A Year in the Life

A Year in the Life

So. Looking back at my prior missives, it has officially been more than one year since I said anything at all to the world at large, and even then it was just to describe one particularly messy week. Everyone who said I was writing too much before, consider yourselves placated.

Happy Thoughts

As of April this year, I stopped teaching in schools and became Head Trainer for the Hamamatsu Branch of Company B.


For most of the first term, I did training with groups and individual teachers and went out to observe new teachers in their schools, giving advice, meeting with school staff and travelling hither and thither. That was fun.


The second term was less so. In the second term, I spent 40 out of 70 working days substituting for other teachers. I substituted in Shuzenji and the lovely but distant hole-in-a-wall town of Heda, and I spent my final week of work commuting to Numazu before heading back to Toronto. When I go back, I’ll have another week in Numazu covering another teacher’s vacation days.


My most amusing substitution was one day in Okayama, 45 minutes from Hiroshima, where I got to stay in a big room on a golf resort in the middle of nowhere, stranded on top of a mountain from which I could not escape on foot. And as soon as I finished, I had to travel four hours back to Shizuoka so I could use my prepaid ticket to Hiroshima with A. the next morning.


Mt. Fuji peeking over Numazu
Mt. Fuji peeking over Numazu

I suppose this is where things really begin. Last February, I went to Numazu to try to sell a pack of 24 ALTs to the local board of education. I did well enough that some company bigwigs asked me to come along to their next presentation, which I bombed. I never heard from them again.


But we landed the Numazu contract, earning with it the obligation of finding 24 ALTs willing to go to a city whose main feature is that it is relatively close to other, nicer cities. For the first month, I had to ship out on the first train every morning to cover the inevitable shortfall.


Another part of our obligation to Numazu was a series of 20 two-day summer seminars on How to Work With Your ALT, which, it turned out, it was my job to prepare and deliver.


I developed a course manual, got it translated into Japanese, and compiled a full set of step-by-step “how-to” notes for people running the seminar, all completely pulled out of my head because nobody in the company had ever done anything remotely resembling this before (or if they had, they were keeping quiet about it). And it wasn’t only my neck on the line: to cover all the overlapping dates we had to convince a dozen ALTs to interrupt their summer vacations, and some would be presenting the seminar before I had a chance to try any of the material myself. There was, in short, no chance it was going to work.


Naturally, it did. In fact, it went better than I could possibly have anticipated, and I learned that working with elementary school teachers—real, professional teachers, not just college grads taking a year or two off before going home to get a “real” job—was the easiest thing in the world. Given that these things normally sell for thousands of dollars a day, I think I may have found my backup if I’m ever in need of work in the future.


Don’t ask about next year, though. A. wants to go to design school in Tokyo in May, so we’ll see what happens. She’s already given notice, and I’ve subtly made mention of my impending departure. I may end up working for our head office, I may not. It depends on how things are going.


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