Oh November 1st. Well, I’m finally getting used to showing up at schools and seeing teachers dressed in anything from workout-type clothes (most days) to full professional wear (suit and tie). I never know why they are dressed up, but I never feel left out, since I error on the side of business casual everyday, at the very least. That way I’m ready for anything, maybe except a wedding or graduation. Thankfully, I was ready because on Monday, when I was at an ES, the vice principal came up to me and announced that 6 people from the Board of Education would watch about 10 minutes of my 5th grade English class.
Now, if you remember, I did this once before but it wasn’t an evaluation of me, instead it was of the JTE. So, there I was, exactly 3 months in the country and I’m being evaluated. Obviously, I’m aware of the fact that I’m evaluated everyday, by every person regardless of what: I’m doing, I’m buying at the grocery store, how I’m driving, clothes I wear, etc. Honestly, how could I not be evaluated? Just think about your daily life, when we walk down the street we make internal judgments and evlautions of people we don’t even know. Now, just multiply that a bit, and you get the microscope that a foreigner faces in a small town.
Ok, back to the school evaluation…The good news is that I had already done that same lesson at the “rowdiest ES” in town and it worked, so I knew I was going to be fine. I had 2nd period with the 6th graders, 4th period teaching colors to 3rd graders, lunch with the 3rd graders, and then it was time. The HRT was dressed in a full suit/tie and tennis shoes of course, and he seemed very nervous! This beings me to a cultural difference that I’ve noticed. Isn’t important for you to look your best and do your best every class period? I say this because of the drastically different level of professional attire worn by the teachers. As a student, what are you learning when your teacher dresses in casual wear 90% of the time, and suddenly dresses up when they know they are being evaluated? Personally, I would interpret this as, “I just need to do my best when people are watching me, who cares about the rest of the days”…just a thought.
So, we started class (all 17 of us, 15 students+2 teachers) and everything was fine. Then 9 people in formal wear walked in, I just continued my routine (we were practicing “short, shirt, skirt” which is difficult for them because they have trouble differentiating the sounds made by each word). Then we did a lovely chant (the textbook loves chants, this one went “green cap, green cap, do you have a green cap…”). The last thing we did while being observed was a conversation between the HRT and myself. We had a conversation about an image in their textbook. Pretty straightforward, but when it came time to see if the students understood our conversation, no hands went up, which caught me off guard because these are the elite students of ES. Finally, a girl raised her hand and thankfully, off we went, explaining the conversation.
Overall, I would say that the evaluation was successful, but what struck me as odd, is that the HRT refused to speak Japanese to the students. I was the one that finally said it was okay to interpret the conversation in Japanese. Every other class period, the HRT would have said something in Japanese to clarify, but not on Monday in front of our visitors. While I didn't understand why it mattered so much, (just 5th grade here and are still in the early stages of learning English, they don’t even know the alphabet).
So that was my lesson of the day, and this is what I took from it: I believe that you should give anything your all, every time you step in the classroom, on the field, or on the course, because as the saying goes, “you are only as good as you practice” or “practice how you want to play”. And that’s the lesson I took from today, that no matter what I do, I practice how I play and for me, it paid off when I wasn’t as nervous because I knew I could do it. So there you have it, Amanda’s update on some culture differences.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I think the teachers give it their best everyday here in Japan and America, and I do understand that there are the days when we are all less than stellar, but it just strikes me as odd when there are different standards based on who will see you that day.