Sunday, November 9, 2014

Teaching on Monday

I always thought people who dreaded Mondays were just lazy, and I guess they are, and I guess I am in some ways. But what I find amazing is that as soon as I am in front of a class teaching them, being the "genki foreigner" that Japanese education wants, and in some ways needs, I feel fine. 

I've always considered myself an introvert... But am I really? How do I feel so energized and feel my "case of the Mondays" completely evaporate as soon as I actually get started teaching a class? I suppose it depends on how responsive the class is to the lesson, but after so many years of doing this, even in the "bad" classes where only a small minority of students are responsive I feel great. 

After studying psychology and reflecting on my own experience in school, I realize there is absolutely nothing wrong with these kids, and considering how little I get to work with them, I'm not in much of a position to assess their skill level and cultivate their interest in English. If they have an interesting, enthusiastic home room teacher, the class is great and responds well to my lesson too. If the home room teacher isn't passionate about teaching, it shows in many ways.

There is one teacher who lectures on minute details of grammar over and over like language is a math problem to solve, so he only ends up being popular with the tiny minority of students who like to analyze things grammatically. 

There are other teachers who try to be funny and interesting, but they fail miserably and instead come across as weird old people who can't read the atmosphere. They just carry on laughing at their own jokes and ignoring their student's groans. They alienate most of their class, even if they are a decent teacher otherwise. Although, usually they aren't. 

I think there is a certain performing art element to teaching similar to acting that gets ignored too often. Teachers need at least a small amount of charisma to be engaging with their students. I wanted to be an actor at one point in my life and I think could have been an actor if I had pursued it. But there are so many narcisistic people in acting and so much political maneuvering that goes on, I just didn't want to deal with it. 

I suppose teaching, or any field, has those same narcisistic, lazy people, and I suppose I am also guilty of this myself. But it's hard to feel inspired about teaching when your co-workers suck, their English sucks even though they are supposed to be English teachers. On top of that, the system forces me to spread myself thin. I teach every grade and every class in multiple schools so it could be months before I teach the same students again, and half the time the home room teacher only uses me to help teach pronunciation and check grammar like a walking dictionary and spell checker. 

I wonder how much difference there really is between introverts and extroverts. I have a feeling that the main difference is that introverts are just more picky about the kind of people they allow to get close to them and have a lower tolerance for crappy people or people they can't influence to be better people. It's not that introverts get their engery from being alone and extroverts get their energy from being around other people. It's that extroverts have a higher tolerance for stupid people and better social skills for dealing with stupid people, whereas introverts just keep their mouth shut or throw their hands up in frustration and walk away.

Extroverts perhaps have a more instinctive sense of how to deal with people whereas introverts have to learn those skills explicitly, or pick them up over time through experience. I think studying psychology can be extremely helpful for introverts, I know it has helped me a lot.

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