Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dawn of the Final Day

It's not really the Final Day, unless you're counting Friday as the final day of the week. That picture is purely for dramatic effect or, as we say with rapidity, "dramaffect." I've been teaching real classes in my village since Monday, swerving up and down and streets of the hill-ridden countryside and moving between schools as one might move between appetizers on a sampler platter. I'm never at one school for too long: One day, I may be teaching the names of fruits at an elementary school, the next day teaching junior high students to use contractions.

Regardless, I'm finally doing what I've been getting paid to do. What a surprise that it's actually not what I expected it to be! I envisioned crafting intricate lesson plans in the dead of night, tinkering with each aspect in order to cater to my students' individual quirks. Instead, I find myself regulated to the corner of the classroom, watching with a frozen smile as the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) leads the class lessons and calls upon me to teach students the difference between pronouncing "boring" and "bowling."

I don't make it sound very glamorous, but don't be deceived. I'm actually having fun. The students are full of energy and their manners are surprisingly good. I expected classrooms of deviants, snapping at my heels and pulling at my necktie as if it were a free-hanging noose. The teachers are all very kind and seem to have a good handle on classroom management. In fact, considering that I am only at each school a couple times per week, I question whether I am even necessary. Besides pronunciation, these teachers are entirely capable of evoking success in their students' English abilities.

Operations at junior high and elementary levels differ, of course. On the upper levels, I am a constant shadow within the class, participating in activities alongside the students, leading them in vocabulary drills as set out by the JTE, and correcting their simple mistakes by hovering over their shoulders like a hawk. In the elementary schools, I serve a perfunctory role as vocab driller and funny-face-maker. I am at least grateful that elementary school students can be appeased by even the most innocuous and simple gestures, such as pronouncing the word "sushi" in Barney the Dinosaur's nasally tenor.

I wish I could be more informative, but four days is hardly enough time to accurately measure an individual student's propensity to learn a foreign language when he'd rather be playing baseball. If I come off as some sort of oblique roustabout in this narrative, I sincerely apologize. While I cured myself of Japanese culture shock during my last trip to Japan, I must admit with shame that my naivety is a perpetual flaw.

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