Sunday, October 31, 2004

Night and Day

The following post is rather long, but I hope another enjoyable one. So I wanted to mention that below this post are two pictures of me and my kids from a Halloween parade we had at one of my elementary schools. And another shorter post about the recent earthquake in Japan.

This past week was a perfect example of the day and night nature of my current situation.

As it turned out, Tuesday was a half day. There were various teaching meetings scheduled for all the staff at my Jr. High, so the kids only had to come to school for the first 3 periods and then they got to go home at 11:45. There was no school lunch that day, as many of the teachers traveled to other schools to attend various meetings. Some teachers did stay and ordered in. All this would be fine, except for the small fact that NO ONE said anything to me about it. I was totally in the dark, until Hama-sensei, the very nice JTE that sits next to me in the staff room, asked me on Monday afternoon what I was going to do for lunch the next day. My perplexed expression must have given her a clue that I had no idea why I wouldn’t be eating school lunch as usual. So she explained that all the English teachers were going to another high school for a meeting. Apparently I wasn’t included, but that might have to do more with the fact that the meeting would have been in Japanese than the fact that they didn’t “want” me there. I don’t have a car so I can’t drive myself to these events. I guess I was supposed to sit at my desk for 4 hours with NOTHING to do and no students to teach, but I decided that wasn’t going to happen. I told Kyoto-sensei (the vice-principal) that I was going to the BoE, where I go from time to time to check in with my supervisor. He nodded and off I went. I checked in, made some copies that I had to make and then at about 12:30 I went home. I ate some lunch and had a nap and that was my Tuesday. No classes in the morning and home for lunch and a rest in the afternoon. I got paid for a full day, so I’m not complaining, but not only was it boring, it was also indicative of how out of the loop I am unless someone thinks to clue me in. The daily schedule changes here all the time and while I’m sure all the teachers discuss these changes at the morning meeting I attend every day, I can’t understand 80% of what is said, since it’s entirely in Japanese. Just today, lunch was scheduled early at 12:20, since the classes were adjusted to make room for EVERY class in the school to practice their songs that each class is going to sing at a special cultural assembly next week. I was playing softball with the special needs kids and some other teachers, so they let me know it was lunch time and we headed in. Not knowing what’s going on half the time puts you permanently off balance - it’s a weird feeling that’s taken me more time to get used to than any “culture shock” I was warned about.


All was redeemed by Wednesday.
I had a GREAT day Wednesday and was so busy I couldn’t see straight by the end of the day. My day started with classes at nearby Taisha elementary school. I was supposed to participate in a Halloween parade with the 5th graders and then have two classes with the 1st graders. It was really fun and all the kids dressed up in costumes and we went around the school to each classroom saying “Trick or Treat!” and then went to the staff room where all the kids got candy from some of the teachers. One of the 5th grade teachers had a digital camera so I hope to post some pics on this page if I can figure out how to do it.
My Halloween “presentation” was lame though, as I don’t really have any supplies - but my costume was kicking. I made it for a play I did back in High School in 1986. I was Merlin. But none of the kids know who Merlin is, so they all thought I was Dumbledore-sensei, the headmaster in the Harry Potter films.

After elementary classes ended I raced backed to my Jr. High by 12:40, ate some bread (that comes with this ingenious device that you crack open and equal amounts of jam and butter come out the slots onto your bread) and had some milk. I’m losing a bunch of weight here just cuz I eat so little at lunch as it often has fish or fish elements, so all I eat is bread or rice or fruit. Of course, I’m starving by the time I get home, but I’ve adjusted to it a little bit by now and it’s not so bad.
At 1:00, I was supposed to debut my radio show (Radio E-I-G-O), but the sensei in charge of the lunch time music had failed to inform the students who run the audio equipment that I was coming. So I struggled to explain that I was supposed to take over the microphone and then play songs on this CD I had with me. Another female student showed up who speaks better English and we worked it out, so at 1:05 I was “on the air.” All went well, except that I was told by some of the teachers later that they could hear my voice just fine, but the volume on the songs was way too low and you could barely hear them. Oh well - I had fun and will look forward to doing the show every Wednesday.
5th period I taught one class at the Jr. High. Then I had to get ready for a teacher’s meeting that I was leading. A bunch of the elementary teachers from the 5 schools I visit were all gathering in Taisha at 3:30 for a small meeting where I was supposed to teach them handy “classroom” English and some new American games. Well, it’s been quite a few years since I have played games with elementary school kids, but I hit the net and looked in some books left behind by my predecessors and came up with some cool games. One of the teachers at the meeting remembered from my visit to his school that I like Pepsi, so he brought me 3 small bottles to drink while all the other teachers drank coffee. That was a great meeting, and I enjoyed being in control for once. We had a lot of fun playing “Heads Up, 7 Up” and “Island Hopping.” And if any other ALTs are reading this I found a good web site with pages of classroom English that is also translated into Japanese. You can find the Adobe PDF file HERE.

The meeting ended at about 5:15 and I headed home for some quick dinner before my night activity. I bought some frozen penne pasta for the first time last week, but I can’t read the cooking instructions, so I was unsure whether to cook the small container in my range on microwave setting or conventional oven setting. I can read the kanji for “minutes,” so I knew how long to cook it for, but not how to cook it. I tried a combination of both and it tasted OK, so I must have done all right. I dressed up a bit and headed back to the music hall by the BoE to attend a student brass band concert at 6:30. The concert was great, and the last one to include the 9th graders, who graduate in April next year. It went to about 8:30pm and then I waited in the lobby to congratulate the Music teacher for a job well done. We shook hands, I said “Omedeto Gozaimasu” (congratulations) and I headed for the exit. Many of my Jr. High kids were in the lobby as well, waiting for friends, and I chatted briefly with a few brave enough to approach me or say something to me in English. The kids wear their school uniforms EVERYWHERE, and I don’t think I’ve seen any of my Jr. High students in “civilian” clothes yet.

I scootered home and plopped down on the couch, too tired to prepare anything else to eat. I tried to make it through the 10pm News that’s simulcast in English, but my eyes kept closing, so I trundled off to bed, really satisfied and happy that I’d had such a good day. Days like Wednesday make up for a bunch of the days when I don’t feel like I’m having much of an impact. Days like Wednesday are why I signed up for JET. I hope I get to have many more days like Wednesday in the weeks to come.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

OMG, those pictures are so awesome. I really think you should have dressed up as Pika-Jason (paint your body yellow, add some ears, blend in with the local culture^^) but the merlin costume is still pretty cool.

I'm glad your radio-show is really underway. I personally think that's a really good idea, and that it's finally succeeding is definetely good news. Glad your entire wednesday was pretty good as well.

Not being able to understand so much of what goes on in japanese must be really frustrating, but you should use it, in combination with all the free time, to devote more of your energy to studying japanese so you can catch up. I'm cheering for you, Jason ^_^