The first day

1 Sep

All the anticipation, the anxiety and the preparation was let loose today, and honestly… it was pretty boring. I did essentially nothing for the most of the day. Actually it was a half day for the kids, since the first two days back are nothing but testing. But the lucky teachers get to stay until 4, and I’m sure many stayed until later.

But I guess let’s get to the fun stuff first. The school day started with a big assembly, roughly 45 minutes long. The principle pent a good amount of time talking to the students, I imaging inspiring them to work hard and such (there was a lot of issho kenmei or “with all your might” in the speech). The students all sit in the auditorium in their respective grades, very neatly lined up. They stand, sit and bow when instructed. They even sing a couple school songs.

Eventually it was my turn to come up and give my speech, except that the principal announced I was from Washington (apparently Washington and Hyogo-ken are sister states; never knew there was such a thing). I guess I was a little nervous but it came out well; Takeuchi-sensei had cleaned up the Japanese portion of my speech in advance. Then, one of the students came up to me and welcomed me to the school in English, which was cool.

The only other part of the day that wasn’t spent sitting in the teachers room was when I joined Miura-sensei in the special education class, which I guess is just various things. They are called shiroyama classes or “white mountain”, perhaps “castle mountain”, but I don’t know what the relationship is. Maybe just a flowery sounding name. We cleaned the wood shop room today, and tomorrow we’re doing some cooking. There are only five students. While cleaning, Miura-sensei was telling me how to say dust bin in Japanese, chiritori, except I said shiritori at first. Shiri means butt, so that got a good laugh from the kids.

But other than those things, I just sat around most the day. I did work out some lesson ideas for next week, but that didn’t take awfully long. Without having the internet or a printer at my ready disposal, I’m not sure how I’ll make things for classes as well.

Incidentally I completely forgot to bring my lunch, and I also didn’t bring an umbrella, which is probably why a typhoon is approaching Japan now. Fortunately it’s not supposed to really hit hard until Saturday.

I suppose I could have reached out more, but it was hard to know when to break in. The teachers are pretty busy during the periods they have off, and after the students got out it was two hours of discussion and reports that I naturally couldn’t take part in. This seems to be similar to what my other companions experienced.

I actually did speak a bit with Miura-sensei when he was around. He’s a nice guy, and he likes to ask me what things means in English. His English is okay, I think better than my Japanese a little, I just have a hard time understanding how he talks sometimes. But we get by okay with our respective broken languages. He actually drove me home since I didn’t bring an umbrella (though they gave me a school umbrella regardless), and we stopped at a bread place and he got me a bread roll with maple syrup inside. I taught him the phrase “raining like cats and dogs”, and he taught me the Japanese equivalent doshaburi.

Tomorrow sounds like it’s going to be more of the same. I think, however, I will try to reach out more. I’ll take a lot of opportunities to say hello to the kids when I see them, and if I’m free to I’d like to walk around and see more of the school. Although I have to try not to cross any lines, and I’m not even sure what those lines might be, I need to make the kids interested in me. I need to make them want to see me, want to ask me about things, not be afraid of me. If they think I’m a scary guy, or just some kind of side show, I won’t get through to them.

Either way, I don’t want to just sit in the teachers room all day.

Edit: If I can get any of the students to learn the song “Tony Chestnut” I will feel accomplished as an ALT.

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One Response to “The first day”

  1. Theresa September 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    You are too funny. I love the butt thing. Sounds like something that would happen on the Brady Bunch. Stay safe during the typhoon – your first.

    Boring days grow long – observe the teacher and students – you’ll learn more of their school culture.

    Ask the teacher when it is more appropriate of you to interact with the students. Tell her that is more of an American thing but ask her to help you to learn the Japanese thing. I think discipline is more of their style.

    Happy September!!!!!!

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