Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Introducing...The Staff

Generally speaking, the staff here at Shin Gakko is excellent – friendly, tolerant and dedicated to a fault. They treat us foreign teachers as quasi equals even though we are, well, barbarians who break house rules with only casual teaching credentials to our name (i.e. being native English speakers). Below are staff vignettes with Anglicized nicknames to protect the innocent and mock the guilty.

Personal secretary to Mr. Ouchy. Never fails to "herro good morning!" me with her only three words of English while we’re riding the elevator to the 8:15 a.m. staff meeting.

A dear of a home economics teacher. Young, sweet and single.

Biology Bob
Quirky science teacher I sit next to in the teachers' room. Never seen him eat lunch all year.

The Bento Babes
Three mothers who staff the school canteen (“The Bento Shack”) where bento box lunches and vacuum-sealed breads are the source of lunchtime sustenance when I don’t have time to chow down on Bertha’s cafeteria cooking.

Bertha & the Kitchenettes
Bertha leads this endearing cafeteria cooking crew. Her bright smile, short graying hair, strong forearms and stronger work ethic merit a comparison to a Japanese Rosie the Riveter. The best part of working at Shin Gakko is their bathtub-size curry rice or fatty sauteed beef bowl.

British co-worker who amuses me with his daily antics in an otherwise by-the-book atmosphere. Once accidentally exposed himself to Gloria.

Commander Kickshit
Overzealous, gruff boy’s P.E. teacher with an impressive wardrobe of matching Adidas tracksuits. Hates kids and English even more. Dishes out an excessive number of pushups to his lanky charges. Could benefit from a rainbow Care Bear or a bear hug.

Egg Man
A pun on his real Japanese name, Egg Man and I teach English to my insolent homeroom class of 7th graders. “So what we gonna do?” is his patented phrase before we enter the room. With the little monsters waiting inside, I’m tempted to call the Ghostbusters.

English Inc.
Faulty placement agency that duped me into this job. While its employees are nice as individuals, I’ve butted heads with the company over working conditions, salary, health insurance, time off and everything else in my flawed contract.

Perhaps the longest tenured teacher at Shin Gakko, Esther reminds of my eponymous late grandmother with her passively barbed comments. Despite my limited role as a human tape recorder in her two sections of 11th graders, I look forward to class as a way to spiritually reconnect with Grandma.

Terse custodian who sweeps the halls with a grimace. Has no qualms about mopping the men’s room while I’m doing time on the can. Normally a shadowy background figure, Gloria once took center stage when she tumbled down a flight of stairs outside of my English class.

Head of English
But ironically one of the worst at it, Head is an example of textbook learning gone horribly wrong. I bite my tongue whenever he begins sentences with fundamentally, as you know and namely. Case in point: “As you know, in five minutes, namely 8:25, there is a homeroom class of fundamental English.”

Gloria’s gloved subordinate.

Mr. Microphone
Balding audio-visual guy who wears dark sunglasses even inside his studio cave outfitted with floor-to-ceiling sound equipment circa 1986 and flickering monitors with murky images.

Ms. Mitohara
The most helpful and competent English teacher I’ve ever worked with. She has been my lifeline to any and every question concerning a frustratingly disorganized school management. Yet as a junior teacher and a woman, responsibilities bypass her in favor of more senior and English incompetent male colleagues.

Ms. Murasaki
Prim and proper, this Japanese language teacher is unfailingly polite. Behind that perfect façade, however, I just know that she yearns to abolish English language instruction and banish the barbaric foreigners defiling her country in the name of teaching it.

Mr. Oki
This young and dumpling-shaped English teacher and I teach two sections of 10th graders. Future dream: escape Japan and move to Melbourne.

Mr. Ouchy
A pun on the principal’s Japanese name. His chauffeured black “President” model sedan idles out front sparing him the 15-minute walk to the train station.

Soccer Dan
Finally, a hip math teacher! Tall and 24, Dan draws a line of girls at his desk seeking extra attention after class. Once a soccer player in college, the sportsman keeps in the game as a coach for the boys’ team who rank just behind baseballers as the big men on campus.

Sunshine Suzuki
Ebullient and enthusiastic, this female gym teacher coaches the 7th and 8th grade girls. For my assistant gym teacher duties, I am fortunate to be paired with her rather than Commander.

Suzuki & Suzuki
Two sister spinsters staffing the school store stocked with overpriced mechanical pencils and notebooks. Hairnets, buns and white-powered faces are a throwback to pre-war Japan.

Reminds me of my grandmother after she began forgetting my name or that, yes, we have class today and, yes, it started five minutes ago. Her English pronunciation is so mangled that even I have trouble catching the non-sequitors spitting from her mouth. We team-teach one vacuous class of 10th graders who silently count down the minutes until the bell ends foreign language hell.

Unfriendly Wendy
Crotchety head receptionist holding court in the main office where Arlene sits. Faxes my monthly timesheet to English Inc., begrudgingly.

Dwarfy librarian never without her maroon apron and thick glasses. Possibly having an affair with Mr. Microphone.

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