Sunday, 8 June 2014

The Joys of Adult Learners - Zoos, Division, and Long Baths

As the whole JET thing doesn't really get going till July, I'm going to talk about what I am doing to pass the time. One day soon I will be faced with a sea of Japanese school children, the names of which I will have no hope of remembering. For now I'm making do with teaching adults. I don't remember half their names either - not because I don’t care – I'm just really bad with names.


So I started as a volunteer teaching assistant in January, which coincidentally gave me some experience to talk about in my JET interview. At first my motivation was purely selfish, but I've stayed on after getting a placement because I'm really starting to enjoy it. The focus is less on grammar and more on 'life skills', so I spend the first hour of each lesson just chatting to people about their week. I am now excellent at small talk. The students are incredibly motivated immigrants who are trying to either get out of factory work or be able to talk to their children in English. The majority come straight from the fish factory to learn English for two hours in evening classes, or are on the night shift and get one or two hours sleep before dragging themselves to day classes. Which makes me feel even guiltier when I show up five minutes late for a 12:30 class because I overslept.

I have begun to develop favorites - the grey-haired Bangladeshi man in my Tuesday class takes top spot. He was the only male in a class of 20, so when I arrived he was overjoyed at having some backup. The first time I met him he tried to bribe me with home cooked curry into giving him some private tutoring. He always calls me sir, and is willing to interrupt any conversation with his opinion about the decreasing fish stocks in the rivers of Bangladesh. His wife is also in the class. They regularly argue in Bengali while the class continues around them. He cannot pronounce 'Z's, which led to the most awkward teaching moment to date when he announced that he hated Jews.


I have also picked up a real paying job that pays real money. It's two days a week for minimum wage, but I'm not picky. I was lured in with promises of English tutoring, but spend almost all my time marking maths papers. The learners are job seekers trying to get GCSE Maths and English equivalents. Sometimes (for instance when a student cannot conceptualize division or negative numbers) it is possibly the hardest job in the world. Because although you can make 12 little bits of paper and split them up into 4 piles of three, it becomes a bit more difficult with 1000 ÷ 5. There just isn't enough time or paper.

As for my leisure time I have managed to 'borrow' someone else's Netflix account, and Season 2 of Orange is the New Black just got added. Who needs weekend plans? Might take a bath. I don't know if I'll have one in Japan, so I've been taking long ones daily just in case.

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