Two Lumps, Please!

It's Tuesday, and I don't have class.

The other teachers in my office are zooming around like balloons with their little knots untied. I, however, am as relaxed as a cup of decaffinated tea...which I, indeed, happen to be drinking. Cup of Life Ginger. It's fantastic.

Today is Board of Education visitation day. It's the same in every school from here to Lincoln, Nebraska. Today, everyone is wearing a tie. Today, everyone moves purposefully. Today, the very special lesson that has been worked on and refined for weeks will finally be brought to the classroom.

Today, all of my JTEs cancelled our classes together.

I suppose that I could be offended ("What? do they think that I'm a crap teacher and wouldn't dare to show me to the Board of Education?"), but I'm not. I can understand their reluctance to have me in class on BOE visitation day. The classes that we teach together have, at first glance, limited educational value. My presence, judged on the basis of a single-class evaluation, probably appears more distracting than helpful. I spend the majority of my class time standing dumbly in the front of the room while my JTE teaches the day's grammar point. I try not to look too awkward. I am careful not to slouch; I nod when the tone of her voice indicates the
conclusion of a sentence.

And I wait for her to look at me expectantly--which means that it is time for me to proceed with the portion of the class that we have previously agreed that I would lead. My little song-and-dance begins. It's a four part cacophony in as many languages.

1) The language of the textbook. It's perfect, proper, and up-to-date American English. (I don't know about you guys, but I am actually pretty impressed with the New Horizon books--as far as the language goes. Some of the activities are a little questionable, but on the whole, not a bad set.)

2) My simplified teaching English--proper English's bastard child, left in the wilderness and raised by monkeys. I start a sentence, realize that I am about to use a word or a grammatical structure that will be completely impossible for my students to understand, stop speaking, and continue the rest of the sentence with mime, a noun here and there, and a hopeful look that says, "Hey, do you get it?"
The answer is always "...."

3) My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Japanese. Often sprinkled into my bastardized teaching English. Always followed by a look at my co-teacher that asks, "was that correct Japanese?" She has become expert at avoiding my glance.

4) My co-teacher's Japanese. Perfectly understandable to her students, perfectly impossible for me. For the explanation of games, excercises, and grammar, it is a last resort--which means that its use is inevitable.

Every day, a few precious minutes of class time are lost to the difficulties of having a foreign-only speaker teach his own language.

Those few minutes of fumbling, I think, are what my co-teachers are afraid of. They are graceless, difficult, and uncomfortable; certainly not what I'd want to show my Board of Education. So I'm not particularly miffed that the teachers skipped their classes with me today. Besides, I like my free time just as much as the next guy. I think I'll have another cup of tea.