When you're a teacher in Japan, you are essentially a product to be marketed. You are a money maker, a PR Patsy, a sweetner, if you will, to draw in those money making bees (i.e. students or parents of students). This means that when your school is doing a PR drive to bring in new students, you might be "volunteered" to take one for the team and be in a commercial. You will end up with your face on the billboards of train stations, in newspapers and pamphlets, on websites, and on TV (unless you're not photogenic. Ugly teachers are hidden away until students have already payed their non-refundable membership fees).
This seems wrong, but in Japan your public image is everything. This is why if your school has only a surplus of ugly teachers, you should contact modeling agencies and hire foreigners for the day to pose as your staff. The professional photographers will take pictures of the models sitting in the school with "students", and make up a bunch of posters and pamphlets. If you could afford premium models, you're all set! The handsome young men on your website will attract horny, unfulfilled housewives who control their husband's money, and who think they might like to learn English as a hobby. Not REALLY learn it, and like study or anything, just sit around repeating the good looking teacher's words and giggling. It's a social thing! Get your girlfriends together and oggle a foreign man up close for an hour a week! It's cheaper than a host club! You can go for coffee after and discuss how young and handsome he is, in Japanese!
Some people don't give a shit about being used for PR and just do whatever is asked of them. I, on the other hand, prefer to avoid having my picture taken at any cost. But when you're trying to make sure you're employed next year, and your boss is holding your new contract hostage until you do his bidding, it's funny how your vocal damnation of whoring out teachers for profit can change. Next thing you know, you're smiling uncomfortably and making stilted small talk with a blank student in front of a camera crew during your lunch hour.
Yesterday afternoon I was warned by my coworker that she and I had been chosen to appear in the promotional video of our school (the school wasn't going to tell me until right before the shoot, so I wouldn't run away. Sneaky bastards). Lucky us. Our mission was to make small talk with students on camera to show how wonderful our English program is. Let's get one thing straight about my ghetto school right now; despite several kinds of English classes they have to take (reading, writing, conversation, grammar, etc.), some of our kids still can't spell "study" by the time they're 3rd years. We aren't exactly running a world class second language program here, and our kids aren't exactly eager, bright eyed waifs starving for knowledge. I wasn't sure how the director was going to work magic and fool people into thinking our school is the next Waseda Jitsugyo.
We gathered in a classroom to begin filming at exactly 12:45. The schedule promised that they only needed a few seconds of film and that we would be done by 1 p.m. Falser words were never spoken. The director of this fuckery was a perfectionist who took it all way too seriously. I hate perfectionists. It's probably because I'm so far from being a perfectionist myself. If it's done half-assed, who cares? It's done! That's my motto! I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare with Joaquin Phoenix, Mariah Carey and Tyra Banks. We had to repeat our pathetic dialogues several times so that the director could get the cameraman to move around and film us from different angles. We also had to try different locations in the classroom. My smile began to slip after the seventh take and I could feel my bitch face was just itching to make a guest appearance.
The chosen students were, to be frank, not the brightest crayons in the box. Most of them were from the athlete classes and half of them look at books like they're alien artifacts. We do have a few smart kids in our advance classes, but none of them were chosen. I asked them simple questions, the kids looked at me blankly. I prodded them, they gave a completely wrong answer. I smiled, they looked desperate. This is how our lunch hour went. The director had us redo several takes because the kids weren't facing the camera or were refusing to answer my questions. Eventually I broke down and asked if we couldn't speak in Japanese, or at least allow me to help them in Japanese since they were so nervous and uncomfortable. I was given the most emphatic NO and told the whole point was to show the kids "having fun speaking in English." I shrugged and struggled on.
After going through the multitude of camera angles (that would do the Wachowskis proud), and going over our dialogue several times, I was allowed to escape about 40 minutes after taping had begun. 10 minutes to eat my lunch, get my class materials ready and hit the bathroom before next class! Alright! As I was walking out the door, I asked the director if the taped conversations were okay, considering the broken English of the students. His reply was, "Oh, don't worry about that. We're going to dub a speech by the Principal over your dialogue, so no one will hear the English anyways. It's not important"
I am still enveloped in a rosy cloud of pride that I didn't stoop to violence. It was a near thing I tell you.