Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Yesterday the loopy professor came to see me before class, to tell me that she would probably not be able to teach next week, as she has been invited to attend a lecture given by the Australian Prime Minister at Kyoto University. She asked me if I would mind teaching both classes together.

I said that would be fine, and complimented her on her new haircut. She glowed.

Then she told me that in the last class, in July, I would not have to teach the class at all, because she had arranged a special lecture about how to explain, in English, the method of putting on a kimono, for those students who will go abroad to study in the summer. The lecture would be for all the students, though, whether they were going abroad or not.

That made me happy. A morning off!

At lunchtime she came back to the teachers' room, told me the same things again, and also wanted to arrange when I would do the oral tests for the students. By this time the teacher had arrived with whom I share the afternoon classes. She was looking harassed and anxious. I knew she was finding these classes a real trial. The loopy professor micro-manages the Japanese-taught classes. The other teacher is far more qualified and a better teacher than the loopy professor, but is constrained by the loopy professor's bad ideas and ridiculously overoptimistic syllabus. Last year (her first year there) the other teacher was keen and dedicated. This year she has been flagging. The students don't like her classes, and she knows it. She knows what to do about it (give the students something challenging they can actually do instead of something they can't understand at all) but can't. She is becoming more and more cynical, especially since learning we are not allowed to fail anybody.

She is a very nice woman and a good teacher, at least from what she tells me about what she would do in the class if she was allowed to.

I decided to try for a little extra something. The loopy professor and I are not the only ones who need a break, and if she wanted me to teach her class for her she owed me something in return.

"Let me make sure I understand properly," I said. "Next week I will teach both classes together, and I will need to do the oral testing in the first two weeks of July because of the public holiday. I do not need to teach the last class of semester at all in the morning, but I will need to come in for the afternoon classes, right? The afternoon classes are not getting the special lecture, are they?"

The loopy professor stared at me, smiling uncomprehendingly. I had asked a negative question and confused her.

"I mean, the special lecture is only for the morning class, not the afternoon classes. Is that right?"

"Oh!" she said, as she finally arrived at the point I was ever-so-subtly trying to get her to. "Do you think the afternoon classes should have the lecture as well?"

"Not necessarily. Only if it's useful for the students," I said, innocently. "Is it only students from the morning classes who are going abroad?" (I knew it wasn't. We handed out the information leaflets about the study abroad program a couple of weeks ago, in all our classes. It hadn't occurred to the loopy professor because she wasn't teaching in the afternoon. She had arranged the special lecture to give herself a day off, not us.)

"No, some are going from the other classes, too," she said. "Oh! Of COURSE they should all have the lecture! I could ask the lecturer to do the afternoon classes as well." She frowned. "What do you think? Do you mind?"

"I'm fine with it," I said. "I think it's a good idea. I nodded over at the other teacher. "But you had better ask the other teacher."

The loopy professor bustled over to the other teacher, and a hurried conversation ensued. The other teacher nodded seriously. She told the professor the special lecture sounded like something the students would appreciate, and that she could adjust her teaching to compensate for the missing class. She tried not to look too overjoyed.

The bell rang, and the loopy professor left. The other teacher stared disbelievingly after her. Usually when the loopy professor wants to talk to her it is to set more ridiculous requirements, or to complain, or to demand even more detail in the already detailed two-weekly reports she has to submit about her classes. I have a lot of freedom in my classes, but the Japanese teachers have almost none.

As we were walking over to class, I noticed that the other teacher was looking less harassed and anxious. Also, she had developed an extra little spring in her step and could not wipe the grin off her face.

"Isn't that nice?" I said. "A whole day off at the end of semester!"

"Yes!" she said, emphatically. But then she looked a little embarrassed. She is new, still. Some of her ideals have not yet been completely erased by the loopy professor's sabotaging of her classes.

But I am not embarrassed at all to have nabbed an extra day off for her (and for myself). In fact I'm quite proud of myself.


Contamination said...

Scoring a day off for you and a workmate? Very Anzac of you! :-)

Hebron said...

Heh. Gaijin Smash XD

Very nice. Now thats how the system gets worked. Good on ya :D

Lia said...

Wow. Well done!