Gaijin Smash

I Am No Longer a Japanese School Teacher

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on April 13, 2007

All good things must come to an end.
Three years ago, I came to Japan under the pretense of being an English teacher. When I decided on this course of action some 8 years ago, who knows what I was thinking. Unlimited access to anime and J-pop? All the Pocky I could eat? A loving and obedient wife just waiting for me at Narita Airport? Whatever the reason, I decided my freshman year of college to do JET, and 5 years later while the rampant Japanophilia was changed, that plan never changed.
The job of the Super Genki Trained English Teaching Monkey (often abbreviated as ALT) is not a very hard or even serious job. I mean, what other jobs on Earth will freely accept any college grad with little to no training in the field whatsoever? I think even McDonald’s these days has training. McDonald’s has to have training. It’s just not the same anymore, what with ladies complaining about spilled coffee, and other folks coming in and saying that the Big Mac value meal that you specifically sold them made them fat. While ALT training is provided, they do a wonderful job of telling us nothing but useless and oftentimes inaccurate information. I remember one particular mantra we heard a lot was “now, since they are Japanese, your students may be a bit shy…”
..Riddle me this – in the three years I’ve been doing this, have my students EVER struck you as the shy type? Sure, in all the ass poking, dick grabbing, breast shouting/exposing/fondling/accidentally bury your face in, skits involving heavy forceful shits, skits about favorite porn actresses, and confessions of sex and sin, I’m sure we can find some shreds of shyness. In the same way I’m sure we can find some shreds of nutritional content in a Twinkie.


The other useless advice doled out to us was that our American DVD’s wouldn’t work in Japanese DVD players, and that we may have power plug issues as Japan uses a different wattage. And that’s about it. You’d think there’d be more info about living in a completely different country and working with people whose language you probably don’t understand, but eh. Trivial details, I suppose.
We soon find that the whole English teaching angle is really secondary to the primary goal – to get foreigners into Japan. With a population that’s 99% homogeneous. Japan NEEDS foreigners to come live and work, not just be tourists. Though things are changing now, when programs like JET started, there weren’t that many people who had enough of an interest in Japan to live there, and there were even fewer non-native Japanese speakers. To get people to come, they had to entice us with a job we could actually do with no training and without speaking the native tongue – English teaching fit that bill. Unfortunately, it seems that in the bid to get us here, somewhere along the way they forget to tell us what to do once we are here.
As such, there are a lot of ALT’s who don’t take their job seriously. Often times, we aren’t taken seriously, used as nothing more than a glorified tape recorder, if used at all. Some ALT’s, in turn, treat the job as something they do to kill time during the day on their extended Japanese/Asian Vacation. There’s a lot of bad behavior on both sides.
I’m happy to say though that I got one of the best postings on JET. I had my moments of extreme frustration as well, but in my three years here the job treated me well. I am glad that I came here. Even to the Ghetto School – while it was far from easy, and at times not even remotely enjoyable, it allowed me to see a real side of Japan that you just can’t read about. I’d like to think that I did my part as well. Sometimes, its hard to see where, if at all, we foreigners are making a difference. But reading all the goodbye cards students had written me, my influence had been clear. While every kid I taught wasn’t always enthusiastic about English, there were quite a few who said that I helped them come to like English, or at least not hate it so much. And, if nothing else, they got a chance to interact with a foreigner and learn about an overseas culture first-hand. I’d like to think that there’s at least some percentage of the population that won’t be compelled to stare and point at foreigners now.
And so, my run as a Japanese school teacher ended with my final week at Watson’s School. I’d love to tell you all about some epic Kancho battle or some hilarious skit involving bodily functions or something like that. But in all honestly, aside from Booger Girl, things went without incident. I took pictures with the students, and took this last opportunity to just talk with them. No lessons, no lectures, just conversation.
On Friday, as this was the last day before summer vacation, there was a Closing Ceremony. Again, Japanese people frickin’ LOVE ceremonies. The school planned for me to give a goodbye speech. I said my piece, with individual messages to the ichinensei, ninensei, sannensei, and teachers. At the end, a sannensei girl came up to the stage to say a farewell message to me and give me a flower bouquet. …The poor girl was shaking in her socks. “What’s wrong?” I asked her. “It’s okay, don’t be nervous – it’s only me.”
The girl looked up with me, with tears in her eyes – “I’m nervous because it is you.
After the school day officially ended, I hung around a bit, took pictures, talked with students, and even engaged in some friendly arm wrestling matches with the girls tennis team (they only let me use two fingers – I STILL won). But with the evening chimes, it was time to clear out of the school, and thus ended my three year run as an ALT. It was good, but it was time to move on. To what? Who knows. But I’ve definitely gained a lot in my three years working this job. Great experiences, countless memories, and a cute little owl that will come with me no matter where I end up.

