21 December 2005

Really? I'm Japanese!

My desire to get out of bed in the morning has been seriously hampered by the weather and how the weather is making it's way into my apartment. Certainly, temperatures in the mid-30's are nothing to complain about except that it's not only that temperature outside, but in your house. And when the wind blows and your windows are closed, but your curtains are still swaying a little bit?

I thought I had solved the problem by finding the timer function on my (effing) kerosene stove, but it's so loud when it turns on that I wake up and can't enjoy those last twenty minutes.

This was all weighing heavily on me as I drove to work this morning. Then a text message from the lady as I crossed the Agano River and a note on my desk at work from a kid I gave some CDs to that said, I'll love you forever, and a tape deck from one of the teachers at Meikun for free. Well, it was enough to lift my spirits. Now, if only this tape deck works in my car....

Things got much better when I was being told about my schedule for the next year and one of the teachers said, It looks you will not have to come to school in March. That's right. No March classes for the dude. This means a month in Europe, I think. You know, dicking around and seeing how the Europeans do things.

On Sunday, the pastor's wife asked me to do a reading at the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I responded by almost shouting, Really? I'm Japanese! Yoko, did you hear that? I'm Japanese now! The older women in the church seemed confused.

Saw the President on the TV (the Internet actually) babbling about his spying program. The defense, as best I can tell, 1) We're at war! 2) the terrorists are bad and quick like rabbits, 3) it's only being used on overseas calls unless it is needed domestically then it will be used domestically, 4) over three thousand people lost their lives on Sept. 11th, 5) everyone yearns for freedom in their soul, and 6) the President cares about *those people* (black people) and is hurt that they don't understand this.

My favorite part is that, basically, the court order is ridiculously easy to get and can even be granted retroactively (as the terrorists are so quick and fast) and is basically never denied. But the Presidente is still like, Aw, fuck it. It's wartime.

But at least his philosophy is clear: we need a democracy in the Middle East. If we have a democracy in the Middle East, things will be better for everyone. Now, to convince all Muslims that self-government is where it's at and doesn't conflict with their belief in complete submission to Muslim authority. Also, we need to get the Sunnis and the Shi'ites to think that killing each other is wrong.

I also sent the following letter to an English teacher discussion group—

Hey everyone:

Saturday night found me attending a Bonenkai with one of my adult classes. It was my first time out socially with this particular group of students who are all over the age of 35 and have only a marginal interest in learning English. They're a great group of people, just not particularly motivated.

We were well into the party when one of the students, an older retired man who had been drinking for several hours, sat down next to my girlfriend and began to complain in Japanese about my teaching style. Though not fluent by any means, I was able to understand everything that he was saying, namely that I was too driven as a teacher and didn't have enough fun. He asked my girlfriend to relay all of this to me later, but of course, the message had already been sent.

His indirect complaining soured me for the rest of the evening (though I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the indirectness) and after getting some sleep, I was able to put the criticism into perspective — yes, I probably was expecting too much from this class and yes, this man's opinion was probably not completely genuine as he was having trouble not falling out of his chair.

As I've been thinking more about the situation, it occurs to me, as I teach mostly private classes, I don't really receive a lot of criticism about my teaching, constructive or otherwise. How do you find ways to get constructive criticism? It also frustrated me that I approached the next class with the mindset that I needed to please this particular student because I saw him as a customer rather than a learner. So now I'm wondering, should we see our students as students that need to be taught or as customers that need to be kept happy? How do you find a healthy balance?

Thanks for listening. I hope you all stay warm during the holiday season.

Stephen
Niigata City

Certainly, troubling times. I will enjoy my tea and honey, regardless.
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