Thursday, October 21, 2010


For some reason Blogger isn't allowing uploads for two hours so no pictures today...

Hmmm. What did I do yesterday? Mostly taught. Wednesday is my busy day. 5 classes at the kindergarten (about 30 minutes each) a couple hours with friends "teaching" English (really just talking in English), another hour at a private home with four kids. Sometimes I think I really should start cutting down on teaching time. There are lots of people out there who would like the job... I sure would like more free time... It's not that I HAVE to work...

I came to Japan as an English teacher for a small Christian center in Morioka in Northern Japan. "The TIBET of Japan!" was what I had been told. It was true that the area was COLD and not many foreigners lived there. I spent three years teaching children and adults in small private classes along with four other missionaries. I also was assigned a couple days a week to teach at a jr. college on the coast but that turned out to be a complete disaster.

I was 22. Just out of college myself. And I'd REALLY studied in college! That's what college students do! But in Japan, going to a jr. college meant that the student had failed to get into any other college... that they really had no interest in studying but weren't ready to go out looking for a job. 30 years ago the level of jr. colleges was pretty low.

I was driven 4 hours by a private driver to the college and taught three or four classes. I stayed overnight in a haunted house (not true but the curtains were crumbling, there was no one else in the house except me huddled by a kerosene stove in the living room until I could go to bed in the dimly lit room), the next day I taught a couple more classes and then the driver brought me back to the Christian center where I'd collapse with relief!

I felt (and I think the students felt) that the school and dormitories were a place shut off from the world. It had a stark, prison-like feel to it and the headmaster and teachers (all of whom were shuttled in like me) were strict and unsmiling. The students slept through class or threw spitballs at me or told me dirty jokes that I didn't really understand... In short a nightmare! On one test I failed over half the class and everyone (including the headmaster) seemed to think I needed to give the class a retest. And another retest and another retest until everyone had passing marks. I had kids sobbing, and smoking and threatening suicide and there went my ideals of teaching in Japan. I was ready to give up and go back to California!

I'm embarrassed to admit it but after a year I refused to go back to the school. I said my contract was up (true but it was in the middle of the school year) and I would not renew it unless I was relieved from teaching at the jr. college. 30 years ago native English speakers in Japan were few and far between and so the center really wanted me to stay. Somehow it was arranged that I would renew my contract at the center but would no longer teach at the college. The headmaster was so angry with me that on my last day there no driver was provided to get me back to the city. I had to find my own way to the train station, I had to figure out the schedules and transfers on the trains and HOURS later finally got back to what I considered home. Shaking the dust off my sandals if you know what I mean!

That one year of teaching in an institution traumatized me for life and I've never taught regularly at a school again. After marriage I started teaching neighborhood children and mothers with babies and when my kids were in kindergarten I started helping out and later was hired there. Occasionally I have had schools ask me to join their staff but I have no teaching certificate (which is necessary nowadays), only a lot of experience. Still... I stay away from large classroom situations and find I can be of enough influence just pottering away on my own... God always gives me enough students to help family finances and I don't feel pressured to do testing, give grades and prepare students for entrance exams (English cram schools do that.)

The ladies I "teach" have all become very, very close friends and I really enjoy my JOB!

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