Thursday, November 22, 2007

better mood to exist in

Randomata: In my schoolyears, when students misbehaved, the teacher either pulled them aside or pulled the ominous 'see me after class' half-threat. Problems and misbehaviour were an individual's secret, essentially. The other day, at the start of a class, the teacher called the class to attention and in a stern voice spoke the name of five students, who stood up at their desks. (I had no idea what was going on.) She proceeded to dish out a calm but ferocious tongue-lashing. The five were clearly abashed, but the rest of the class sat attentively and seemed to recoil slightly, as if partly receiving the reprimand. At the teacher's command, each of the five had to say something to the entire class, and then proceed to apologize (one by one, and then all together) to one student who they had been mistreating between classes. Then they had to apologize to the whole class. An individual misdeed, not even committed in class, was brought into the open and made an issue for the entire class to think about and resolve. It seems a far more overt way to treat misbehaviour and a far more inclusive solution than I saw growing up on the other side of the world.

So this week was a little better than last. On Sunday night I decided I would make another effortful week. I suggested a warm-up that didn't go particularly well; I made some worksheets without being asked, none of which were particularly helpful; I found a relevant newspaper article and made a summary and photocopies for the student's interest, which nobody seemed too keen on. None of the middling successes got me down though. I could tell myself that I put an effort in, so I didn't feel like any uselessness was my own fault.

I put longer hours in this week, again not that I was asked. I found something too look forward to every day in the form of the table tennis club (one thing that gives me a sense of improvement every day). I made appearances at the English club without worrying about invitations, but I only stayed as long as I could, and I left without feeling bad. I relaxed way more with the students, didn't worry about speaking a little more Japanese with them, made more of a fool of myself with them, joking around, playing some ridiculous piano in front of them - all to good effect. When teachers came to one class to watch our team teaching method, I didn't give one thought to them or what they thought. I went to the discussion meetings about all the observed classes, and made a contributing comment, even though I had no idea what everybody else was saying. I stayed late for the closing discussion, even though that made it three straight hours of a stream of Japanese I couldn't discern. Every day this week I spent between four and seven hours either teaching or just hanging out with students, however slightly productive that time might have been for them. After all the meetings today, I made a circuit of the office and said goodbye to more teachers, since I was heading home on a holiday long weekend. I held the door open for one of the teachers who usually won't even look me in the eye in the hallway, said goodnight, and got a friendly farewell in return.

I don't know if the teachers or students noticed any difference this week. Like I said, some of my targeted, more academic efforts kinda fell flat. But it didn't matter. I had more time with the students, and I feel like I connected with them a little bit better than the week before. I was more relaxed with the teachers, and had a better time whenever I chatted with somebody. I put a bit more (but not TOO much) time and effort in, and I felt better about myself for it. Overall, it still is just an ongoing matter of accepting that I get paid to exist, which is surprisingly hard to accept considering how many times I wished for it before this job. Maybe I do simply have to exist, but their are many different ways of simply existing.

(Other considerations: I got 34 hours of sleep over last Fri-Sun. I feel less sick. I've been taking some vitamins. I saw friends. It's snowing. Who knows what really accounts for our good moods.)

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