night school soap opera

So one of my close friends-- someone who extended himself to me right away after I arrived in Japan-- is an English teacher at the affiliated Night-school that caters to academic miscreants.

Early on, he mentioned that if I wanted to, as a purely voluntary act of charity, in my free time and for no pay ...I could teach with him in some of his classes. After listening to his description of the Night School situation, i decided i really wanted to do it. The night school hosts students who

a) can't make it, academically, in regular high schools


b) can't attend school during normal hours for one reason or another.


c) range in age from 14 to 70.

Some of them, apparently, dont even know the alphabet yet. My presence there would purely be for exposure to a native English speaker. Just to see that I exist and do indeed use English as my primary language. It seemed like a really unique opportunity to get involved in something different.

We decided that I would be introduced to the classes for the first time today. We planned a self-introduction lesson, where the students would ask me questions in English if possible, or Japanese if necessary, and I would answer with the help of the teacher, who would translate as needed.

I would do cool things like give them pennies and solve the rubik's cube too. Going to the night school after work means a 13 hour day (8:30 AM - 9:30 PM), but I was really getting excited about it.

After regular school, at around 5, i was gearing up to go to the classroom and get set up for the first night class. On my way out of the staff room, i mentioned cheerfully to my supervisor:

"Today i'm volunteer teaching at the Night School"

"Oh! if you teach there, you can take a day off!"

"Really? well right now i really have to go... class is starting like now"

*proceeds to go ask my Vice Principal (boss) about getting time off*

Okay, so what followed was my vice principal totally flipping his lid. Apparently this is a big no-no. If i work at the Night School, even purely out of the goodness of my heart, without any desire for compensation, i am REQUIRED to take time off from regular work. This is no problem if the VP knows about it ahead of time and appropriate documents are filed, but he feels that my night school friend was a sneaky little weasel for kind of tricking me into teaching under the table. Now let me make it clear that both of these guys have been extremely kind and supportive of me from day one. I am confident that neither wish to screw me over in any way. They're both intelligent guys.

Well, it turns out they're both stubborn guys too. the Vice Principal proceeds to call the Night School teacher downstairs from his (separate) staff room, and chews him out for like 10 minutes, while my supervisor and I look on awkwardly. My teacher friend (i was repremanded by another ALT for using names in my blog) runs off to start his class, which is now completely unplanned because the whole thing was supposed to involve me introducing myself. So I'm left stammering like "is everything okay? i'm so sorry!" Both guys told me I have no reason to be sorry, and criticized the other.

so awkward. I went up to make sure my Night School friend would be okay for his now completely unplanned class (obviously i was not allowed to teach that time) and he just ragged on the VP for being such a strict beaurocrat. These guys both need to ease up a little.

Anyway, I was kind've pumped for not having to stay at school until 9:30. I stopped in a little coffee house right across the street from my school that i've been meaning to try all along. Only the owner was there, a jovial 55 yearold woman who seemed equal parts surprised and happy to see me. She brewed up a cup of joe for me and we chatted for a good hour and a half. She spoke no English so it felt like a real testament to my progress that I was able to explain things like my family, my sister's adoptiveness, my happiness over the obama election, my approval of her masterful coffee making, etc. She was reaaaaally curious about me and seemed to be hinting the notion of me teaching private english classes there every once in awhile. She showed me a book full of conversational english phrases and casually mentioned that an ALT from a few years ago led a little conversation class there.

The idea sounds good to me. It seems fun and it'd mean some extra dollars. As long as my vice principal doesnt have an aneurysm when i ask him about it, i'll feel that out and see how it goes. It should be legit, a few of my ALT friends teach private study groups like that and rake in a nice supplementary budget. We'll see where that goes.


yatpay said...

Wow, it's amazing that you can carry on an hour and a half conversation with someone who barely speaks English. I guess it's a testament to full immersion.