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.

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve worked really hard to do the things JET tells us to do: become a part of the school and engage in “cultural exchange.” I’ve gone to clubs besides ESS, participated in classes other than English classes, cleaned in the shokuinshitsu…and it feels like it was mostly for nothing. I now feel like less a part of the school and like I’m having less of an impact than ever. A huge part of this may simply be because I’m comparing my situation now with my previous school, which matched my background and experience (and therefore ability to fit in) much better.

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.

Was I wrong. Even though the prefecture sent me a letter offering an extension of my contract, from that point on my supervisor moved forward with the paperwork for my leaving at a dizzying speed. I was like, “what’s going on here?!”

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?” At least as far as the prefecture was concerned, the offered extension was proof of satisfactory performance, as 4th and 5th years are not freebies like the 2nd and 3rd years can sometimes be.

The way that whole business with the recontracting papers was handled left a bad taste in my mouth, but what could be done? Anyway 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 fuming.

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? Something that CD players and electronic dictionaries can do just as well?

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!

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.