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40 Responses

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  1. Azrael said, on April 13, 2007 at 2:51 am

    Sorry the entry was late this week. I’ve been crushed at work and haven’t had any time at all.
    I want to re-iterate that this is NOT the end of this site, or my time in Japan. Come back next week to see how Az deals with his successor, living with a Japanese girlfriend, and unemployment in Japan.

  2. Kosetsu said, on April 13, 2007 at 3:23 am

    D’awwww. What kind of things did you talk about? Just general “How’s life treatin’ ya?” kind of stuff, or how you and the kids have affected each other’s lives?
    …And, er, you mean APRIL 17/19, right? Not almost 350 days after today?

  3. Elicano said, on April 13, 2007 at 4:03 am

    Well written ending summary for your career as a JET. I’ve enjoyed it, and hope that your post-JET stuff is just as awesome and amusing.

  4. Filip said, on April 13, 2007 at 4:24 am

    Well, since you have been crushed at work, my guess is that dealing with unemployment was not so difficult after all. 😀

  5. jay said, on April 13, 2007 at 8:29 am

    what?!?!
    how do you LIVE in japan when you’re unemployed?? everything there is so damned expensive…
    unless you found a way to grab beers out of the vending machines… i’d say a large, black gaijin must have lost a bunch of weight!

  6. Nights_into_dreams said, on April 13, 2007 at 8:36 am

    The end of an era.
    I had been reading OP9 off and on for the past few years now (even before you went to Japan), and I must say that I finally started to make the site a nearly daily visit when you began to post your “I’m a Japanese Schoolteacher” entries.
    Are your pictures from the last few days going to be turned into another “A Picture’s Worth…” post back on OP9?
    Can’t wait for next week.

  7. Dirty Dan said, on April 13, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I love the cohesion granted by the final allusion to Moeko. As a writing tutor, I think that merits a “bravo”.

  8. Damien said, on April 13, 2007 at 12:32 pm

    Let’s see some of those pictures!

  9. Roland said, on April 13, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    This was a really nice post. So whatever we get to hear about you from now on will no longer involve the kancho struggle (unless your new employer is into it, which I sincerely hope he isn’t).
    You just love that owl, don’t you ^^ Maybe one day you’ll meet Moeko again and show it to her, she’ll be happy!

  10. Anonymous said, on April 13, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    az,
    i’m guessing you love having to go out with the coworkers after work, drink some beer, then eat a little, then drink sake, then go out to karaoke, then get home really, really late, only to wake up really early to make it to the office in time for work, just like my wife, right?
    taihen, demo, ganbatte ne!

  11. Anonymous said, on April 13, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    az,
    i’m guessing you love having to go out with the coworkers after work, drink some beer, then eat a little, then drink sake, then go out to karaoke, then get home really, really late, only to wake up really early to make it to the office in time for work, just like my wife, right?
    taihen, demo, ganbatte ne!

  12. Shinkada said, on April 13, 2007 at 3:15 pm

    Well, goodbye to the kids. I feel a bit of remorse, but that could just be the Oasis in the background. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. <_< -Goes back to powermetal-
    Anyhow, unemployment in Japan. Wow. If fellow teachers had trouble believing you spoke Japanese, it’s going to be hilarious hearing your interviews. XD And your successor? Pah, yeah right. I can feel a God Hand moment coming on.

  13. Anonymous said, on April 13, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    now get a real job!

  14. Anonymous said, on April 13, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    now get a real job!

  15. Mr. Bomberman said, on April 13, 2007 at 6:09 pm

    The end of an era, the start of a new one, I guess.
    Those kids loved you like a brother.
    “*sniff* das madd deep, homie. *sniff*”, lolololol
    Looking forward to this “new” era.

