Happy New Year?
Ahahaha…it has now been over two months since the Arashi concert in Osaka. I think it’s fair to say at this point that I will never write a post about it. It was great, it was fun, don’t get me wrong, but I just don’t have it in me right now.
To be honest, I’ve been quite miserable for the past several months. The concerts were the only thing I was looking forward to. Oh, and the Translation Course seminar. Basically, anything that would get me out of my school.
Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve worked really hard, and mostly for nothing. Other people come here to travel for a year and “find themselves” while they incidentally happen to be employed by the Japanese government. I never had much respect for these types. But now I think that they were right all along. To a great extent, that’s all that’s expected of ALTs anyway. And those that do more don’t get much for their troubles.
That’s what I’ve been feeling for the past several months anyway.
Even though I had made up my mind not to seek reappointment while I was resting in the States, I wanted to discuss it with my supervisor and vice principal first. I was caught off guard when on my first day back in Fukuoka, still messed up from jet lag and not in the best of moods, my supervisor asked me if I was staying or not. The part of my brain that was awake and rational was saying, “Don’t answer that! Don’t answer that right now!” But my Autopilot said, “I think I should go home,” to which my supervisor replied with an “Oh” and ran off somewhere. I was confused, as I assumed my inclusion of “I think” would’ve shown I wasn’t 100% sure. Well, maybe we’ll discuss it later, I thought.
Meanwhile, classes and English Club continued as always. Well, not exactly. A student who participates in class a lot joined English Club. Our first freshman member! Things were starting to seem not so detestable. That night when I got back to my desk in the shokuinshitsu after English Club finished I found a copy of a letter from the prefecture offering an extension of my contract. It was three weeks before the February 5th deadline. Tired from the long day, I stuffed it into a drawer on my desk, not wanting to go through the options for the umpteenth time. I thought, “I’ve got time to think.”
To my surprise the next day one of the school secretaries comes with the original letter and gives it to my supervisor, who confirms where I should sign for “not recontracting.” Hmm, an interesting choice of words, I thought. Then my supervisor puts the paper in front of me, points to the line for “not recontracting,” and tells me to sign it.
I just looked at her for a bit.
There were several things going on in the back of my mind in this instant.
I was thinking, “Is this really how this is going down? Really? After I’ve stayed after school till 7, 8, 9 at night working on stuff, correcting essays for students I don’t even have class with, making bulletin boards, after I’ve given you 4 years of my life, we’re not even going to discuss this? You’re not going to ask me why?”
I remembered reading somewhere, maybe it was the CLAIR newsletter, that while contracting organizations may push their ALTs for early answers, that ALTs should remember that they have until February to decide whether to recontract or not. I was thinking, “Why are they pushing this on me in such a hurry? Was my performance not satisfactory?”
Well, I had already told my mother that I’d be going home in August. And if my school didn’t care enough to even have a discussion, then it wasn’t going to be worth giving them another year of my life. So I signed the papers saying I wasn’t staying on and saw them get filed faster than anything.
I was like @_@???? I didn’t feel good about it all. While I felt like I would have regretted either staying or going, the way that whole business with the recontracting papers was handled left a bad taste in my mouth. I cracked even more jokes in class than usual to try not to let my bad mood bring the class down. I wondered if anyone would notice that I was laughing too much.
Things were starting to get better. I got over my jet lag induced insomnia (the opposite of when I go to the States; there I become narcoleptic), the atmosphere at work seemed better…then there was today’s ALT meeting that left me cursing like a sailor.
Lately we’ve been having guest speakers at these ALT meetings, which is a great thing. But I was blown away by what today’s guest speaker, a JTE, had to say.The topic of his seminar was the New Course of Study for English Education. He told us that no matter what, English education, as taught by teachers (not as envisioned by the Ministry of Education) focused on getting students ready for the university entrance exam. No big surprise there. This is something that’s been openly acknowledged for a while now. What blew me away was the teacher’s suggestion of what ALTs’ role within the New Course of Study would be.
“What can ALTs do?” said the PowerPoint slide.
The speaker’s answer: “Pronounce words.”
Pronounce words? Pronounce…words? ………really?
So…basically you’re saying the Japanese government spends how much money on getting flesh and blood employees over to Japan so that they can…pronounce words?
The dreaded Human Tape Player emerges.
Then he added that by having ALTs in the room it creates a situation where students HAVE to speak English.
So yeah. We’re here to pronounce words and force students to do something they otherwise have zero motivation and reason to do. Man, was I angry after that! It’s so absurd all I can really do is laugh.
At moments like those, I feel like I made the right choice. I’m going to miss the English Club students, I’m going to miss seeing the senior members take leading roles in the Sports Festival, I’m going to miss their graduations. I’m going to miss the freedom to move around by bicycle and train, to go where I want when I want. I’m going to miss being a member of GACKT’s official fanclub and going to his concerts.But I can’t say that I’m going to miss being this ill-defined and ever more ambiguous thing called an ALT. I’m not going to miss people who don’t give me papers because they assume I can’t read them, or people who give me papers and say, “Oh, but you can’t read it, it’ll be good study then. Hahaha.” I’m not going to miss having 40 pairs of eyes looking blankly through me.
Well, 39 pairs of eyes. There’s usually one in each homeroom who’s listening, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.