Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sent forth?

(Started one spring or summer several years back, never published:)

Last December, the haken-gaisha (staffing/outsourcing agency) I work for informed us that there was no way they could get our teaching contracts for a certain city in Osaka prefecture renewed in March. I don't know the specifics, and I should look it up, but the law apparently requires companies that hire temporary staff to periodically take breaks from hiring temporary staff from the same company. (And we are technically temps.)

If someone complains.

If no one complains, they can get away with using the same agency and the same personnel for three years at a stretch, and hire us at day rates after that. Or something. (Again, I'm not sure of the details. I'm not sure anyone is sure.)

For some reason, the teachers' unions have been complaining around here.

Note to the teachers unions: Who do you expect to replace us with from within your ranks? Seriously. We are working at slave wages, well, entry-level wages with no benefits. 

No insurance or retirement except the bare minimum required by Japanese law, no family allowances, no bonuses worth talking about (most I've had in a year is about 5 man-yen, about a tenth what the regular teachers with any tenure at all get).

Insurance. Medical checkup? Hah.

Shoot, we lose all wages one month a year and get shorted two, three, or four months a year because they don't "have work for us" then. And, yet, our contract says we are supposed to support the club activities. When? I'm pretty sure the regular teachers are getting regular wages in August, December, January, March, and April. 

I would love to support the club activities at my school, if I could afford it, if someone would pay my family's rent and food for my children during those weeks. And I'm sure the club interaction with the gai-jin would improve the attention of a lot of students in class. The hot-shot pitcher is going to pay more attention to the strange gai-jin in class, if that strange gai-jin gets out there shagging balls with the club every now and then.

The way things are, I can't afford to do that. Stretched too thin between the schools I'm assigned to when I'm on pay, no money to pay my bills during the student vacation time, when I would otherwise be working with the clubs and preparing lessons and materials for the year ahead, so that I wouldn't be stretched so thin.

And I would love to have real paid days off. 

Give me a break.

Yeah, there's a lot of anger here.

I'd be a lot less angry if there were real options that would allow me to work, if it were really possible for me to certify as a teacher in Japan. (Without borrowing six months worth of wages to go to school during summer.)

I've enjoyed working as an ALT/AET here in Japan for several years. The pay hasn't been great, actually below poverty line. (I'm not supposed to tell anyone about that. Talk about unconscionable clauses. But, hey, I can't afford to do this any more, so it won't matter in a just a few months more.)

But I've had a chance to get a look at Japanese society from the bottom up, and it gives me information I'll need if I try to go back to work here in the computer industry.

That was my original plan when I bailed from the computer industry -- I wanted to get some grasp on the underlying context, lack of which made it hard for me to work as part of the team. The problem, now, is going to get companies to look at me seriously as a computer professional again. Age, the gap in my record, and the competition hasn't gotten any easier.

And I find I like teaching in the public schools. (Not so much in the private juku. That's all too often little more than a racket, a confidence game. I think The Music Man has valid lessons to tell, but that was about things that were outside the confidence game, not about perpetuating the confidence game as a business model. And real juku don't run the confidence game. No racks of Seven Steps and such. Talk about confidence sometimes, but don't push it as a product.)

Maybe not so much anger as frustration. Anyway, it is not easy being an ALT or AET in Japan. And the rumours of great wages are just rumours, driven by the mis-perceptions of young single kids who do the job on holiday from college and have never had to pay real rent or plan for retirement or put kids through school. They are the same kids who think the entry level wages are great. Until they start trying to pay their school loans back on those wages.

It's a money-losing proposition, really.

Being a Saint -- 聖徒になること

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are called among ourselves, saints. Sometimes. Depends on whether we are exercising our positive mental attitudes, perhaps. We do not intend hubris in this.



Obviously, I am not a saint in the sense that Catholics use the word. My understanding is that the Catholics require a person to already be almost a lesser deity to be called a saint. At any rate, my life has not been examined by the Church's clergy and found to be an unimpeachable example of virtue. Neither have my contributions been viewed as such that thousands have benefited in remarkable ways by the things that I have done.

What we refer to when we talk about the members of the Church as Saints is the commitments we make at baptism, to believe in Jesus Christ and have faith on His name; to follow His examples as best as we can apply them in our personal lives; to live by His commandments and laws according to our best understanding; to receive and accept the tutelage of the Holy Spirit which testifies of Him.

And to continue in this way to the end of our lives.

In theory, if we really do live up to that commitment, we should all end up like Mother Teresa, which, of course, is some cause for amusement among our detractors. But that is applying conditions which we ourselves do not apply. Nor does God apply such conditions.

If we all lived like Mother Teresa in an external sense, there would be a lot of good things that would get done, and a lot of other good things that would not be getting done. I won't make a list, just ask you to consider all the things that Mother Teresa was not able to because of the course she chose, and ask whether there were not good things among them.

What we ask and expect of each other is for each to do his or her part well. Nurses be good and moral nurses, and fire fighters, teachers, computer programmers, assembly line workers, managers, sales persons, etc., likewise. And that parents, children, brothers, sisters, single people, everyone let God teach them what good they can do as they are, and then do it as best as they can, and let God teach them from their mistakes as well as their successes.

Personally, I'm not sure how we could be faulted for the attempt to live morally, cleanly, and well.

And that is all we intend by it.