  16. Corey said, on April 13, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    “to see a real side of Japan that you just can’t read about”
    Well you may have never gotten the chance to but at least now many people can.

  17. Wayland said, on April 13, 2007 at 6:29 pm

    ‘The girl looked up with me, with tears in her eyes – “I’m nervous because it is you.”‘ – I had to turn my music up on this part. Too much emotion for my emotionally challenged personality : ) Very cool stuff and I’m ready for the new.

  18. Richmond said, on April 13, 2007 at 7:39 pm

    I just stumbled upon your writing a few weeks ago, and I have to say, I’ve read every entry from start to finish. You’ve had me in tears for quite a few, whether laughing so hard or crying.
    Bravo, and I look forward to reading more about life in japan.
    Perhaps when I turn 21 you might be back in the states and we can grab a beer.

  19. Roger said, on April 13, 2007 at 11:24 pm

    “What’s wrong?” I asked her. “It’s okay, don’t be nervous – it’s only me.”
    The girl looked up with me, with tears in her eyes – “I’m nervous because it is you.”
    I just had a “To sir with love” moment. Can’t get the song out of my head now, maybe I will have to rent the movie this weekend.

  20. Jill said, on April 14, 2007 at 12:31 am

    i’m a senior in high school this year, and am thinking about doing the whole JET route. this site has helped me decide XD thanks a lot~~

  21. Druid said, on April 14, 2007 at 12:36 am

    *whistles*
    Time flies, Sir Az. It has been a pleasure reading your adventures and experiences as a teacher. I hope that you gain success in whatever future endeavor your should pursue.

  22. Ihmhi said, on April 14, 2007 at 12:50 am

    “I’m nervous because it’s you”
    God damn man. Long ago I decided that I want to be a teacher for my career. I only hope I can be as lucky as you are to get the same respect that you have received from so many of your students, like Moeko.
    I also hope I am lucky enough to avoid the dickgrabbin’ kancho’ers. I want to visit Japan at some point (maybe even apply to JET after college) and although I am not black, I am a giant (193cm ~ 6’4″) white dude.
    Good luck on the job hunt, Az!

  23. Jay said, on April 14, 2007 at 3:11 am

    Mate, what a few years it’s been.
    I started reading the site in late 2004/early 2005, and from the moment I started I knew this would be a lasting thing. I feel happy and lucky to have been a part of everything, as a fan, as even a possible contributor over at OP9.
    This is not goodbye. This is just the end of the first chapter.

  24. Dillon said, on April 14, 2007 at 8:58 pm

    I’d just like to say that I stumbled upon your site about a month ago. I have been reading and reading every single chance I get. I must tell you that I hope you have a good time doing whatever it is you’re going to do in Japan. I know that I’m going to do the JET program when I finish college. I’m not even near there, but I already know I’m going to do that, because of this. I just wanted to thank you, and wish you luck.

  25. Anonymous said, on April 15, 2007 at 1:33 am

    I think you are cut out for a teacher.
    Japanese kids need you.
    Anyway,
    Thank Azrael for being so nice to Japan.

  26. Anonymous said, on April 15, 2007 at 1:33 am

    I think you are cut out for a teacher.
    Japanese kids need you.
    Anyway,
    Thank Azrael for being so nice to Japan.

  27. Nigris of Gaul said, on April 15, 2007 at 7:59 am

    (AJ – No. Give it up. -Az)

  28. Donika said, on April 16, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Yeah, yeah, yeah… WHY AREN’T YOU WORKING ON YOUR PROPOSAL?! 😛

  29. Azrael said, on April 16, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    …I am. I’m trying to. Just not enough hours in a day.
    I think I’ll put the site on vacation next week to do exactly that.

