Teacher: English club is on Monday. Please teach them English conversation.
Me: ... //Okay, but isn't that a bit vague?// Could you give me a suggestion of what topic you would like me to teach?
Teacher: Yes, their level is very low, so please teach them many topics.
Me: ... //Um, that didn't answer my question. I realize that you expect the exchange teacher to be in total control of the English club, but this is my first time at it. Pointers or hints or *something* would be nice.//
Teacher: Your predecessor showed movies or played games. I'll be in a meeting.
Me: ...?! //It's my first time teaching the English club, and not only do you not have any helpful suggestions, you *won't even be there*?!//
//Fine. I'll just ask the students what THEY want to do. It is a club for their benefit, after all.//
He then comes to see me again after school.
Teacher: The students want you to ask them.
Me: ...? //Again with the vague.//
Teacher: They are very passive, so please ask them what they want to do.
Me: ... //That's what I was planning on. I suppose that means I'm on the right track.//
This same teacher, when planning for Monday's lesson, pointed to a graph in the textbook of a survey of people in Japan, America, and China. He told me to plan to ask questions about the graph. When I suggested,
Me: Okay, like, "What was the most popular answer from Americans?"
Teacher: I think "definitely yes" (the answer) is too difficult for them. Make the questions so they only have to answer "Japan," "America," or "China."
Me: ... //English is mandatory starting in middle school, which means these are students who have been studying English for three and a half years. Plus they're in the English track here. And you think saying "definitely yes" is too difficult for them? Oh, well, it's your class.// Okay, I can do that.
The rest of the day I spent carefully observing the students cheering for their teams during the sports events so I could fill out the score sheet I was given. At the end of the competition, I turned it in to the girl in charge of tallying the results. I then watched as she shoved it, unlooked at, under a clipboard. She didn't even glance at it until after the results were announced and prizes handed out. What the heck? If you didn't intend to use my scores, why did you ask me to be a judge in the first place?!
I'm sure it was just some silly mistake. I probably missed some subtle "turn your scores in now so I can tally them in time for the award ceremony" signal. But if so, why didn't she (or anyone) notice that my scores were missing? Did she notice and not care? Was she too rushed to do anything about it? Was she too shy to ask me? I was sitting right next to her, so it's not like she couldn't find me if she looked. Yesterday someone specifically sought me out to make sure I had turned in my scores for the cultural portion, so this really came as a surprise. It's not that I was all set on being a judge and deciding the winner...it's just the thought that they would ask me to judge and then not use my scores. Did they even *intend* to use them from the beginning? I have no way to know.
Finally, to top off my day, I went to the post office to try to send money home. But the post office stops handling money orders at 4pm...and of course I work until 5pm every day. This is a typical problem in Japan. Hours are not designed to be convenient for people who work. I tried to complain about the hours, and they just replied, "That's the way it is." I tried protesting, "Well, *somebody* decides the hours, doesn't anybody complain to *that* person?" But they just pretty much ignored me, instead saying that my only option was to come on my lunch hour. Lunch half-hour, that is. In order to expedite this, they (very reluctantly, and only with the personal agreement of the supervisor) gave me the form to fill out to request a money order so that I could have it already filled out when I come.
Why didn't I have this problem in Matsudai? Oh, yes, because as an ALT I only had to work 35 hours per week, rather than 40. I got off work at noon on Fridays, so I could take care of any any business-hour errands then. Now, no such luck. It's either sacrifice my lunchtime to attempt to squeeze in a trip to the post office, or try to catch a train to Otsu after I get off work and hope to arrive at the main post office there before they shut down operations at 6.
You know...I love Japan...but sometimes I just want to grab somebody who makes up these inconvenient systems and shake them. Hard.
Okay, I think I've ranted enough for one day.