So, last week I received an e-mail from the Elementary English Education Coordinator at the school district near my apartment. Almost a year ago, I volunteered at an elementary school for one day. I helped to administer the end of the year English conversation exam. Basically, the kids had to tell me their names, favorite colors, favorite sports, favorite foods, etc. It was my job to talk to them and to make sure they understood basic conversational English. A friend of mine worked at the school and needed help, so I volunteered. Well, apparently I did such a good job last year volunteering that the school district now wanted me to become a full time ALT or Alternative Language Teacher. The English Coordinator e-mailed me to ask if I was interested in the position. At first I declined. I don't really want to work anymore because I'm lazy and well...I'm lazy. But, after discussing it with Husband, we decided it would be a good opportunity for me. And, they were willing to work with me in regards to having a small child. She told me in an e-mail that is was okay if I had to take sick days for me or Jude. And, it would be okay if I wanted to take a vacation--usually these things are NOT okay when you're a teacher in a Japanese public school. I was scheduled to have a meeting/interview this morning.
So, this morning I got Jude to the bus stop and returned home to get dressed for my meeting/interview. I was supposed to meet a city council woman, the Education Superintendent, the School District English Education Planner, and the Elementary English Education Planner. I was quite nervous to be meeting with such important people in the local Japanese community. So, I got dressed worried about every little detail of my appearance. I didn't want to look overly stuffy or too laid back. I didn't want to look like a sloppy American. So, I wore a long black pencil skirt just below the knee, a maroon colored sweater, panty hose and old work shoes (black Ann Taylor pumps with a chunky 2 inch heel). It wasn't overly dressy nor too casual. I even picked the lint off my sweater as I rode the elevator down to my car. It's absurd to think I wouldn't be hired due to a piece of lint on my sweater.
So, I drove to the local McDonald's near my apartment. I was supposed to meet someone there and then follow them to the City Hall Building for the meeting/interview. When I arrived, McDonald's was closed. It wouldn't open until 10 AM, and it was 9:30 AM. I waited in my car. I wasn't sure who I was meeting or what the person looked like. I just hoped I would recognize them. Luckily, four minutes later I saw the Elementary English Education Coordinator I met almost a year ago. (I'm so glad a never forget a face!) We chatted and then I followed her in my car to the City Hall.
The City Hall was a large open building filled with quiet Japanese workers working hard. They all looked at me and bowed as I walked down the long corridor to the meeting room. They didn't smile or speak. They just rose from their seats and bowed. I bowed and said "Ohio gozaimasu," which means Good Morning. I was ushered into the meeting room with 2 men in suits and 2 woman. They were all very important, influential community members. Each is considered very powerful. I wasn't sure what to say or how to act. I was obviously picked for this position because they liked the way I interacted with the kids when I volunteered over a year ago. They liked my bubbly, loud, fun persona. But, I wasn't sure how that would be looked upon here in an interview/meeting.
I kept quiet as the older gentlemen in a suit spoke to the others in the room. He only spoke in Japanese. My mind desperately tried to make sense of the words being spoken, but he said words I just didn't understand. After about 10 minutes, he looked at me and apologized for not knowing English. I responded, "Nihongo ga skoshi wakarimasu," which means I understand a little Japanese. He was shocked by my statement and quite pleased that I could speak an entire sentence in Japanese. He smiled and said he was embarrassed because his English was so poor, and my Japanese pronunciation was nearly perfect. I told him I was trying to learn Japanese, but it was very difficult. He seemed happy to hear that an American was trying to learn his language. After that, I could do no wrong. He was excited to have me teaching in his school district and had heard what a wonderful teacher I was a year ago when I volunteered. As the meeting continued, they told me some basic information about the position. I spent most of the hour trying to decipher their Japanese conversations, but had no luck. I felt small and inadequate for not being able to understand. My brain was trying so hard to pick up one word here and there, in hopes of understanding, but I had no luck. I just sat patiently, trying not to look bored or bothered by my inadequacies.
Usually in an interview, I talk and tell people what they want to hear. I tell them that I'm a hard worker, determined to do things to the best of my ability, and all that other crap. But, here I couldn't do that. I couldn't really say anything. It was a weird position to be in. I had to let others talk for me. Apparently, they liked what they heard and asked me to sign a contract to teach for one year. I happily signed on the dotted line.
After another 25 minutes of Japanese discussion, they rose from their seats and bowed. I rose and bowed, too. I wasn't sure why or what else to do. I just stood their smiling like an idiot. When the men walked out, the ladies stayed and chatted with me. They told what was expected of me, the work hours, location of the school, the type of curriculum I was expected to teach, etc. They asked if I had any questions. Then, they walked me to my car.
I survived the meeting/interview. They liked me enough to hire me. I was nervous and felt stupid the entire time. But, now it's over and I'm hired. Now I'm a REAL teacher....being paid to corrupt the youth of Japan! I couldn't be happier!
*****The original post has some errors. I have corrected them, and now I feel like a real dumb @ss. Thanks Big D for making me feel even more inadequate than before!