As a classic symbol of Japan, and a dying breed, the geisha is a skilled practitioner of her art. She is elegant, highly trained. Unfortunately, this is not the parallel I am going to draw between ‘Geisha’ and ‘Teacher’. Let’s skip ahead to the modern era.
There are now said to be about 2000 professional geisha and maiko left. If you bump into one on the streets of Kyoto, she is probably a tourist costumed for the photo op. However, the spirit of the geisha remains, the need which created her continues… indeed, grows more fervent. ＊
All over the country, ‘hostess’ clubs thrive… places in which a tired salaryman can sit and relax while pretty young women pour his drinks, laugh at his jokes and engage in him in light conversation. And in progressive new Japan, there will be a place around the corner in which pretty young men provide the same service for hardworking women.＊＊
Is this, perhaps, how some students see their teachers? Is this how schools are set up? Let me ask you these questions.
Have you ever been required to attend after school social functions with students?
Have you ever been brought in to meet a prospective student and clinch the deal?
Have you ever taught a lesson without a textbook, not a a dogme-ist, but because the student ‘just wanted to talk’?
I don’t doubt that most native speakers who have taught in a foreign country have experienced such situations. Many NNESTs too. And the younger, more attractive and more affable you are….
The question should be, I suppose, ‘Do I care?’ Does it matter that the student is not here to learn, but to have fun, and that I am getting easy money for entertaining him? Do I mind, effectively, working as a host or a hostess? That’s a question I can’t answer for you individually, but as a profession we ought to be a somewhat concerned. I’ve had this particular post on the back burner for a while, but having just read the Marxists I thought it was time to get it out there….
＊No, not sex. Whilst some geisha or maiko may have had physical relations with their clients, there is not a direct correlation between prostitution and the geisha system. Likewise, some hosts or hostesses may take on ‘patrons’, but it is far beyond the remit of this blog to get into the murky world of Japanese sexual politics. I’ll make one thing clear though. I am not using prostitution as a metaphor for teaching.
＊＊Ironically (?) many of the host’s clients are hostesses. They have the money, and the free time… but they have no one to listen to them talk.