You Got Me Burnin’ Out

“Finally, a bloody blog,” I hear you say, as you peel your finger from the left mouse button and move the pointer away from the Refresh button for the first time since my last blog. Seriously, you’re putting my stats all out of proportion; there I was thinking I’d got 3 million hits this month and it was just you mercilessly clicking away with with that searing, intense desire to learn about me and Japan. I’m flattered, really I am, but stop it. Pick up that nearby wallpaper-scraper and use it to unstick your cheek from the desk then go outside. It’ll be good for you. Do it right after you’ve finished reading this.

Delusions of grandeur aside, I have been slacking in my duties somewhat. Apologies, but my life has been rather boring of late. I like to think that’s on account of me managing to break my hand 6 weeks ago in a freak cycling accident (involving me and a curb), but in reality having a cast on my right arm has done little to stop me from doing what I normally do. Apart from going to the gym that is. Yes, certain things are a chore; tucking in my shirt for instance, washing my left shoulder-blade, wiping away my tears while my left hand is immersed in the washing up bowl (joke). On the plus side, my left hand has become rather deft at many things; using chopsticks for instance; washing my hair; opening the fridge door; tossing the vegetables in my stir-fry… Anything else…? Nope, can’t think of anything else.

Work has been mental. I’m doing much, much more than I ever was in the first two terms, and that’s even with many of my lessons already created and ready to go. I’ve been asked a couple of times now to do one-offs on topics that I have found quite interesting and which would, under normal circumstances in the UK, promote thought and open discussion. The first, “How Social Media Has Changed the World,” focused on the emerging use of social media as a catalyst for the revolutions in the Middle East. Heavy, as Marty McFly would say, but these are 3rd year students who are blind to much of the world outside of Japan. As far as knowing about world events is concerned, being born Japanese is problematic; the media reports mostly on domestic events and frowns on investigative journalism because, if newspapers publish something that officials don’t like, they will no longer be invited to the official press meetings. Most papers are simply bulletin boards for companies and the Japanese government. This would normally be fine because people could turn to other outlets for their world news in English, but the number of Japanese people who can speak more than a few words of English (let alone read a newspaper) is infamously low.

Where can they get this information from then? Their friendly JET, that’s who. Whether they like it or not. In this case… Not. A classroom of 42 bored, tired students crammed into a tiny classroom in the 7th period of a baking hot Tuesday afternoon will rarely get inspired enough to listen to some bloke rambling on about Facebook and revolution in a language they only partly understand. To give them credit; some did, and when asked to write their thoughts on the benefits and problems associated with social media, they came up with some good points that I had not already mentioned. Most simply copied what the others had written on the board.

Next up is “Green Cars,” where they’ll be expected to draw their own opinions on the best fuel of the future. This time I will be sure to include some group work to try an develop some kind of atmosphere, but 3rd year students are notoriously bad at communicating, either to the teachers or each other. First years are wonderful but 3rd years… Forget it. I think they’ve just been battered so hard by exams, studying and school life that by the time they leave high-school they have to pick up all the pieces of their soul on the way out and glue it back together with the Pritt Stick they stole. I often consider how lucky I am to have grown up in the British school system (despite it having been equally awful), as all these kids ever seem to do is study. Every time you ask them what they did on their weekend they say “studied” or “slept” or “came to school.”

“What? On Sunday too?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you come to school on Sunday?!”

“Club activities.”

…and there we have what would have been the bane of my life had I gone to school in Japan; compulsory clubs. Admittedly some of them (Tea Ceremony Club for example) only meet once every couple of weeks, but if you like baseball or badminton, volleyball or martial arts, or any number of other sports the school deems important then you can expect to be at said school from 6am-8pm every weekday and then 3-4 hours every weekend. Then you have to do your mountain of study on top, all while your ALT wanders in at 8:30am, leaves at 4:15pm and spends his weekends swannying around Shizuoka drinking beer and eating ramen. No wonder they’re burnt out by the 3rd year, poor things.

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