The best week so far

The very fact I was back at my favourite school meant things were off to a good start. It’s not that the other school is bad per se, just that I prefer this one. Because I’m here twice as much the kids and teachers are more comfortable with me, so it’s more relaxed. Plus there are a couple of teachers that speak good English, which means that communication on the whole is much easier. One teacher in particular, who I’m sure I’ve mentioned before – Hitomi – speaks very good English and is also a very good teacher, so planning classes with her is always a pleasure, and it means that she makes sure the other sixth grade teachers know what to expect.

Anyhow, the school week started off with my guest-starring in the morning assembly in front of the whole school (800 kids plus staff). I was given a short interview in English (where do you live, favourite colour etc.) and then playing rock, scissors, paper with the whole school. This involved everyone standing up and me saying “rock, scissors, paper, 1, 2, 3” and making the shape. Losers had to sit down and the winners were the ones still standing after five rounds. This was pretty fun in itself, but the fact I was the days celebrity resulted in everyone saying hello whenever they saw me, even the kids I hadn’t taught.

This was a little tougher – I’m doing dates with the sixth grade and, in short, there is no fun way to teach them the days of the month and the months of the year. Here the months are simply called “first month”, “second month” etc., so November, December etc. are a bit of a struggle. February is particularly hard, given its inherent syllabic weirdness and the fact it contains The Dreaded Letter R. Lots of drilling was involved – some of the kids looked like they wanted to kill me. Still, it’s the last week of English for this term next week, so we’ll be moving on to doing fun things instead.

Something I’ve wanted to do since starting here finally occurred – I taught the first years . They were awesome. They’re still young enough not to have become particularly sentient (is that the right word? can you say that about something that would actually pass the Turing test?!), and are really small and cute. The class wasn’t so much about teaching them English as it was about having fun and making them like the strange gaijin who’s invaded their school. Basically I try and foster a “foreigners are great, come to our country because we’re all as cool as me” type vibe, but that’s especially the case with the younger kids who I don’t have to worry about boring the pants off by actually teaching them things.

My favourite boy in the school is in the first year – he is always outside the classroom getting told off when I walk past (for some reason I like the naughty ones) but always stops listening to the teacher and stares at me with these unfeasibly big eyes, waves and says hello. Then he turns back to the teacher and continues to be a petulant pain in the arse. Anyhow, we have become firm friends now and he helps me carry stuff and in return I try and get him to class instead of wandering around in the corridor.

I had lunch with the first grade too, and when one of the boys squeezed his empty milk carton to make the straw shoot out the top, I taught him the proper way to do it… Namely putting the carton on its side on the desk and hitting it with your fist as hard as you can. Much hilarity and milk-sprays followed, until the teacher accidentally got hit with a straw and we had to stop.

Also, today was the momentous day of the First Japanese Phone-call ;)

More dates with the sixth grade – boo – but they do seem to be getting it – yay!

And, the first trip to the dojo, which I will write about separately.

Today I’ve taught five classes of second years. Not quite as much fun as the first year, but they are bursting with energy and enthusiasm, mainly as a result of still inhabiting the easy side of school, where classes are more about fun than they are learning. I really like making the kids shout as loud as they can, but I may have to stop as sometimes the wall of noise that crashes against my eardrums feels like it might break them. Combined with the spontaneous ultrasonic screaming that seven year olds are prone to, tinnitus could be a real possibility for me.

In one class a few of the girls loved me, and spent most of the games trying to hold my hand and telling me I was their friend. It’s kinda cool – I’m just glad they like me! For reasons that I will go into one day, when I have the time, being a female role model that isn’t thick as pig-shit, subservient and passive, adorned with jewelry, make-up and five inch heels, is pretty important to me – I hope they remember when it’s older that it’s cool to be different too. One of them handed me a letter as I left their class after lunch:

It says: “Fiona-san, arigatou gozaimashita [thank you very much] tankyu beri machi [thank you very much, written in katakana, which is used to phonetically spell Western words]. Kouiu ji desu [you write it like this]” And to the left, just above the flowers, she correctly writes the kanji that I had slightly screwed up when I wrote it on the board in the class.

There are loads of Brazilians at this school, and one of the second-grade girls came up and whispered to me “Watashi mo gaikokujin” – “I’m a foreigner too” – and grinned. It’s hard enough to be a foreigner as an adult, and it’s pretty tough for these kids. They seem to have developed coping mechanisms though, namely either being really quiet or being insanely noisy and completely bonkers.

I just finished my last class of the day, which ended hilariously. I was about to say thanks and goodbye when an ENORMOUS hornet flew into the room. I did what any insectophobe would do, and went “eruarghhh”, pulled a funny face, flapped my arms and ran away. The kids were literally on the floor laughing, as was I. It was a nice silly bonding exercise to end the day with!

And now I’m very ready for my weekend :)

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