Thursday, August 09, 2007


Postcards are probably the last type of snail mail that people continue to send to one another on a semi-regular basis as part of social discourse. This is likely due to the fact that they are short, sent only from vacation spots at irregular intervals and have pictures which give one a feeling for what a locale is like. Substantial snail mail correspondence via snail mail has been largely supplanted by e-mail, chatting, and text messaging but postcards from exotic locales can't be replaced by e-cards (and everybody seems to hate them anyway).

The postcard above was sent to my husband from one of his regular students from Hawaii where she's on vacation for a little over a week. This particular student has been my husband's regular student for about a year and a half and shares an interest in Weird Al Yankovic with him. In fact, she mentions buying Twinkies in the U.S. to make a "Twinkie wiener sandwich" because it is part of the movie, UHF.

This student sent my husband this card because she likes him as a teacher but back when I was working at my former office, the president of the company used to ask the teachers to solicit postcards from students when they went on vacation. This was a rather awkward situation because the teachers were teaching six five-minute telephone lessons and never saw the students face-to-face. It is difficult to develop a rapport under those conditions and asking for postcards to be sent to you when you are little more than a disembodied voice speaking briefly with the student seems like an imposition.

The teachers, including myself, asked for these postcards anyway because the ability to generate large quantities of them was an indication of the teacher's popularity and tickled the president no end. He wasn't necessarily concerned with how well-liked the teacher was but rather he wanted the cards to stuff into an album which the salespeople would take around to potential clients to show how great an experience speaking with the teacher was. Since we solicited most of the cards, the cards were rarely a reflection of the affection a student held for a particular teacher but the president placed a lot of stock in this sort of phony PR.

Some students did send cards to their teachers spontaneously but it was relatively rare. Sometimes, even in a brief call, you would develop a rapport that was fairly strongly despite the brevity of contact but it often had more to do with the student's gregarious character than with the teacher. This part of the teaching experience in Japan was all part of the vast education you get in just how much of what you do is about sales and not about helping the students advance their capabilities.

No comments: