Saturday, February 23, 2008

Student Roster - February 2008

About a year or so ago, I wrote out my student roster for the sake of my own future recollection, knowing it was of little interest to anyone but me. However, this is my blog and I'll bore if I want to. ;-) I am posting this on a weekend day when most folks are outside enjoying their real lives (and I'm busy working) and less likely to read this blog, so I'm trying to exercise a little consideration here, but those of you who aren't interested in profiles of people you don't know and never will might want to find something good on T.V.

Looking back at my previous post, I'm surprised to see that I had 12 students at that time as I didn't think I had so many at that time. That being said, one was a "temporary" who was never meant to attend more than 3 lessons and one of the ones who appeared in that list showed up for one lesson then vanished not only from contact with me but the agency that sent her to me. Sometimes I wish I knew a little more about the types of agreements the agency makes with students as it's not uncommon to get a student or two who will seem to be "dabbling" and then go away after a one to six lessons lessons or after sampling several "demonstration" lessons with 2 or 3 different teachers. I have a feeling there may be some system whereby the demos or a limited number of lessons at the beginning may be cheaper than long-term lesson contracts. It could be they offer such lessons as "bait", but I can't be sure. The inner workings of the business and financial situation are often not explained to teachers.

At the moment, I have 11 students and 6 of them have been with me for over a year and appeared in my former post. Here is the current roster:


(5:15 pm) 20-year-old university student who is studying French as her major. She works at a clothing retailer known for cheap casual clothing part-time and likes watching "Lost" and Disney sitcoms like "Hannah Montana". She's one of my 5 "survivors" from last year and one of my favorites. She tends to pick new vocabulary up quickly though she doesn't study much outside of the class because she's so busy at university. She's been studying and taking the TOEFL test and recently got accepted into an exchange student program. She'll be headed to Montana to attend university there for one school year starting from August and I'll be losing her at that point, unfortunately.

(7:45 pm) A woman in her early 30's who works at a bank doing accounting work. I seem to get a lot of female accounting workers for some reason. This student enjoys surfing and used to live by the sea, but recently bought her own condo in central Tokyo (with a hefty 30-year mortgage). She's unusual looking for a Japanese person because she's got very Western-looking eyes and you wouldn't necessarily conclude she was Asian by looking at her face. She's also had more of her share of being followed around by weirdos than my other students, though I don't know if these facts are related. She also goes to Costco more regularly than anyone I know and buys food which is always more than she can actually eat.


(4:00 pm) A 61-year old man who used to be a government bureaucrat then worked for an insurance company and is now retired. He has traveled all over the world and has a great interest in politics, social issues, and news. His vocabulary is advanced and he's very liberal and open-minded. He has lessons not only to improve his speaking for travel but also for the stimulation of discussing things with a foreign person. He has lamented to me on several occasions that he believes he cannot have such discussions with his friends because they think he's weird both for his viewpoints and for wanting to talk about them. His main goal is travel, particularly to world heritage sites, but his elderly mother is ill and he can't do what he'd like. I often sense he feels a bit trapped by his situation and once he asked me if I thought he was selfish for wanting his mother to get better mainly so he could pursue his dreams. I told him that I didn't think it was selfish at all to work hard your whole life then want to fulfill your dreams after retiring.

(7:00 pm) I haven't taught the student who will be in this time slot yet. I've only been told that she's a beginner and a nurse. In my experience with beginners, they don't tend to last as long as intermediate to advanced students. I think that the one-to-one lessons are a bit intense for them at their level and, when they don't experience rapid improvement, they tend to move on to give up. However, I remain optimistic!


(6:00 pm) A 64-year old semi-retired man who is my second "survivor" from last year. This older gentleman is a dynamo for his age. He works part-time teaching people at community centers how to use computers and cell phones as well as proctors insurance exams for certification. He takes social dancing classes and has been on adult homestays in America. Though his level isn't particularly high, he's easy to teach because he plans for the lesson himself by choosing a grammar point or phrase he wants to practice and he's very self-motivating in carrying out the practice. I don't have to light a fire under his ass to get him to talk and that's rare. He's one of only two of my students who are married. He's also the student who holds the record for having taken the most lessons with me to date. Last Friday was his 100th lesson.


(10:45 am) A sales support staff person in her early 30's who works for a major computer hardware and services company. She looks about 8 years younger than her age and presents herself with a sense of energy and vitality that I envy. She really enjoys sports and golf in particular and is very dedicated to her job. I believe she studies English because her company is a foreign one, but also for travel. She has studied Italian cooking both in Japan and on a culinary tour of Italy.

(12:00 pm) An office worker at a major fashion designer's Japanese branch in her late 20's who is mainly studying English for doing business in Italy. In fact, as I write this post, she's in Italy now 3/4 of the way through a month-long business trip. Though this woman is a bit reserved, she's my kind of person on many levels. She's thoughtful, analytical, and candid. She's never frivolous or giggly, but is forthcoming and friendly in a way which isn't put on or overdone. She's also quite serious about improving her English and does work on her own in addition to coming to lessons.

