I am a hard worker. That’s how my family raised me to be. That’s what society has taught me to be. That`s what my culture says I should be as a black woman. The only way to get ahead in life is to work hard and always give 200% to everyone else’s 100%. But what happens when your efforts lead to being undervalued and it is damaging your well being?
How it started
It started about 2 years ago. I was feeling dissatisfied with my work and just the day to day activities. At that time I was still an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). I would go to class to help the Japanese Language teacher to the best of my abilities every day. I got so good at it that I would often end up teaching the class myself, especially at one particular school that had problem students that required the Japanese teacher to handle it. I was very proud of the fact that this teacher trusted me enough to basically teach the class for her in her absence. Plus I thought that it was just expected of me to be able to do so because that’s what I’m supposed to do. Be excellent at my job. But later on after talking with my fellow ALTs at that particular school I found out that I was the only one basically running the classes in that way. I was taken back a bit when I heard this. How could they not? After all, we were experienced teachers, so it should be natural. But no, it was just me. And then it hit me. How long have I been teaching? 7 years! And in the first 2 years, I was running my own classes, English clubs, summer lessons, and adult lessons in S. Korea. And in Japan, I have done the same as well as coached students in regional speech contest as well as being a judge. I took a step back realized that I had become a veteran ALT, an auntie! I`ve met other ALTs, given advice, and taken care of them when they needed it. I had grown out of the ALT position.
What to do next?
So what would be the next? Well, of course naturally graduate from being an ALT to being the main teacher of course. (at least in my mind) So I decided to leave my company and apply for another job. First was a kindergarten. I did enjoy that job and I did gain experience working with younger kids. I taught after school lessons and some during the day as well. But I was still feeling off because most of the day I was running around helping out with things that had nothing to do with English. I enjoyed the experience and learned that I actually can teach younger students but it wasn’t for me. So with that plus some personal health issues, I decided to leave that school to work at an eikaiwa. (private English school company) I applied for the new job and was so excited. I was to have my own classroom and my very own assistant! I totally came up in the world. At first, it was great. I did my classes and did my work on time every time. Come early, leave late. I was “So Japanese”. But then, I got transferred and things changed. That feeling came back. Dissatisfaction. Plus a newbie manager who didn’t know how to stay in her lane and out of my classroom. And before you say, “Well, isn’t that the manager’s job to make sure classes are going well?” Yes, it is. But when you have an inexperienced manager trying to tell you how to do a job that you’ve been doing for nearly 10 years it can make you a little testy. Especially when you know you’re doing a good job and being “So Japanese” only to have this person try to force their ignorant (I say that in the nicest way possible) will on you. Consistently…..It began to affect my performance and I was no longer “So Japanese”. I’m a “foreigner” now. Come to work exactly on time and leave no later than 5-10 minutes after my time is up. I still have to clean up the classroom b/c my crazy self can’t stand coming into a disorganized classroom.
So what is really wrong?
This was the question. Haven’t I taken the next logical step? I stopped being an ALT and became the main teacher like I wanted. Sure, it has some negative points but I have dealt with more pressing issues before. So what is it? For weeks I kept thinking about it and then it hit me. It was a Friday, 10:11 am. I had eaten my egg and avocado breakfast because a sista is trying to get healthy. I stood up to water my plant and my back was in so much pain, which was usual by the end of the week. Then the revelation smacked me in the face. “I want to water my plants and rest my back. Why am I in so much pain and am still going to work? Man, I work so hard for others all these years and professionally all I have to show for it is a bad back. IMAGINE WHAT I COULD HAVE HAD IF I USED ALL THAT ENERGY FOR MYSELF.”
My problem is I want to work but……..I don’t want a boss.
Why don’t you want a boss?
I am so glad you asked and I am so happy to share it with you, even if you didn’t really ask. Hehehe
- Have you ever noticed that companies feel entitled to your time? I mean, I know its a very Japanese thing here but really? Do you think you have a right to my time without overtime pay? Why? How does this really benefit me? And shouldn’t good employees get their jobs done on time?
- I am too tired to really enjoy my free time. When I get my free time I just want to relax/sleep. I don’t have the energy to spend time with my friends and family. And when I do show up I’m just as cranky as my kindergarten kids are when they need a nap. Seriously, I annoy myself.
- I am in so much pain by the end of the day and week. 3 years ago I had a bicycle accident that left me with herniated disks. I’m sure other things have contributed to it. Like continuing to work long hours standing and being a bigger girl. (my fault I know, shut it) But I should have been taking the time to heal and take care of my health. This one I’ll admit isn’t just single-sided.
- I am still not running my class independently. I get there is a curriculum that needs to be followed but what I don’t need is someone breathing down my neck on how to execute it and then have an attitude (in front of the students btw) when they don’t agree with or even understand what I’m doing. Get out my classroom with that noise!
Is it worth it?
Nope, not a darn bit. I only stay because of the money and I do like to teach but the money isn’t even that great and I don’t have control over my classes without interference. On top of that, I am always in pain due to stress on my back from standing for long periods of time and moving heavy tables around for classes. However, its the only way I know how to make a living. Working for others. But all of that is about to change.
What will you do?
I’ve decided to take some time off of work. Not full out quit but I’m going down to part-time hours. I feel like this will give me a chance to get my health in order both physically and mentally. While I’m doing that, I have decided to work on some of my own projects and hobbies that I just don’t have the energy for while working full time. I look forward to it and I hope that my side projects are as successful as I’ve made others now that I am finally directing my energy to my own benefit. Who knows what I can achieve now. Wish me luck. Until next time. Ja’ne!