Upon sitting in the teachers’ room during a meeting and listening to the principal and VP make the morning announcements, I remember that I am in Japan. This has been happening lately the more the initial feeling of adjustment and finding things new and exciting fades and the onset of living here kicks in. The moment it happened was listening to the VP talk. He was speaking in Japanese (as you do in Japan) and I realized that I had no clue what he was saying. Normally this happens in daily life and I don’t pay much attention to it. But today, on the second day of school, I noticed it.
I noticed that I can’t understand a word he was staying (much less gather a context). I noticed around me that I can’t read anything and understand it (I know the letters but do I know what the word is? Nope). I noticed that I was sitting in a Japanese high school listening to a language I do not know, thousands of miles away from my comfort zone.
Back home, I could teach anything (or at least I felt like I could teach anything). I was able to find a way to liven up the class if the students were bored. I planned my own lessons, made my own tests, taught my own classes. But there I stood, flashback to the first day of class, staring at the students and about to start my first lesson. I begin to speak and I saw the students talk in confusion. I was instructed to talk slower by the JTE. …Okay so I do. Still confused. “Talk slower” he said. So I did and that seemed to work.
I was not standing in front of 25 American college students, but 40 Japanese junior high students. Toto? I don’t think we’re in California anymore…
Flashforward to the second day and I am at a new school with new teachers and new students. And I am sitting, listening, and clueless. Clueless at a new job and I don’t know how to say I’m clueless.
This post is in by no means a waving of a white flag, but admitting to a weakness. Yes, I am outside my comfort zone. Yes, I am outside my element. I cannot understand my principals making announcements or the cashier at McDonald’s serving me food.
But I know this and mark my words, when I have started that Japanese class, I am going to study hard and rid myself of my ignorance and illiteracy.