I found this book at the back of my cupboard yesterday.
It's a book filled with goodbye messages from Japanese students I used to teach.I got this on my last week as English teacher.Now I don't want to brag too much, but you'll get a sense of what a great English teacher I wasand the positive impact I had, just by reading out a few of these messages.
We've got one here from Yuka who says:'Dear Chris, hello Chris,''Thank you so far :) It was always fun'Of course it was.'Watch for a body, it will become big!!!!''VIP de BIG'[inhale] ... What?This was written, what... four years ago, and I still don't know what that means.I mean, to me 'VIP de BIG' sounds like a chronically overweight rapper.But perhaps it is alluding to the fact that at the time I was teaching,a lot of students and teachers were worried that I was putting on weight, just 'cause my diet was pretty awful.It does seem to be a recurring theme amongst a few of these messages...
We've got one here from Karen who says:'Dear Chris,''Thank you for teaching English until now!!''It was fun to be able to club together.'It's important to point out for legal reasons: I didn't go clubbing with underage students,she is just referring to the after school English club.And she continues, 'Please be 'stomach' much more healthy in the future!!'Please be stomach... much more healthy... in the future...Well, I did heed her words - I'm not yet entirely stomach.But, it's just nice, y'know, reading through these...... heartwarming comments.It reminds me of a simpler time. A time when I used to
in a room to thousands of students.And today, given that I've discovered lots of stuff from my past,I thought I would discuss teaching English in Japan because it's a popularly requested topic,and I've got a lot of stories and experience from my time, teaching with over 2000 hours of classroom experience, that I can draw upon.I'm not gonna hold back on my opinions today on the teaching methods, the teachers, the students, the environment -I'll try and cover it all so you know what you're getting into if you should follow a similar path.Now I'll be open up-front about the fact that I didn't come to Japan because I was excited about the prospect of teaching English.Like 80% of people, I came to teach English in Japan because I was excited about the prospect of living in Japan.In my rare defence, I did take a short course on teaching English as a foreign language at my university,and my degree was in business and English linguistics.So, y'know, I can speak really good at English words.... I- yeah, I know all the most best words that there... that there are-- uhh, that there is....This bunch of torn and tea-stained documents--
why is there a tea stain on it!?
This is my original JET application - my application for the Japan Exchange Teaching Program,which I also discovered at the back of my wardrobe.I didn't even know I had this still!Now I know the criteria for getting on the JET Program or getting a job teaching English in Japan,I can see that my application hasnone of those things.I mean, it's so bad that I even wrote about a holiday that I had in Dubai as an example of culture shockand how I'd be able to adapt to culture shock in Japan.'I was culture-shocked by Dubai because it was hot and there's lots of sand.''And I hate sand.'That's not even culture! That's just a geographical fact!And for the section on Japanese language ability, um......... Yeah, it's just blank. There's nothing there.Nevertheless, with my wealth of cultural experiences, I got on the JET Program.I somehow passed the application process and I ended up with the role as an ALT - 'Assistant Language Teacher'.And I got placed right here, in a beautiful, rural area, where absolutely nobody feels the need to know English.Now I've heard a lot of people criticize the JET Program over the years,because they say that that money invested in the foreign teacher could be spent on Japanese teachers -it could be spent elsewhere in better ways.But lord knows, they need more foreigners in rural Japan.I once dated a Japanese girl from that town, and when it came to meeting her mum,her mum had never met a white person before, despite being 50-something.So I met her, and she was actually so scared of me that she hid behind her daughter.She was scared as if I was some sort of rabid dog who would rip her arm offwhich, y'know... I wouldn't do that.I wouldn't-- that's not the sort of thing I would do.To be fair, I did think of going along with it and being like,'Oh yeah, pleased to meet you--- RaARRggh'But I didn't do that. 'Cause I'm not mental.The senior high school where I worked had about 1200 students. It was pretty big.And they were all aged 16-18.Within that school, there were about 12 English teachers, and 120 teachers in general.And I quickly found out when I arrived, that of the dozen teachers that I was gonna work with,only 8 of them actually spoke English. The others had somehow slipped the net.And I don't mean they spoke English badly, I mean they just genuinely really struggled to communicate in Englishwhich was quite a surreal situation to be in.I never held it against them. They were all over 50 years old,and I suspect when they did apply to teach English the extent of the language test must have just been...Students who prospect for teaching English or Maths, are suited for the English language education programmes at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels offered.
'What is your favourite colour?'Uhhhhhhh... red.[finger snap] You're in!However, one of the things that I'd been taught during my long, tedious induction in Tokyo during the first weekwas that you should never correct a teacher in front of the classroom,lest you undermine them and make them look inferior in front of the class.So I spent my few first weeks conflicted, dying inside,because I wasn't sure if stepping in and telling the teacher that they were wrongwould destroy my fragile relationship with my colleagues early on, y'know, which is really important.So let's do a 10-second pop quiz, and see what you would do.Choose your own adventure:A: Ignore the situation and carry on, orB: Tell them it's wrong and change it.Answer now.... Well done, the answer's B.Because what's the point of even being there if you're gonna stand in the corner and do nothing?And y'know what, I found, by correcting them, it never burned any bridges and they were grateful for the input.[ding]The worst classes though weren't with teachers that couldn't speak English,they were the ones with teachers who just didn't know how to use me in the classroom.And certainly, in my first year when I lacked confidence and I wasn't very assertive,more times than not, I was used as a human tape recorder -standing in front of the class repeating an endless list of words,and then having students repeat them back out loud to practice their pronunciation.'Pheasant'[crowd repeats]: Pheasant'Shrubbery'[crowd repeats]: Shrubbery'Consequences'[crowd repeats]: Consequences[that one person]: arara...By the time I was done, I must've said every single word in the English language at least four times.If you're already having a bad day, and you find yourself standing in front of a classroom,repeating words over and over, wondering why you spent £30,000 on a university degree,y'know, you do start to question if you've taken the right pathway in life.The only thing worse than being a human tape recorder was the actual tape recorder.Ohh, god. We had audio tapes from the '90s, voiced by awkwardly enthusiastic, yet ultimately unskilled American voice actors.They didn't speak like real American people.I've met an American person once, and it wasn't like that.It was like aliens had crash-landed in a garden in Oregon, belonging to a couple who were arguing,and an alien looked through the window and tried to mimic what they were saying in slow motion.[imitation of the stiff, robotic, alien-like American voice actors]: 'Hello Lucy. I am home.'[door closes](using capitals here in an attempt to portray how each word sounds like their own sentence...)Lucy: 'So Where Were You This Evening, John?'(using capitals here in an attempt to portray how each word sounds like their own sentence...)John: 'Well, Lucy, I Was Working At The Office Again.'L: 'I Saw The Messages On Your Cellphone, John.'L: 'I Know What You've Been Doing.'J: 'Well, gee golly gosh, Lucy. Get Off My Back.'J: 'We're Not Going Over This Again.'L: 'I Have Had Enough Of Your Poor-Quality Attitude, John.'L: 'I am leaving you.'[door shuts]Comprehensive question 1: Why was Lucy suspicious of John?Ugh, it was a fucking nightmare. By that point I was practically begging to be a human tape recorder again.There were the teaching materials themselves,Students who prospect for teaching English or teach Maths, are suited for the English language and Maths education programmes at the undergraduate. which had been written by non-native English speakersand came packed full of fun spelling errors, where you had to decide on the spotwhether you went along with it, or tried to correct in on the fly.Although, some of them were simply beyond repair, like:'Are you aware of your own defect?'!?[dunnnn]Although, to be fair, it is a great conversation starter for a first date.
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