Tatemae and honne are two very Japanese concepts that almost seem recognizable from a western perspective until actually played out in reality. I experienced tatemae and honne to its fullest and worst extent today. Basically, it ensued in one absolutely miserable day for myself, but perhaps a learning lesson to be reflected upon and laughted at in the futre.
Tatemae: The truth as presented
Honne: The reality
The reality at the school I am currently teaching at is that every time I teach, I am told about 20-5 minutes prior to the lesson what I am teaching. The lesson is scrawled sloppily on a piece of notebook paper and relayed to me. I then do an impromptu lesson based upon my teaching experience and the outline given to me. This is the program that the current "model English school" in Hirakata City is employing. This is what I am used to and understand as reality.
Today was a different: people came to observe and comment on these "model English classes" (I must put it in quotations because it honestly is the antithesis of what one would consider model). Thus, an eloborate scheme was construed to create the most "wonderful" English class in the world - in order to be presented to the outside world as a normal English class. ha~! The school didn't even bother to tell me, their English teacher and language consultant, what on earth was going on. I arrived in a sweatshirt and brown pants - usually dress for a day of romping around with 8 year olds. However, today I noticed that everyone was in suits...hmmm it seems like an important event is happening - too bad no one bothered ot tell me that I was supposed to be involved in it (which points out yet another irony of this model English school... they can't even communicate in simple English to their own native English speaker about a very important event). So, I arrived dressed down and all together unprepared for this marvelous display of English classroom technique. The day fell apart from the start - lack of communication, Japanized English takeover of a supposedly native English class, and classroom observation by the surrounding education officials. Yet, this class, with over 10 hours of preparation time into it, was presented as normal to those observing. This is tatemae. This is an entirely out-of-the-norm class with ridiculous preparation presented as a class that is taught on a daily basis. I am disguisted by the system. How can anything be accomplished if no one even knows what is really going on. I know what kind of classes are normalliy taught and what sort of preparation goes into them. Today's presentation of reality was absolutely skewed, and then followed by a 2 hour meeting on how great the English course is at this school. Too bad no one really wants to know or say what the truth is. Too bad they're so preoccupied with their own face that they don't care enough about the kids to devleop a good program to make their English learning time an actually useful thing. I mean, when it is acceptable for a teacher to yell at a boy for saying "I'm good, thank you." in response to "how are you?" instead of "I'm fine, thank you," I think that Japan has some serious problems that must be confronted about the effectiveness and educational value of the English programs in Elementary schools. The end.
Posted by Kristen at February 2, 2004 09:50 PM