Sunday, February 18, 2007

Time Bandits

There's an episode of the Simpsons where Bart, under the influence of a test medication for ADD which makes him hyper-efficient, calls his sister Lisa a "time burglar" for wasting his time in snippets by talking to him about things of little importance.

As of late, I've had the distinct feeling that my students are time bandits as well. As it is, I give up my free time to assist students in ways in which I'm not strictly required to do so. I do research on the internet for them and recommend sites or print out helpful information. I correct their homework outside of the lesson time when I'm not even required to give them homework at all but I do it because I believe it helps them improve more rapidly. For one student, I read her assignment information to help her do college courses and it can take hours of extra time.

These things aren't things that I mind so much but, recently, they've been stealing my time in annoying ways. One of them is frequent reschedules which require back and forth e-mail communication. Another is absences which require me to communicate each time with the referral agency. The biggest and most irritating is the last minute whipping out of some work document for urgent correction as the lesson ends or the questions that come at the end of the hour which are hard to rebuff or cut off. I have tried to end lessons 2-3 minutes before the precise end of the time but, invariably, they manage to string things out longer regardless.

The attempts to extend the lesson beyond the hour are the ones that bother me the most as I think it shows little respect for the value of my time. It also annoys me more because, if I tried to pull the reverse situation and cut lessons short by 5-10 minutes, the students would surely complain that they are being cheated. Only one of my 9 or so students seems to respect my time enough to hustle out when the hour is up. The rest seem to always be searching for a way to get an extra long ride on the English train.


Luis said...

And then there is the state of being someone with a popular talent being requested to serve gratis on the fly. You begin to understand what doctors feel like when people always ask them to give diagnoses at parties, except as a foreigner in Japan it can be worse. It goes all the way from people on trains starting conversations for their practice, to people you know asking you casually to proofread 10-page documents for some professional's conference presentation.

Shari said...

Back when your brother and I were still going to Akiyoshi, we were followed up the street by a middle-aged businessman who was asking us to talk to him in English. It was about 9:30 and we were both really tired and just wanted to relax but he dogged us.

These days, I won't talk to any Japanese person in English who I don't know and am not doing business with because being friendly with people in such situations is almost always seen as opening the door to a free conversation lesson or a few monkey minutes to chatter about with friends.

I know that sounds cold but the Japanese don't approach each other as strangers in such a fashion and there's no reason aside from wanting an experience that benefits them in some manner to approach a foreigner in such a fashion. Tokyoites just don't do that.

My former boss used to get the "please proofread this" requsts a fair amount from former coworkers. He'd oblige them as best he could but it eventually got out of hand.