Back To School 2008

     Schools back and aren't we all happy about it. Don't disagree with me, you are happy about it even if you cannot admit it. Of course if you are a teacher in Japan who cares about changing things for the better and helping your students change themselves then its another opportunity for birds to do their business on your head. Yay! But first, lets start at the end, my way home, and the attempt to buy a Kojima Yoshio endorsed Crispy Burger...

Wulfstan (W): Hello, Can I have a crispy burger please (all in Japanese of course)

Shop Girl (SG): We have three types of crispy bread. You can have a crispy burger, crispy teriyaki or crispy crab cream. Which would you like?

W: I would like a crispy burger please.

SG: Sorry [she points to the pictures on the till], which one would you like? Crispy burger, crispy teriyaki or crispy crab cream?

W: hmmm... [considers cartoon violence], I will have the crispy burger please.

[SG looks confused]

[Wulfstan points at the Crispy Burger]

SG: Ah, the crispy burger, okay!

[Wulfstan pays for the burger and leaves while the staff laugh that they cannot understand my English]

     So to school. Yesterday was the brief opening ceremony and briefer cleaning up followed by making a class plan and leaving home early. Yay for me. So far so good. Some students inquire as to the location of my beard. I try to tell them that it's safely stored away at home. They look confused and I run and hide under my desk.

    Then to day 2. This is the day of my first classes of the year. We turn to the previously good First Year students who are in no mood to study. The first half of each class is taken up by the teacher explaining to them the importance of trying to study and doing their holiday homework. Most of the students feign sleep or write on their desks. Very few even pretend to be paying attention to their teacher.

     Next up came my mini-speech (mostly Q&A) about my Winter Holidays. In one class we tried an idea a Canadian friend of mine, called Foliage, had.  I asked two students to stand up. Both complained bitterly. Then I asked them a simple question. We had taught them the automatic answers to questions beginning with did you. Silence. So the teacher gives some hints (basically translating the question into Japanese). The students look a little less blank so the teacher helps them answer the question and eventually one of them gives the right answer...yes, i did.

      So came Question 2. The answering student sat down and the other had to stay standing while another student was picked at random (each student has a number). Question 2: Where did you go in your winter holiday? (Fuyu Yasumi de doko ikimashitaka?). Silence. Both refused to answer it. One complained the other stayed silent. So we translated the question. Nothing. So, I tell them all they have to do is give a single word answer like Belgium or something. Nothing. Silence. Ok, so, we explain it all again then ask the silent girl if she went somewhere. She nodded. Well, we ask, why dont you tell us the name? Silence. She never meets our eyes. She just stands there blank. We ask again if she went somewhere. She nods but again will not say where. The other one then saids in Japanese that he didnt go anywhere. Its clear the girl will not say where she went for whatever reason. Instead of saying it and getting the ordeal over with she would rather stand in silence. Frustrating. So we gave up.

      With classes full of copying off the board, listening to the teacher and doing very easy worksheets it is not surprising that kids do not like to speak in front of other people or answer questions. The idiots and ADHD kids are happy too and so are some of the more confident swats who like me get pleasure from knowing an answer (and proving it).

     So we moved to the grammer point: Saying I can or can't do something. In this case it was my inability to drive. In the middle of this our quietish class was disrupted by numerous kids from the Second Year Class below complaining of the noise. They attempted to lock us out of the class. Shouted at everyone with more authority than the teachers and eventually one of kicked the door in breaking the frame in two places. I'm happy to teach those willing to learn and where I can adopt and adapt in the process of being a good teacher but the limbo of being a powerless assistant in an unchanging and failing system makes my vocation completely pointless.

     On the other hand my crispy burger with my all Wulfstan Pasta Recipe was fantastic as I rewatched QI and Hot Fuzz. In Other news I set up a new blog on blogger called Inventing Words and linked it to my Writerscafe profile. I've also begun a Twitter account on for 140 character bulletins on my ultra boring and satirical life. The world of Wulfstan continues to grow. Tomorrow I will probably build a new intro page using Web Spawn or some such site with a counter, guestbook and so on. I hope anyone reading this can sign it for me.

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