Thursday, April 26, 2007

My new job...

This April I started my new part-time job as a Business English Instructor at Matsue Technical College, a high school/early university focussed on engineering and science, built in the rice paddies of North West Matsue. I scored the job through contacts (no interviews needed, thank you very much), and it has added a much needed 50% to my income. It has also added an essential experience to my life in Japan: the Japanese High School. Some of you may be familiar with my earlier discussion of matters school girl, but the strange things we hear in the West about these sultry temptresses constitute only a small part of our (often misguided) take on what appears to be a huge part of Japanese popular culture: High School Life. For every high school story we have in English, there must be a million anime series about High School. There are tales of High School girls with strange Spirit guides; convoluted tales of Creative Destruction; schools for delinquents; and, of course, girls dressing as boys in their "special" high school club. And that's without even considering the porn. So I feel truly privileged to get a chance to walk onto the grounds of what is, really, Japanese popular culture's biggest set.

So what is it like? When I walked through the gate I found myself looking at the scene from any one of those crazy shows, with the exact same long, grey three story buildings; the gravel soccer pitch; the same multi-paned windows with slightly overhanging eaves, all looking like it was built in the same year in the `60s, for the same generation which has subsequently refused to repopulate the world it left (I wonder why?) . I walked the same window-lined corridors, passing students in brown uniforms who all bowed politely to me and greeted me with "konnichiwa" (it seems it is essential to greet teachers one does not know, even in passing). I watched the students cleaning the halls in their recess periods (they have to clean their own classrooms!) and I finally ended up in a room exactly like the one in the picture above, right down to the detail of the windows and the desks (though admittedly, the desks were not transforming into monsters - but I felt like they should have). At any moment I expected the schoolkids to explode, sprout tentacles, suddenly spin around in swirls of sparkles only to reappear wearing miniskirts and cats ears, start doing crazy martial arts fightin' moves in the hall, or manifest their multi-dimensional Demon masters. None of this happened, although from the way my students looked at me I think they were expecting the same of me. Maybe they've seen the high school porn with the foreign teacher.

Matsue Technical College is a mixed high school/university system, so it has the first 2 years of University on its grounds. It only teaches engineering, as far as I can tell, and the best students can choose to go on to Shimane Uni to finish their studies. Apparently the College has a 98% success rate in finding work for its graduates. So one would assume it has a pretty good teaching system (or that this country sucks up engineers like a big whirly sucky thing at an engineering convention). I only have two classes, and my older students are so shy it is hard to tell how good they are, but my younger class (the year 4s, equivalent to University 1st years) are excellent students. They are cheerful and funny, and although very shy they respond to my efforts to impart English knowledge with something resembling ... well, resembling a response. Obviously a physics graduate from Australia entering an engineering first year class would expect the only response to his presence to be paper planes (or, in this country, fireballs and flying demon-spirit things); but in fact they knuckle under and do what they're told, and barely even talk or cause any trouble at all. The worst so far is one of them falling asleep. They are almost all boys, but the few girls don't even chatter that much. Outstanding students! Now all I need to do is fight off their demon masters, find the secret key to the heart of the Universe, steal the meta-gem and return to my own dimension safe from the attentions of the cat-eared girls from the school music club...


Anonymous hiroki said...


3:42 PM  

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