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Friday
Dec102010

Teacher burnout and weight loss

By Cameron Romney

In the current issue of the Language Teacher (Nov/Dec 2010), Joseph Falout writes another great article about motivation, specifically about some of the psychological pressures facing non-Japanese teachers working in Japan and how these pressures lead to burnout.

He begins the article by giving the reader a laundry list of some of the problems that Non-Japanese teachers face while living and working in Japan. Some of these problems include “work in insecure and uncertain contexts” and “high stakes testing goals and rigid curricular policies” (p. 27) and even workplace “bullying and mobbing” (p. 30).

His list, for me, is unfortunately all too familiar; reading through it was like looking in a mirror. Everything that he listed I have experienced. Not on his list is the most demotivating kind of incident that I have experienced – a lack of respect from the students. This comes in many forms, from the direct, like having a students say to me, “I hate English, I hate this class and I hate you” to more subtle, like a student bringing a pillow to class to make his naptime more comfortable.

The most disturbing is when students intentionally make fun of me. Maybe it’s just an Osaka thing; there are so many comedians here. Nevertheless, it always happens in Japanese and usually early in the semester before the students find out that I understand what they are saying. For example, on the first day of class in April this year, I walked in and student said, in a loud voice for the benefit of his classmates, “Wow! Look at the teacher. He is so fat! He’s definitely got metabo (metabolic syndrome). He must eat at McDonald’s everyday!”

Of course what the student said was correct, I do suffer from metabolic syndrome, I was obese and I did regularly eat at McDonalds, but no one likes to hear directly, especially not in a comic tone of voice. However, these comments inspired me to lose weight and I am happy to say that after seven months I have lost nearly 20 kilograms (44 pounds).

I will continue to struggle with my weight and I hope to lose even more in the coming months. So, all I can say to Masahiro is… by being a complete jerk you’ve motivated me to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. So, thank you... I guess. Oh and you still fail you cheeky bugger. Good luck in the repeaters class next year.

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Reader Comments (1)

Cameron, I tip my hat to you for having the guts to share these very personal anecdotes so publicly.

I think that one of the key factors that leads to students so blatantly disrespecting you and other teachers as you've described is the culture that the school or university as a whole has fostered, or in this case neglected to foster. As you and I have discussed on many occasions, many students are effectively taught to ignore basic societal rules of common courtesy and respect for others, such as respecting the rights of non-smokers in non-smoking areas. Students learn to ignore those no-smoking signs by virtue of the administration's unwillingness to enforce those rules.

I teach part-time at five places, including four universities, and the differences in cultures at each one are considerable, and very interesting for me to notice. My degree of satisfaction working at each work place is closely tied to the level of respect shown to me and other teachers by students and the administrative and other staff. I could write much more on this topic, and maybe will, but I'll leave it at this for now and hope to read others' comments.

December 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob Sanderson

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