I just got done with my first real lesson (textbook and all) with the middle school third years, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an unqualified success, it seemed to go pretty damn well.
This is significant because the third-year English teacher, whose first name sounds like a Japanized pronunciation of “awesome,” is a total badass. He’s also a tough nut to crack, insofar as the other two JTEs have done little things like help me read my mail, give me instructions about life in the school, and even occasionally give me rides home from work. I hadn’t talked to Awesome-sensei at all in the early days, and only went into panic mode when JET-L offhandedly asked, “Oh is that the guy who like refused to work with your predecessor, at first?”
Oh. My. God. I’d heard the legends, about English teachers who didn’t want to work with ALTs, who hated their existence, who thought it was stupid to bring crazy young Americans and pay them lots of money to just be American in Japan.. who are filled with contempt for our very presence and who are Always Judging Everything We Do Wrong.
Don’t hate me ‘cause I’m white?
Awesome-sensei is the baseball coach, and the kids have what I believe to be a mix of awe, respect, and fear for him. I say this because that is what I was feeling. Lara had said he was a great teacher. He was at the school long before I arrived, and remained there long after I left. He was always demanding the best from the kids during sports day practice.
And after JET-L’s remark, I was terrified.
But then The Other Georgian came to town. She was a JET here several years ago (and is actually my great-grand-predecessor), and is the girlfriend of my Big Brother JET. Confused yet? Anyway, she had fond memories of working with Awesome-sensei, which she related to me. She told me that with him, you’re either in, or you’re out, and it just takes time to get there. She said he once spent ten minutes every class period giving all the students a stern talking-to about respecting her because she “came all the way from America to teach you punks,” basically.
By contrast, he didn’t even invite my grand-predecessor to class until six months into his contract.
The Other Georgian’s word heartened me considerably. Firstly, they reassured me that he was not against JETs in principle. Secondly, she asked if I had been allowed to go to class with him yet, to which the answer was a surprised “Well, yeah..” Having confidence in my ability to eventually work my way “in” allowed me to relax more, and essentially speed the process. Because being terrified was not helping my teaching game.
So just a minute ago, Awesome-sensei and I walked back from the last class of the day. He thanked me for today’s lesson, and I thanked him for letting me come to class. Because really. Then he reminded me about class Friday.
I have a tendency to do this.. I get all worked up over someone I really want to impress, and then begin to feel like it’s never going to work (because of all the slip-ups and awkward things I do).. and then I work hard, and it happens, and I’m always a little surprised, though I probably need not be. This is how it went with Professor Drews, too, when I first took a class with him at Vandy. He would call on me in class and I’d give such stupid answers.. then we had our first test.
Anyway, today was good, and I hope to continue to work well with all my JTEs.