Tuesday, January 22, 2008

(Im)moral support

I found out today how my Monday/Wednesday university is going to prevent us nasty gaijin from failing students without actually ordering us not to. As usual, I got this information from the one Japanese teacher who treats me as a professional equal rather than as an English-speaking parrot. (Unfortunately she is also a part-timer.)

She told me that she had been told (by the loopy professor) that when the grades are being given for these classes (which are taught half by a foreign teacher and half by a Japanese teacher), the grade is to be calculated so that forty percent of the total comes from the foreign teacher and sixty percent from the Japanese teacher. This means that nobody gets the embarrassing task of explaining to the foreign teachers that the university has no academic standards. I can give a student zero points if I want to. The Japanese teacher will then give the student sixty points, and since sixty is a passing score the student will magically pass their English course.

This is, actually, a brilliant way around the problem of what to do with fussy gaijin who insist that at a university students should actually do something to earn a grade. Only a cunning, sneaky, underhanded person could have dreamed it up. I had no idea the loopy professor was so clever.

But it is also incredibly insulting to the foreign teachers. These classes are supposed to be for 'oral English.' I teach four of them, along with three Japanese teachers. (The loopy professor teaches two with me, and two part-time Japanese teachers teach the other two.) I am the only teacher out of the four of us who is actually qualified to teach the English language, and in particular, spoken language. (The loopy professor's PhD is, I discovered recently, in Japanese Studies, and the other Japanese teachers' qualifications are in English literature rather than language.) I am still deciding how insulted to be, however. If I protest too loudly I could end up with no classes at all there, and then where will I get all my bird pictures from? This is the university next to the little river.

I also found out today that most of the Japanese teachers' grades will come from a written test that they all have to use, put together by the loopy professor. This test is mostly in Japanese, and how it is supposed to assess spoken English is a mystery nobody dares to question. My part-time colleague is outraged. She wanted to use her own test, but she is also not protesting too loudly. (It was refusing to use this test that cost another part-timer her job.) She and I have decided to get together over the grades. We will collaborate to make sure that students who deserve a high grade actually get one, whatever their test scores. We may not be allowed to fail anyone, but at least we can be as fair as possible.

But that's only for one class, and I was still feeling pretty irate when I got home today. The Man was sympathetic when I told him what was going on. His helpful suggestion was that I should arrange for the loopy professor to slip on a banana peel at the top of a steep flight of stairs.

I found this idea curiously cheering. When things are not going so well at work it is extremely important to have moral support at home.

Or some sort of support, anyway.


kenju said...

That is ridiculous!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

That's shocking. I'd be really annoyed too.

Lia said...

The Man has a point. Either a banana peel or a broken heel. Could be fun, even if it doesn't change policy.

Pkchukiss said...

Do they show the grade break-down between the foreign and local teachers?

Badaunt said...

Pkchukiss: No, the students only get to see the total grade. And come to think of it, since the Japanese professor has the grading sheets and will hand them in, I don't think I'll even get to see that!