The more I work at my Tuesday school, the more frustrated I become with the head of the English department, aka Subarashii-sensei. That’s not her real name—I just call her that because she says the damn word every 30 seconds during class. For those who don’t know, subarashii means wonderful in Japanese, but now every time I hear it, I just think of her. She has ruined that word for me.
Recently, two things happened that has lost all of my respect (if any remaining) for her. One day, I received an e-mail from my supervisor. Basically he told me that she complained about me to the principal regarding putting my hands in my pockets during class. I haven’t even done such a thing! Maybe I did it once subconsciously, but I still found it ridiculous that she called me out on it without even bothering to approach me. While some may think “Well, the Japanese don’t like to be direct when it comes to things like that”, that’s not necessarily always true. I’ve heard stories where ALTs complain about a certain teacher to their supervisor and then they get in trouble because they didn’t try to talk to the teacher directly. It should also work the other way around, right?
Luckily, my supervisor and my principal didn’t even care at all. I was just advised not to try to stand out too much while I’m around her. While that’s fine and all, I just hate that we all have to cater to her needs. She’s only a part-time teacher, why the hell do we have to just submit to all of her requests? The other ALT that works here and I have come up with the theory that no one wants to bother running the English department so they just follow along whatever she wants to do.
I was pretty annoyed by this, but I simply laughed it off. It’s what happened later on that month that set me off. Every Tuesday, Subarashii picks me up from my apartment and we go to work together. It was fine at first, but it slowly started to get really boring. Going to school by car actually takes about 10 minutes longer than if I went by train. The conversations we would have would eventually dry up because she would simply either talk about working out for six hours (no exaggeration) or visiting her family. I was tempted to tell her that she didn’t have to pick me up anymore—but I didn’t have any good reason behind it…
…until now. One day, I was running a little behind because I was looking for my keys. After about a minute of searching, I finally found them and headed to the meeting spot. I checked my clock, I was only a minute or two late, tops. When I saw her and got in her car, she didn’t look too happy. This was already going to be terrible, I thought. We exchanged greetings and I apologized for being a little late, explaining about looking for my keys. Then, I asked her how she was doing.
“Hmmm….not so good. We’re running a little behind now.”
“I looked at the car clock. We were leaving around the same time we usually did. I just wanted to facepalm but kept a straight face. I said again, “Yeah, I’m sorry about that.”
She then shook her head and said, “I think you should say “I’m sorry I’m late” because now we’re going to be late to school.”
This was my limit. I apologized to her not only once, but twice. To apologize to her again per her request for a third time was something I wasn’t going to do. I simply ignored her request and kept quiet. The entire ride was dead silence, it was the most frustrating commutes to work I have ever had. People may do things for her all the time but I wasn’t going to budge on this one.
I decided it was time to stop getting rides from her…but I still didn’t have a good reason. If I just stopped suddenly, she might be offended. Even worse, if I started doing it after that incident, it would look a bit suspicious. I eventually came up with the lame excuse that I had some errands to run before work so she didn’t have to pick me up next week. Fortunately for me, she took this as “I’m going out for a run before work, so you don’t have to pick me up.” Subarashii, an exercising fanatic, happily took the excuse and told me she used to do the same thing. I suddenly came up with the brilliant idea of telling her that I would start to run every morning so she no longer had to pick me up. She bought it, mostly because she knew I liked to run. Finally, the painstaking rides have come to an end.
The story doesn’t end there though. I’ll be having an observation class at Wednesday school soon. Subarashii, who is also head of the English committee of the elementary schools around here, told me that she will also be attending. This was a perfect opportunity to show her how a REAL class should operate. When I teach with her, I’m only used to pronounce words so half the time I am just standing there, bored as hell. I was now more pumped than ever to show her how awesome a class can be if you actually utilized me.
Not only that, she was also talking smack about my Wednesday school as well. There was a minor typo in the observation class synopsis that all viewers received. Subarashii tells me “How does a school let such a mistake go by? It’s ridiculous.” Yes, this is how absurdly strict she is. Next, she starts complaining to me about how we skipped a chapter and are starting on one that shouldn’t even be covered until next semester. Half of my schools don’t even use the textbook and have their own curriculum, why should this even be an issue? The textbook also doesn’t have a gradual system where you apply the stuff you learned in the past—so you can really just jump around with ease and you wouldn’t have a problem. NOPE! It has to be done in order, according to her. I simply shook my head.
I told this news to Kimoto-sensei, the teacher I would be teaching with that day and my JTE, who always taught with us. Soon, both my Wednesday and Thursday school knew how much I hated Subarashii and her methods of using the ALT. I think it’s safe to say that I riled them both up and now we’re ready to show her how a class should be run! I’ll be teaching with my favorite kids—the 6th graders so I’m really confident that this is going to work. I can’t wait.