Monday, December 21, 2009

Problem Solving in Japan

So last time I mentioned I was having a little problem with a teacher of mine.

I'm happy to say I've already started to fix it!

I had that meeting with my boss at the Board of Education. It was supposed to be a regular cake and coffee meeting, but I talked to her after to ask her advice. She reiterated the same worries I had had, ones that she had seen when she came to visit the classes. At first she told me to talk to the principal. I balked. Way too high up the chain of command! So she suggested I talk to the young science teacher I sit next to who sometimes has me grade her papers. I could do that.

I had that meeting on Thursday, in the private tatami floor break room, and it took about an hour and a half, with a lot of constructive stuff to say, and a little bit of venting, but she listened to all of it and even seemed to agree with me. A couple of classrooms are right by the staff bathrooms and apparently she and the other teachers are amazed every time they walk by and see the English class going on and what a zoo it is. So she offered to talk to the principal for me, to fix the lack of discipline, and while that is going on I was supposed to brainstorm ways to suggest alternate methods of teaching to him.*

This afternoon she took me aside back to the tatami room and said that he had been worried too, and apparently they had had a run in before, but she didn't know what it was. So starting next term, after I have had plenty of time to rest and rant for hours to my family (aren't you excited!) the principal will start monitoring all the classes in the school at random just so he can has an excuse to come see these. He'll also talk to the other English teacher (who sits next to me on the other side, and is really funny and nice and a good teacher) about ways that she can mentor him. There's only a term left, so we have to hurry! (I also learned that he is only a sub for a regular teacher that is out for the year on maternity leave. So on the one hand, it's good that the kids will get a real teacher, and on the other, we have to make sure not to hand her a big pile of stink-o when she comes back.)

*Which I have tried before. On Thursday, the day we had the meeting, a kid actually came up to him at the end of class and said something along the lines of, "I try to pay attention in class, I really do, but when you start talking about third person singular verb conjugations I just lose focus." Which should be a warning sign, since saying hey you suck at teaching is a huge taboo. I suggested (again) that we focus less on grammar and more on activities and games to use real world applications and have methods of learning that would help the material to stick, and he gave his usual reply of, "Oh, I see," and changed the subject.
*As far as trying to suggest things goes, see also the same week when I had said before class, "Mr. Spiky Field, let's try having them just listen to my English at first and see if they understand." "Oh, okay."
"So then-"
(interrupting me in Japanese from across the room) [So then]
"-I will ask you a question-"
[I will ask you a question]
Grr! Shut up!

So the path of problem solving is going like this:
1. Me -> BoE boss -> Me -> Science teacher -> Principal -> Problem teacher
2. Me -> BoE boss -> Me -> Science teacher -> Principal -> Other English teacher -> Problem teacher

What I think is interesting is that I mentioned to some of friends (at separate times) (two foreign and one Japanese) that I was proud of myself for having started the motion of fixing the problem a little bit, and they didn't have very good reactions. One pulled back a little bit, and said, "Ouch, careful." The other two said, "This is Japan. You can't do that here. You have to be patient and know your place." Yet when I relayed this to the science teacher today (who is Japanese, btw) and told her these reactions, and that they had made me have second guesses, she said, "No. Your Japanese boss even told you to do this. I've seen the class. This has to be fixed." So there! Nyah!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very good job, Kimbo! I'm proud of you :)