(3:30 pm) A 24-year-old insurance company worker who would like to learn English for travel abroad. As I write this, she's in Hawaii for a vacation and she is another of my "survivors". She's a classic example of a well-rounded young woman in Japan. She takes flower arranging classes, works full-time, has an interest in live shows and performances of many types, travels, and reads a variety of books on politics, art, travel, and culture. When she first came to me, she had problems making sentences or having a basic conversation, but now can express herself much more freely, though not necessarily quickly. I've seen concrete improvement in her ability and that's a rare treat for a teacher in Japan since students tend to either bug out before you see improvement or they don't tend to take it seriously enough to get much better.


(10:45 am) A marketing representative for a pharmaceutical company who is in her mid 20's, this student is the younger sister of the woman who works for the fashion designer. She's the person who has been trying to break into journalism, but so far has only managed to get work doing freelance transcribing. I've only taught her about a half dozen times and don't have a good handle on her yet. She's nice and a bit more outgoing than her sister, though not nearly as hard-working when it comes to independent study. She mainly wants to improve her English skills as a means of selling herself to a publication company.

(12:00 pm) A 41-year-old company worker who was new to me when I wrote about her last year (when she came at 3:00 pm). She continues to work in the accounting section of an architectural firm and still hates her job rather passionately. Ironically, she was recently promoted but was completely indifferent to her elevation in status. She's been talking about quitting for the entire year or so that I've been teaching her, but hasn't found the kind of job she feels is ideal. She doesn't want to job hop frequently so she isn't keen on leaving her current job for an interim job. Her goal for study, career advancement, remains the same. She likes to attend Japanese puppet shows (bunraku) and live performances of artists who might be considered "has beens" in the West because they were popular in the 80's or 70's.

Random days and times:

A 32-year-old freelance translator who makes subtitles for mostly English (sometimes other languages) movies for the Japanese audience. Though she has been officially "with me" as a student for about two years, I've actually only seen her about 25 times because of the sporadic nature of her work. She only schedules lessons when she has a project which she needs help with. Her goal isn't to build her overall level but to make sure she does the best work she can when she makes subtitles. She took a part-time job at an office (doing subtitling) for better financial security so she could move into her own place last year. I don't tend to spend much time doing free conversation with her because of the nature of her lessons, but I do know she enjoys beading and travels to resort areas in Japan several times a year.

A 44-year old former pharmacist who currently attends a U.S. college on a military base. She's the second of two of my students who is married. At present, I'm seeing her 2-3 times a week to help her complete a copious number of assignments for a distance course she's taking. Among my current crop of students, she's probably the person with the highest level ability and definitely spends the most time doing independent study. She's very dependent on me in getting her college work under control and tells me sometimes that she's afraid I'll leave Japan and she won't know how to cope.


Comparing last year's list to this years, I'd say I've gotten a better crop of people through time. I have more people who are easier to engage in conversation and are earnest about improving. I'm also pleased to have retained about 50% of them as it's always a better experience if you know each other well. I'm a bit saddened that I'm going to lose the young woman who is headed for Montana in August. It's always a bit difficult losing students who you've taught for a long time and gotten to know pretty well.

One of the interesting things about their departures is that they almost always ask for my e-mail address and ask if I'd mind if they write me. I always give it to them, but I never hear from them again. I figure they're sincere in their desire to keep in touch, but since the vast majority of them leave me under circumstances where they are having a major life change, they find themselves too busy and preoccupied to take the time to compose messages to me. I'm not exactly broken-hearted about it, mind you. I'd be happy to hear from them if they wrote, but I don't mistake a friendly business-based relationship for a friendship.


ターナー said...

That's planning ahead; I had a similar line-up back in Texas, but if I ever live in Tokyo, it'll take me a while to arrange a steady stream of students like you have.

Shari said...

The situation with these students took me by surprise as I never expected to get so many, nor to hold around 10 or so consistently. I did this once before over a decade ago using the same agency and only got 3-5 students, but I think my experience and open schedule on the weekends helps a lot.

I don't make enough to live off of from this work (unsurprisingly), but it does help supplement our income.

Thanks for your comment!

badmoodmike said...

It is pretty neat to find out more details of what you do, and what the people are like that you come into contact with. Gives us a real insight to the average Japanese person.

They are not all jerks pushing random foreign people off bicycles. :) Good to know if I ever visit!

Shari said...

Mike: They're not all bad by a long shot!

The somewhat "odd" thing about my list is that it includes no businessmen. A lot of people who study English are businessmen, but none of my private students are working males. It's not that I miss that portion of the population though as I spoke to thousands of them in my former job. ;-)

Thanks for commenting!

AlaskanGeekArchitect said...

If your Montana bound student happens to end up at Montana State University and needs someone to practice her English with... I will probably me need a Japanese tutor fall of next year.