Friday, September 25, 2009

Poor and simple

My two-day week is over! I'm pleased to say that I did something approaching an honest day's work today. You see, in my experience of being a junior high ALT, one has a lot of downtime. On an average day I might have three lessons, with essentially nothing to do for the remaining three periods. I usually study Japanese to pass the time, but there's only so much of that you can take in a day. I think I might start making a serious attempt to learn kanji - the 2000-odd Chinese characters you have to know to be literate in Japanese. I'm hoping that activity will be suitably different from my other Japanese exercises that I can switch between them when I get too bored with one or the other.

Anyway, my point is that sitting around with nothing to do is not much fun, and it's hard to shake the feeling that somehow I should be doing something and I just don't know what it is. At times like that I feel start to feel guilty about how much taxpayers' money I'm costing, but at least I'm used to that feeling from doing an esoteric (some might say useless) PhD.

But today was different. I had four lessons, was given a bunch of marking to do, and best of all was asked to plan a short activity for a lesson on monday. This is the kind of responsibility that I was afraid of at first, but am now crying out for, for the reasons above. I didn't even have enough free time to do my Japanese homework from last night's class! Unfortunately, my block schedule means that just as I'm building up a nice working relationship with an English teacher at this school, I'll be off to another one the week after next.

Doing said marking, it struck me that it's not until you start teaching English that you realise just what a complicated and nuanced language it is. Normally adjectives can either prefix a noun ('the ginger goatee') or be associated with a noun using the verb to be ('the goatee is ginger') with the same semantics either way. But consider the adjective poor, which my third-graders were having big problems with today. 'The poor man' could mean a man that has little money, or a man deserving of pity. But with 'the man is poor', the second reading mysteriously vanishes. Attach 'poor' to certain inanimate nouns and suddenly it means 'of low quality' ('a poor novel') with both the monetary and pitiful senses going out the window. Some nouns can ambiguously accommodate any of these meanings: what does 'a poor singer' mean? Try explaining all that in Japanese, when you can't speak Japanese.

The word 'poor' has lost all meaning to me.

I'm going to watch Mamma Mia now because:
  • I'm comfortable with my sexuality.
  • I'm hoping to screw up any kind of taste profile database the DVD rental shop might have. There can't be many people who rent both Crank (confusingly, titled Adorenarin in Japan) and Mamma Mia.


  1. Well, it would be a more cynical and cold-hearted man than I who didn't find anything to like in that strange but very sweet film.

    Pierce Brosnan is a poor singer though.

  2. I find myself wondering if you've reached series 4 of the wire as that's now how I'm choosing to picture all of your classroom escapades.

  3. I've seen all of The Wire. The students here are rather more well-behaved, though apparently the roughest school is still to come. All I've seen is a little bit of sleeping in class, but as long as they stick to non-confrontational disobedience that's ok with me. Also, as I'm merely an assistant teacher, discipline isn't my remit.

    You'd be better picturing Battle Royale - the kids in that are in the final year of junior high. And they're Japanese.

  4. I think it's more just that I like picturing you as Prez, having no clue what to do and being occasionally shocked by the culture (maybe he gets the hang of it later on, then obviously you will improve in my estimations accordingly).

  5. Spoiler alert! I've just started Series 4.

  6. Also, I like the idea of messing with the video company's 'database profile'. I sometimes behave like a dick just to mess with the database profiles of my friends.

  7. That just confirms the profile.