Poet and playwright Terayama Shûji directed a movie in 1971 entitled Toss Your Books and Hit the Streets (書を捨てよ町へ出よう) about one young man’s search for meaning in the midst of our materialistic and pleonectic society. It is definitely a work of its time, but despite its heady idealism there may be a message for our profession, or to the expat teacher in general.
As teachers, it is our obligation to instruct the youth in The Ways of the World. The supreme irony, however, is that it is difficult to imagine a realm more separate from society than Academia. This goes not only for L2 acquisition, but pretty much all fields. In other words, the Tower may not be Ivory, but it still puts you in the clouds. Sometimes, then, it is necessary to touch ground. After all, very few of our students will join us in the Tower, and so it pays to know a little bit of what is in store for them down below.
We are here to labor and to build careers, and I am not criticizing this. At the same time, there are opportunities for us to build our knowledge outside of the Academy. During summer vacation, try working at a part-time job. Work outdoors if possible, or maybe in a small/medium-sized business. Your social experience can only enhance your teaching, and improve your Nihongo. You may even make new friends. If the late Terayama-sensei had one message, it was never let your careerism get in the way of valuable experience.
And on this note, Outside the Box/Off the Wall is shuttering. It has been an extremely rewarding five years, and an extra thanks goes to those who have contributed, and the TLT staff who have kept me on my toes to make this column more readable.
Keep your nose to the wind and your powder dry!