  30. Anonymous said, on April 16, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    You should take the “I Am A Japanese Teacher” entries and turn it into a book. I would buy it; I’m sure thousands of others would too. Your experience deserves to be hardcopied and published.
    I’ve been following your teacher stories since the beginning. Your life over the past three years has been immortalized in the memories of your Japanese students and us gracious readers. Congratulations =)

  31. Anonymous said, on April 16, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    You should take the “I Am A Japanese Teacher” entries and turn it into a book. I would buy it; I’m sure thousands of others would too. Your experience deserves to be hardcopied and published.
    I’ve been following your teacher stories since the beginning. Your life over the past three years has been immortalized in the memories of your Japanese students and us gracious readers. Congratulations =)

  32. mike said, on April 17, 2007 at 12:37 am

    Hell yea man, i read this over the last for years, can’t wait to catch your next blogging adventures

  33. Genibibiou said, on April 17, 2007 at 7:49 am

    Best of luck to you, Az!
    I’m not going to take the JET route- I’m joining the military instead. I’ve already got a bid as a Japanese linguist, so I’m really excited to be graduating high school (Ten more days!). I’ve been a really big fan of yours since your OP9 days. I guess that’s ONE thing to thank my lazy-ass ex-boyfriend for. He introduced me to you. And in turn, I spread the word about you all over my campus. Congratulations- we Chipmunks are rooting for you! All 1,700 of us!

  34. Gordon said, on April 17, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Reading about your life as a teacher’s been awesome, I look forward to reading all the new things too.
    But, ah, all this reminded me of something disturbing…
    When I was younger (around 10), we used to have a lot of Japanese exchange students. One of them, Hiroshi, only stayed with us for a few days. I think he was from Toyota City, and he was around 18 years old.
    …He used to kancho me. Yeah.
    I’d kind of forgotten about it. But what chance did I have at 10 years old? THAT IS INHUMANE. I guess Mr Hiroshi didn’t grow out of “such childish games” and my 10 year old ass was a perfect easy target.
    So there you go. You brought back my repressed memories of getting attacked in the butt by a crazy Japanese dude.
    😦

  35. Belthasar2 said, on April 17, 2007 at 5:08 pm

    And so a legacy comes to an end.
    I’ve been reading your editorials for two years now (loved the non-teacher ones too) and I’m quite sad that your teachering “diary” ends, but so is life, all things end sometime.
    Thanks to you I’m a little bit more prepared for my abroad study in Japan this fall.
    Anyway, I wish you the best for whatever awaits you on the road and don’t let life get you down!
    (And looking forward to read about it)
    Best wishes and take care.
    Ich wünsche dir alles Gute.
    Bonne chance et bon courage.
    Ganbatte kudasai.
    A legacy may have come to an end,
    but the legend continues …

  36. Matt Metford said, on April 18, 2007 at 12:20 am

    Thanks for the ride, Az. It was nice to read about what the JET program is like everywhere outside of Oita City, and your writing is just amazingly emotional and humorous. Best of luck with your proposal.
    Of course, I’ll still be back next week (or the week after if you’re taking a break for your proposal) to read all about What Happened Next.

  37. Chase said, on April 18, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    One thing has me wondering: How is your time up in April? Normally doesn’t the contract start and end at the end of July or beginning of August?

  38. yousy said, on April 19, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    hahahahaha this site is the shit. Always read an entry after a fucked up test, exam, day and get a good laugh and it gets me going again. take ‘er easy but not too easy……peace

  39. Dan said, on April 19, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    It is weird reading about someone at the other end of the JET tunnel(I am a 1st year ALT who plans to be around for 3-4 years). It has been fun reading your stories and realizing that while not exactly the same, a lot of my life here has been strangely similar.
    Though one thing I will point out is that while you don’t have shy students, my students(except for the new ichinensei) are very quiet. Not just with English but Japanese in general. At first I thought it was just me, but all the teachers talk and complain about how they can’t seem to get any response from the kids. But I digress.
    Well, your stories actually went a long way in preparing me for Japan(far more than the GIH or Orientation did), and I want to thank you for that. I wish I could keep my blog updated like you do, but I just don’t have the willpower or time for it. If you are ever on Shikoku for god only knows what reason, you are welcome to either a place to stay or at least a tour guide for Kagawa-ken.
    That said I anxiously await your stories of Japan now that you have departed from the JET gravy train and are facing the world on your own.

  40. Cathy said, on April 21, 2007 at 11:17 pm

    …And with that, the Rudius Media Empire sobbed with relief that one its’ most talented writers would still be regaling us with his tales of unrequited kanchoism. Good luck, keep your sanity and thanks in advance for keeping us entertained at work for the next two years.


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