Last time, I covered the first unspoken rule of paper in Japan (never throw any piece of paper you get in Japan away). This second rule is also unspoken and is possibly more important that the first
2. If it’s an ALTs word against a piece of paper, paper trumps ALT, always.
It really doesn’t matter how unofficial the piece of paper is. It could be something drunkenly scrawled on a napkin, but if the ALT says something that contradicts what’s written on a piece of paper, by God, that piece of paper will win. This isn’t a hard tested theory yet, but I am constantly collecting proof that ALT < piece of paper.
Exhibit A, “Ha-re Ra-ma, if you want it”
This past December, the song of the month for the ichi-nensei (7th graders) was John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas.” Nothing appeared glaringly wrong with the lyrics sheet except that it claimed at the end of the song the children chant “Ha-re-ra-ma, if you want it.”
Clearly the kids in the song chant “war is over”, it’s even in the title of the freakin’ song. Regardless, all three ichi-nensei teachers asking me in front of the class, “What does Hare Rama mean?”
My answer to all three: “I think this is written wrong, they actually sing ‘war is over.'”
After the initial silent shock of me daring to go against the word of the printed piece of paper, all three responded differently.
First, Clueless-sensei, determines that “Hare-rama” means “war is over” in another language. Which is actually a plausible explanation, so I let him roll with it.
Next, Short-and-funny-sensei who by far speaks the best English actually almost believed me, he told one class to change the lyrics and everything. Alas, next time I taught with him, I hear him distinctly sing “Hare-rama”.
Last was Nice-but-Forgetful-sensei. This guy just pretty much refused to believe the paper was wrong! He tried to go the route of Clueless-sensei and tell me “Hare-rama” must mean “war is over” in another language. I was in a stubborn mood, and insisted he listen to the lyrics, and also pointed out that the title of the song, printed on the lyric sheet, was “Happy Xmas (War is Over).” But he decided that on other CDs, it’s “war is over”, but on this CD, “hare-rama”. Okay, fair enough, too bad we were listening to a burned copy of the original recording!
Exhibit B: Miss Lawrence
I was at one of the three elementary schools I teach at, talking about future lessons with one teachers whose kind of a English coordinator. I always thought there was something odd about the way she said my name, and when she handed me a schedule, I noticed my name was spelled ローレンス (ro-rensu). Somewhere along the line, I got an extra “su” added to my name. I understood she’s unfamiliar with Western names, so I tried to politely point out than it’s actually ローレン(ro-ren) and that “ro-rensu” sounds like the boys name “Lawrence”. She giggled and acted embarrassed, and crossed out the little ス(su) on her paper, but proceeded to call me “Ro-rensu” for the rest of our meeting. Will I ever be rid of that extra “su” or will they possibly add more syllables to my name? Only time will tell!
Exhibit C: Dueling Schedules
The ultimate authority of the piece of paper has come in handy on a couple of occasions, one time being a mistaken schedule. I was suppose to visit and elementary school on Monday and Tuesday, October 22 and 23. However, Strict-Sensei at one of my junior high wrote on my schedule that I was going on the 23rd and 24th.
Monday comes up and the elementary school calls (they already thought I was a dumbass after a previous incident that I’ll blog about later), telling me if I moved quickly, maybe I could get there by 2nd period. Aside from wanted to avoid the 20-minute bike ride, I was also feeling pretty sick, and basically had no voice. So I showed the vice-principal my schedule Strict-sensei gave me. Never considering the possibility that Strict-sensei just wrote down the wrong date, the vice-principal insisted I was supposed to be at the junior high that day, and I was able to work out going to the elementary school on a different day.
The lesson: Lay yourself at the mercy of the piece of paper, and it will guide you.