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Nor the Other


I’m not a student, that much is certain; but I’m also not really a teacher. I’m like Gollum– technically not part of either side, useful to both if controlled correctly, but too unpleasant to keep on long-term and liable to dance weirdly when he gets his way.

The No-Man’s-Land nature of my job became startlingly apparent at the beginning of this term for whatever reason. Every day for a week, there was an event happening in which I was expected to participate but about which I was given no prior indication.

On the first day, there was an assembly where I was expected to come up and be showcased (with the second-year teachers, for reasons that mere mortals such as us are not privy to). No one told me this– not my JTE, not my Kyoto-Sensei who was running the assembly, not any one of the teachers who walked past me on their way to the stage because naturally I’d chosen a spot to stand which created a huge bottleneck. I only realised what was happening and had to run up, pushing numerous other teachers out of the way and generally making a fool of myself, after Kyoto-Sensei said my name and turned to the stage expectantly.

Second day, there was another, entirely different assembly. I got no prior warning about this at all and only caught wind that something was up when I looked around and found the staff room was deserted. However, on the bright side, this did give me a legitimate reason to mutter to myself “It’s quiet…too quiet.”

Third day, there were not one but two assemblies (I think Honcho-Sensei has a problem)– this time they decided to split the difference and personally escort me to one but completely neglect to mention the other like it was a classified operation to try and kill Hitler or make Crème eggs a year round treat.

This culminated in Unexpected School Photo Day: I turned up to school to find everyone in suits while I look like a Scarecrow with its pole pulled out. One of my JTEs glanced up at me as I walked in, gasped, and whispered, confused, “Kelly-Sensei, didn’t you know…?”

No, I didn’t know. I don’t speak Japanese and I’ve never worked at a Japanese school– am I meant to use my spidey sense to magically divine when and where these events that I’ve never heard of before are taking place?

This is especially aggravating as at the end of the school day I ask the English teachers if there’s anything I need to prepare and they almost always say “no.” This would be a perfect opportunity for them to give me a quick heads-up about something important the next day but apparently that’s not to be. Of course, I could just start asking very explicitly “Is there anything happening tomorrow that it would be super-embarrassing for me to miss out on or not be properly dressed for?” and then, if they forget to forewarn me of anything, I could sue them for criminal negligence, but I would hope that such brutish precision isn’t necessary among colleagues.

The thing I find odd about this is that I somewhat suspect that they suffer more from this than I do. So far, my ignorance has lead me to miss a few boring assemblies and pose in a sub-par photo. So what? Those assemblies weren’t for my benefit and I will never see that photo. I’m certainly not going to hang it up in my place of work to look at every day from now on. I can’t help but feel that they would benefit more if the teachers fully embraced me as one of their own, rather than stringing me on with the occasional gift of a fish head as I lead them to Mount Doom.

But I don’t know, maybe I’m just being precious.


Rory Kelly

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