Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Where Does The Time Go?

Anonymous said...

which is your base school? asahi - the one with the vp from hell? and just how many classes are you teaching each day? i teach 4 classes a day and with my 2 free periods, no one ever notices when i go 'missing' (as long as all my prep work is done and i come back in time for the next class).

worst case scenario: leave the money and your bill on the OL's desk with a "yoroshiku" note attached to it.

Asahi is my base school, but the VP is awesome. The principal is the psychotic^Wstrict one. If I tried to disappear, they'd likely notice, and I'd get called into the principal's office (*again*).
"Phoenix, I noticed you weren't at your desk studying Japanese from 10:45 to 11:00. From now on, you aren't allowed to leave your desk unless accompanied by a chaperone. Also, no more riding your bike to school. From now on, you ONLY WALK!"
Sigh. I wish that were more of a joke.

I'm not allowed to leave without checking in with the VP, but it shouldn't be a problem. The real difficulty is finding a free hour (between 9 and 3, when the bank is open).

I usually teach only three classes a day, but there's always prep-work.

"Phoenix, make a handout that matches the textbook for Yumi's trip to see the Great Buddha of Leshan, but make it something you've seen."

So, I make it of the Space Needle in Seattle. Then, I need a picture of the Space Needle, I need to know how tall it is, when it was built, why it was built, etc. All the things that the textbook had. And then I have to come up with Q&A, and possibly new words. And then I have to talk to the JTE about it and make changes, and when it's all fixed again (2nd or 3rd draft) I get it approved. And so it goes, and the hour (or more) is gone.

Worse than the prep-work is correcting. Last school year, the 3rd grade teacher had me start checking their end-of-the-year papers. I enjoyed it, actually. These students (usually) had a fairly good grasp of basic English, having studied it for almost three years.

Well, this year, I'm still correcting papers, but for all three grades. And when the student writes something totally nonsensical, I have to guess what they meant and write that down. That's the hard, tear-what-remains-of-your-hair-out part. And then there's the grading. Last year, I was just marking errors. This year, I mark errors, make suggestions and corrections, guess what they meant to say (sometimes they write the Japanese down too, which can help, but they rarely write down the furigana), and then give a grade (A-D) based on how they did. Oy, that's hard. I usually have to go through and make notes at the bottom of each paper, and when I'm done, go through again and sort the papers into semi-organized groups, and grade each group appropriately. How do teachers do this? It's sometimes feels a bit arbitrary. How do I indicate that one person's B is because they made too many simple errors (spelling, word form, etc) and another's B is because they made no mistakes but their sentences were too simple, or their overall paper was too short? Or someone else's B was because they made many mistakes (maybe even major mistakes) but deviated enough from the script to show that they understand the premise more than their peers, and so deserved more than a C?

Both of these things (prep and grading), I prefer to do as soon as possible. What good does it do to grade papers after school if their presentation is later today? Or they have a test tomorrow? Don't they need that information now? Everything else (English Bulletin Board and things like that) can wait until later.

This is why I stay after (sometimes until 7 or 8 or 9; whenever the last teacher leaves and I'm kicked out of the building): the more I can get done today for tomorrow's work, the more time I will (theoretically) have free tomorrow. But there's always more to do....sigh.


  1. dear lord, how do you stay sane? how did your predecessors stay sane? this is when you should start thinking, "hell with it all," and pull a frank sinatra and do things "your way". what will they do? fire you? not likely...we're in japan, remember?

  2. I often wonder the same thing. My predecessor went to a Buddhist temple somewhere and I haven't heard from her since.

    Every Situation Is Different. So, I'm sure there are JETs out there that have it worse than I do. I have awesome students, and excellent neighbors, and a nice house (that the landlord lets himself into while I'm at work, but that's another story). So why complain? Because there are JETs that are in better situations than I am? That will always be true in life.

  3. instead of adopting a 'shoganai' approach, it sounds as if affecting some change at your workplace will do you and your future successor some good.

  4. Anonymous (I really wish people would put their names in, it's not so difficult, and it's a bit rude not to), do you have any suggestions? Is there something inherently wrong with my "Make the best of it and be happy" approach? Would fighting over every little thing make me a happier person? If I always got my way, I would have nothing to complain about (and would lose out on one of my favorite pastimes).

    And not everything can be changed. Sometimes you have to accept that. Of course, first you have to recognize that. But please, since you are not in my situation*, feel free to disagree with anything I do and tell me what a lousy situation I'm leaving for my eventual successor.

    *I'm guessing. You did post anonymously, so you could be ME, and I just forgot.