Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Teaching middle-school kids in Japan

An African-American named Jeff Azrael who taught middle school in Japan for several years has a long series of posts on the subject at this web site:

http://outpostnine.com/editorials/teacher.html

It's hard to know what to make of it. At first I was laughing at the silly grab-the-dick anecdotes, then I was actually feeling embarrassed for him as he complained about his girlfriend, then later I was really touched by some of the genuinely sweet things that he writes, and so on and so on. He returns to the same themes and people very frequently, moving just to the edge of being boring, then completely surprising you with vivid stories. His writing skills get noticeably better as the articles proceed.

It's like reading someone's personal letters, unedited. Azrael is very direct and immediate about what he's experiencing, and he writes with a sweet and open heart. The overall effect is surprising somehow — perhaps because of the sexually explicit topics, perhaps because some of the kids are little demons, perhaps because he depicts himself as so fallible. In America, this blog would lead directly to multiple lawsuits because of his complete frankness and also because of American hysteria about sex and teachers. (Note that this is emphatically not the Japanese Mary Kay Letourneau story.)

The essays remind me strongly of James Herriot's stories of being a country vet in Yorkshire, the one that started with All Creatures Great and Small.

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