The End of Daze
Wednesday I turned in my re-contracting form. Though the Board of Education offered me a 4th year I turned them down. It was pretty sad for me when I circled “No” on my form. My eyes stung a little bit. I have grown accustom to being here. After 3 years I have gotten pretty good at being in Japan. My Japanese sucks, but I can say and understand enough to get what I want, and I can read enough to do okay. I guess I’m just kind of scared to move back to America.
I know that sounds weird considering I wasn’t all that scared to move to this country: a country that I did not know the language and as far as the culture was concerned, I only knew what around 4 semesters worth of college classes had taught me. But going back to the States seems terrifying. I knew that my time in Japan could end after a year, and then two, and then three. There was a yearly escape hatch. All I had to do was open it. But in America it’s my life, the big bad permanent no escape hatch kinda life. I can’t just pull the plug at the end of the year. I think I’m having a mid-life crisis and I’m only 25 this does not bode well for my longevity.
I know in Japan that I have a reasonably enjoyable job, good salary, I have an apartment, I have a life that I built and am happy with. I don’t have that in America, and that scares me. I must be getting old, I’m worried about what I’m going to do with my life. There is also something intangible about my life here. As a foreigner I am never going to fit in. That gives me a certain freedom. So many Japanese people that lived abroad and then moved back to Japan feel crushed by the social norms they are expected to live up to. Granted, they are more extreme in Japan than America, but still. I don’t know what being an American means anymore. I am afraid I will feel the same when I go back.
I want to go back to America, otherwise I would have done the 4th year. I am ready to move on with my life and see what happens. I can look back at my time here and smile, the three years never let things get too stale nor did all the little things that drive me crazy about this place actually drive me crazy. Perhaps that is part of the problem, there is no big pressure to leave. I really want to go back home, but I don’t know what is there waiting (I mean in the detail sense, I know my friends and family will be there and I draw great comfort from that, but what about the other things important to my life?) Where am I going to live, what am I going to do, should I buy a Prius? Those things are all up in the air.
I guess I’m just afraid.
Why yes my chest does say “Welcome” thanks for asking!
I have lately been feeling like a doormat at work. The problem is that one teacher is really grating on me. She treats me more and more like I’m her employee rather than her equal. I know I am the ALT the assistant language teacher, but “assistant” does not mean “it’s okay to exploit” language teacher. I don’t see her running up to the other English teachers and dropping her stuff on them. I do not feel valued by her. Which is odd considering I frequently save a decent portion of her butt, one would think I would feel super valuable for that.
I show up to work and she needs me to make quizzes for next period even though she has known about this class for weeks. She drops new classes in my schedule willy nilly even though she is the one that draws up my weekly schedule and gives me less than a periods notice. I know that she is busier than I am, but that isn’t the point. This isn’t a busy argument. The point is that I don’t like to have things sprung on me, no more than she would if I casually leaned over and informed her I needed her to do something. Even if that something was pretty easy to do.
The other problem is that the teachers do not realize that I need cool down time. It is hard to be who I need to be with the kids. They get to be the stick and I get to be the carrot. The stick’s jobs easy but swallowing my pride (when dealing with kids that treat me like crap) or praising kids (that should have learned this stuff in first grade) is not always an easy mental frame of reference to slip into. I mean after I walked to school and the worst kid in school flipped me the bird and yelled “F_ _ _ _ you!” over and over at me, I’m not too keen to help him remember his ABC’s for the worksheet.
I have to be optimistic and helpful even when the kids are being bad and kind of stupid. I also have to switch gears in the day so that I don’t go to the third graders and talk like this: “I [point to self]… like [point to heart]… you [point to them]!” And so I don’t go to the first graders and talk like this, “What are you doing this weekend? I’m going to see my friend, it will be great!”
I also plan 3 classes a week by myself and now the first grade teacher has me more or less planning a class for him too. It is incredibly hard to plan for both 1st and 2nd graders because their abilities are vastly different. The classes I plan are really adding up, and I can’t absorb her random crap she needs me to do on a moments notice plus deal with the kids.
The crazy thing is this has come to a head a few times now. I have flat out not been able to help her on numerous occasions. She was, of course, shocked that I couldn’t. At one point I thought a full out fight between my teachers was going to break out when she was complaining to another that she needed me to do her stuff and teacher B has me doing his stuff (which he had told me about with advanced notice so I was completely cool with, she on the other hand wanted it done in twenty minutes). Another time I took on another class and she sat down and asked if I could do her a favor, I got to say “Nope, I’m going to do a favor for teacher C! Bye!” Again, I got the bewildered stair of shock and horror. Yet, she still doesn’t get that she can’t drop stuff on me and expect it done. I don’t even mind doing extra classes or making quizzes! I just don’t like to everyday being met with a “big big favor” that she needs me to do.
If this happens again I’m going to have to have a talk and lay out new rules. If you need a quiz I need to know at least 1 free period prior (and even then I maybe already doing something I need to do) and if I need to do an extra class I need to know a day prior. All my other teachers “get” that intuitively. They only ask for these things when there are emergencies and they really do need me. They also feel bad about it. I understand that stuff happens and I am occasionally needed. I gladly work then, but I swear I do this for the teacher in question every two days.
That or it is time to hang a sign on my desk: “I can save some of your butts all of the time. I can save all of your butts some of the time. But I can’t save all of your butts all of the time.” I think Abraham Lincoln said that.