So, several months later and about to start my second term, I’m finally getting round to telling you about the start of my first term at school.
With so many schools I had three days of ‘first days’ in one week (with two of my mountain schools on the second). For these days my trainer (C-san) co-attended to help me settle in.
The relationship between my schools and the last ALT wasn’t brilliant and she’d had to leave in the middle of term, so it helped to have C-san there to smooth over any issues. From then on it would be up to me to repair and strengthen the relationship with the schools. It’s lucky that years of experience in the service industry plus patriarchal expectations of women has me set on default smile.
Having C-san co-attending was a great way to get me used to things through example (as I’m a visual learner), despite being slightly intimidating as he is a very good teacher. However, it’s important when first starting…anything, really…to remember that there are always going to be people better and worse at it than you, which I tried to keep in mind for those few days.
It’s a very different dynamic teaching as a duo, but it definitely helped to get me used to the classroom environment! It was also great fun, and not something you get to do most of the time as an ALT (at least, not with another ALT).
C-san uses a comedy style to teach, so the kids have fun and relax enough that they feel comfortable trying to use the language. He uses the Manzai comedy style, which generally has two performers – a tsukkomi (the serious one) and the boke (the funny one) which has a long history in Japan but is now largely associated with the Kansai region and Kansai-ben – the Kansai dialect.
Sometimes C-san leads the kids to say something in the style of the boke so he can react as the tsukkomi, but more often he plays the boke (this also happens a lot unintentionally because he is quite accident prone) and the kids are generally on point about laying into him as the tsukkomi. I enjoyed working together with him using Manzai because I got to play the tsukkomi!
It’s interesting to find out just how many factors influence teaching style: your own personality, the way the society views you, your perceived gender, the way you look…it goes on. My trainer is male and an American Asian, he has a great understanding of Japanese culture and comedy, and is able to use it very effectively in the classroom. For him this works brilliantly, but for me it’s not always an option. As a foreign woman, they expect me to act cute (*throws up in mouth*). In the time I’ve had teaching so far, I have found I can be silly with them, partly because I am a massive klutz and therefore often accidentally comedic (I managed to get my trousers hooked on the chalk drawer once and got loose chalk all over my bum) – but it still has to have that element of cuteness to go across well.
Luckily I am British and have perfected the ability to smother my self-loathing in layers of sarcasm.