Friday, July 15, 2005

self-pity rant

I mostly post positive accounts of my life here, including accounts of how much fun I have teaching and all the fun stuff I do when I’m not working.

But all is not always so rosy. JETs often complain about being underused, and while it seems spurious to complain about being paid for doing nothing, it does become frustrating. Maybe you have to experience it to fully understand. But sitting at my desk for an entire day and not being asked to help in any way even though there are multiple English classes happening throughout the day is an annoyance perhaps unique to the job of an ALT. And it is annoying. It makes you wonder if you’re not doing your job well enough to be asked to help out. Ultimately it usually means that the Japanese teachers of English that you work with have been too busy to figure out a way to include you in their lesson plan. That’s being kind - some of it has to do with laziness or reluctance or lack of imagination on their part - but I don’t want to imply that these reasons inform every decision to exclude me from their lessons. They have a lesson to teach and sometimes they use me to teach it and sometimes they don’t - some teachers use me often, meaning maybe once or twice a week when I’m not at Elementary school, and other teachers rarely or never use me. It’s a puzzle to me at times as to why, but I’ve been unable to figure out a suitable way to breach the subject without sounding indignant or accusatory.

So I arrived at work today at 8am and was expected to amuse myself until lunch time at 12:40. So I read, checked e-mail, wrote some blog entries, and even napped a little to pass the time. I don’t have any lessons to plan or papers to grade, so I really am on my own as for what I do to fill the time.

Staying for a 2nd year seemed like such an easy decision, but lately at work I’ve been thinking that perhaps I made the wrong choice. All JETs go through bouts of work-related depression like this, so I know it’ll pass. I seriously think that if I eventually decide to recontract for a third year I would have to make a change and maybe go teach at a high school just to vary my routine and keep myself interested and challenged. The sad thing is that Jr. High could be plenty interesting and challenging, but it comes down to the willingness of the Japanese teachers you’re hired to assist to let you actually assist. My current group are all very nice, but seem perplexed by what to do with me at times and my initiative to create lesson plans and English related activities are sometimes met with indifference and patronizing remarks.

I even sometimes wonder if they would miss me at all if there was no ALT at the school. Earlier this week my alarm clock failed (the battery died) and I slept right through my normal wake-up time of 6:30am. It wasn’t until one of my elementary schools called my house at 10am wondering why I had missed the 9:40 class I was supposed to teach at their school that I woke up. Needless to say I apologized a zillion times - jumped in a quick shower and rushed off to make the next class at 10:40. Later in the day I wondered why NO ONE from my Jr. High had called to see where I was or if I was OK. I have never not showed up before without calling first, yet no one from my JH seemed concerned about my empty desk and my whereabouts that morning. *sigh*

Home hasn’t been that great either lately. The loneliness of living here is starting to get to me a bit. I’ve made an effort to get out and attend some JET-related activities, but lack of general companionship is starting to make me more and more insular and hermit-like. A JET friend even joked with me the other day about it - She doesn’t have a computer at her house, and I remarked that I would shrivel up and die without my laptop and internet connection, and she said she had made friends instead. *ouch* But there is some truth to the remark. Many JETs are social gadflies with many Japanese and Western friends and are constantly out and about and involved in many activities. I am not one of those JETs. I have a small circle of JET friends who I see occasionally and no Japanese friends. And the girlfriend possibilities seem remote. I’ve resigned myself to another year of no intimate relationships, as I’ve come to accept that certain factors, like my age and my physical appearance, limit my options on the dating front. While I’m not sure the situation would be noticeably different if I were in the U.S. right now, being in Japan certainly doesn’t help in this area, so I may just have to ride out my time here solo.

My frustration with my inability to speak Japanese is ongoing and increasing, and I hope to rectify the situation a bit this summer by attending a language school for studying Japanese. At two recent events involving high school age students, I witnessed the ease with which JETs who can speak Japanese were able to converse and make a connection with the students. I am very jealous of this easy rapport that comes with being able to speak Japanese. Since I can only speak English with the kids, they most likely see trying to talk with me as “work” and are worried about making mistakes, so most simply choose not to try. Of course it’s not my job to be their “friend” but to teach them English - still, being able to talk with them and better understand their lives would make me a more effective teacher. So I will spend some time this summer really studying Japanese in an effort to bridge the gap.

Anyway, enough of this self-pity rant - it’s the weekend and today was payday, so hopefully I can go out and have some fun this weekend and chase away these blues.



Anonymous said...

life is life, you take what you can get ya? and at least there are happy parts and you do get used =) the elementary school experience seems wonderful hmm? i wish you the best,

lilrat said...

hey Jason,
I way lived in the boonies last year too and I know what an isolating experience it can be. Ganbatte! I found it really hard to make friends living in deepest inaka cos a lot of the younger people didn't feel confident enough and the older people generally weren't that interested anyway. As for the relationship thing - waaaaaaay me, my foreign friends and japanese friends way feel u (try being gay in Shimane!). Even my japanese friends fid it difficult to get into relationships cos everyone marries so frickin' young here. It is tough man.
If you ever feel like gettin' outta ur area, ur always welcome down here in Hamada - the beaches here are fab in the summer.

Jason Rotolo said...

Hang in there, baby! For whatever it's worth, what you're doing is a big inspiration to me as far as having the balls to up and bounce from the comforts and familiarities of HOME and journey to a far off land of fear and uncertainty. I feel lucky to have spent a brief period of time learning about how to be a grown-up-kid from you and totally beating your ass in pop culture trivia. Conquer your demons with baby steps: you don't like yer appearance, start jogging daily and eating better, keep a journal logging your progress and each day jot down your goals and whatnot. Sounds like you've already started on the "not being able to speak japanese" problem, so do the same thing and log your process. Stay positive and motivated and continually kick yourself in the ass so as to keep moving. Remember what Bob says, "Roses are red / Violets are blue / I'm a schizophrenic / and so am I." Good luck, grasshopper!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about it, just hang in there, I know it's gotta be tough, but just try calling up a couple of your JET friends and go do something. I'm sure you'll break out of this depression thing soon enough.