Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sayonara Sensei

I gave my Japanese teacher the heave ho today and I am going on a three month break from her. I've been finding her lessons increasingly unproductive and her pressure increasingly high. In order to avoid another lesson of me sitting scowling with my arms crossed like an pouty schoolgirl in grown-up clothes, I've decided our relationship needs a break. She is a cool obachan but refuses to stop harping on me about upping my kanji and well, upping my kanji. We've had a lot of laughs together, I even took her out drinking for a one-on-one bonenkai last December but her big mouth was the tipping point for me.

I think I've mentioned that she takes meticulous notes on my life and weekend activities. What was the name of your friend you discussed the inflation of the Japanese yen with over garlic saute tiger prawns? she'll ask. Wait a minute, how old is you brother again and what is the nationality of his girlfriend? It goes on like this and I should really get a photocopy of her notebook as a diary for my life this past year. Several of the peeps in my small group of non-Japanese colleagues take lessons from my sensei and we like to have a laugh over this peculiar practice of hers. Being her only female student I often heard tidbits about other students, some harmless and some that should not have been related to me. I'm not sure why I thought I was the exception to the rule but on a night out, one of my colleagues mentioned the JLPT last year and that he'd heard about my toilet trouble. Do you recall that story? In short I truly thought that I might pee my pants during the listening section and came extremely close to just walking out so that I wouldn't. Not a big deal, I have told most people I know this story. BUT, the fact that she is going around telling it kind of stressed me out. Not the fact that I was petrified of standing up and finding a wet seat but that if she is telling that kind of stuff to my colleagues what else is she spilling? Granted I never say too much but I have been known to start up a bitch session every now and then and honestly, I don't want my colleagues knowing stuff about me that I'm not ready to tell them.

My Japanese progress for example. Unfortunately I am not really accustomed to failing. Failing to stop myself from eating Hostess Cupcakes yes but failing at the big stuff, no, not so much. This does not mean I am special or holier than thou, just that I've always been a highish achiever and have only failed in what I really want to do a handful of times. This means I don't take failure well and often fail (ha) to take into consideration the fact that an endeavour might actually fail. So do I want my sensei talking to my colleagues who are probably just waiting to take my ass down about my utter lack of motivation to get beyond this annoying Japanese slump that I'm in? No, not so much. I'm known as Geisha with the good Japanese so no, I'd rather keep my plateau struggles to myself on this one and maintain what pride I have left after it being chipped away at by Kaisha culture.

So I avoided the awkward conversation and took a break from sensei by email. Don't you love email? The taking a break part wasn't hard but I couldn't help myself and before I knew it had typed a couple lines asking her to treat everything said in lessons as private and not to discuss me with other students as I am not particularly close with them. The words were Japanese but the sentiment was not, there is no nice way to put that. How do you deal with conflict in Japanese and still maintain a sense that you're not lying down and taking it like a bitch? Thankfully she didn't take too long to reply and interestingly enough, said that there is a possibility she has said things she shouldn't during lessons with other students, which she is sorry for, and she will try to be more conscious of it in the future. Well I guess I couldn't have hoped for a better answer than that could I? I was no doubt surprised however, when she acknowledged having acted inappropriately. Does this mean she knows better and does it anyway, or she has now seen the error in her ways?

10 comments:

Reannon said...

Aw, is it wrong that I sorta feel sorry for your teacher? I picture her as being some old lady who just gossips because she has nothing else going on in her life and she's lonely. I don't know how accurate that is...

That's awesome she apologized though.

Corinne said...

haha, I kind of feel sorry for her too! When you say 'obachan' I imagine some poor repressed housewife type with black hair dyed slightly orange on the grey bits who has had to slave all her life and is teaching Japanese to get by! hehe
Hmmm, if it was a normal country I'd say she was aknowledging her bad and moving on, but this is Japan where every word has about million implied meanings. So take your guess at what she really meant!

TokyoGirl said...

Awwww i feel sorry for her!

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Ladies, aren't you supposed to me on my side? J/K. Let me clarify though:

I say obachan because she has kids older than me although she is not your typical old lady. She has brown coiffed hair and dresses pretty snazzily. She teaches Japanese as a hobby and for a little extra cash although I know her husband provides for the two of them.

I held off saying anything for a year but finally decided to because if I am paying money for a service, I expect a certain level of professionalism and telling me about the dating life of one of my colleagues is not on my list of professional behaviour. When I start lessons with her again I don't want to have to watch what I say around her. I'm the only female among my group of colleagues so that makes me a little more defensive too. Frankly though, I don't know if she can keep her mouth shut even after asking her to do so. Stay tuned for more in the fall :)

Fellow Gaijin in Tokyo said...

No way she's sorry, nor will she keep her mouth shut. Gossip is a way of life here. My shibuya language teacher does the same thing, except I'm not paying for her.

kathrynoh said...

It's one thing to be a bit of a gossip, but writing notes about you in a notebook - that's just creepy.

Corinne said...

Ok the brown coifffed hair has swayed me, I agree, she isn't sorry at all and is secretly happy that you are no longer her student so now she can gossip even more without fear of having to face you again.

goinglocoinyokohama said...

I agree, she's not sorry...and I have experienced that note taking penchant a number of times. I had one student when I was working at Nova back in the days that used to basically take dictation in a sort of kanji stenography, and he too would bring up the most obscure stuff I'd mentioned off the cuff, some I'm not particularly proud of. But I learned to watch my mouth (at least I try but fail miserably frequently) cuz students certainly are.
You had me cracking up over here, though. (-:
I once had a Japanese teacher who was a kanji stickler and loved to trip me up under the heading of Kanji is beyond foreigner comprehension anyway so don't feel bad. I gave her the Big Sayonara too...comprehend that, beeotch!Good for you Green Eyes!

jaredinnakano said...

GEG, no reason to think twice about terminating a service that is not working for you: pedagogically or personally. i love your line: "Unfortunately I am not really accustomed to failing." i am certain your Japanese is most excellent already, and that it will continue to improve. the teacher was definitely not helping you.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

Fellow Gaijin - It's a shame, I really don't to find someone else. I suppose I could have a don't ask don't tell policy with her.

goingloco - That's kind of freaky about the student, although I think my teacher does that with some of her male students who are, um, actively dating. It's hard to find a decent teacher who knows what they are doing and yet doesn't find kanji humiliation techniques personally gratifying! Do you mind if I steal your "comprehend that, beeotch" if I give her the final heave??

jared - I appreciate the encouragement as always. I need to rethink my approach.