probably secretly very good at english…!! – I noticed this when I had them stand up and attempt to do self introductions. While most of the students flat out refused – either looking out the window, listening to the adventures of Masked Rider, or else, when they finally did do it, answering completely in Japanese – a couple of them did do a self-introduction – and did it well…! I noticed what I thought was a couple of hints of self-confidence, a sort of strength in their voice that gave me some hope – while I`ll have to wait and see, I think that a couple of them might actually be pretty good, if I can just get them to open up!
Speaking of opening up, another bright point came when I accidentally broke my JTE`s heirloom pen, given to him by his mother. While I won`t mention the details of my idiocy, suffice it to say that I broke it pretty soundly – the entire incident of which was witnessed by the only other girl in my class (besides suicide girl), who`s name ironically means “quiet” in japanese – she caught my panicked look when i realized what I had done, as I was glancing up to see whether the JTE had seen or not, and then came that smile – the smile, the smirk, the laugh, when you know that suddenly your students think that maybe, just maybe, you might be okay as a teacher… After that, she suddenly became lively – she answered questions when I asked her, laughed at stupid jokes the JTE and I tried to crack in class, actually wrote her name on her name plate when I asked her – which put her ahead of 95% of the students in that respect. I guess it made me feel happy that I could reach out and build a rapport with at least one of my students – too bad I had to break a 20 year old $500 pen given to a son by his dying mother in order to do it.
Anyway, I have bored you all enough with the details of my failure as a teacher. So now I will let you all know that I am going to the hilariously named “Jigga Bar” for Loan`s birthday. And I plan on getting hammered. And then, maybe going up to Nanao for what sounds like a huuuuge house party (a sort of “celebrate start of the school year” party for all the JETs) tommorrow. So please don`t expect to hear from me from a couple of days. Mmmm… Beer….. So why don`t you take this opportunity to go have a couple of cold ones yourself, and we can virtually drink together? ;P Ah, what the hell am I babbling on about? Time to go…
Now listening to: in honor of our trip to the Jigga Bar, of course I have to drop “Jay Z – Big Pimpin`”…!

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