After three and a half weeks I think I am settling into teaching. It is easier here in Japan than it was in France. In France I had the students on my own. Away from their teachers who could assign extra homework or threaten to call their parents they were little monsters delighted at the chance to give me a hard time. I had no authority and even less French. But here, I am with the teachers and due to cultural differences they are less inclined to give me a hard time, (however that isn’t to say that my theory that all thirteen year old boys regardless of race or culture are obnoxious isn’t true, because so far I am proven right.)
I teach at four different schools – two elementary schools and two junior highs. To some teachers at the junior highs I am the living breathing equivalent to their tape recorders. I repeat vocabulary word after vocabulary word and recite ridiculous skits modeled after supposedly realistic English conversations. Last week though I have been asked by two different teachers to bring activities with me designed around the grammar points for that week, and I had great success with two activities and marginal success with another one (as in I won't be playing it again anytime soon.)
But at the elementary schools where English lessons aren’t yet formalized, I am a superstar. Which is why I think these two schools will quickly become my favorite. Both the teachers and the students seem more interested and excited for me to be there. I plan the whole lesson, so there is more freedom to have fun but also more room to flop. My lessons on Christmas vocabulary went over well and I can’t wait to go back after the winter break and teach them body parts…I want to sing the Hokey Pokey and play this game called Doctor, Doctor, where they “bandage” different body parts with toilet paper.
After this week, I am finally done with my self-introduction—a five minute speech that I have done three to five times a day for the last two weeks to every class at my four schools. I talk about Cincinnati, Georgetown College, my family, and my dog. The younger kids yell out “sugoi!” which is cool in Japanese, while the junior high girls giggle at the photo of my grandmother. They thought she was a very cute old man until I told them her hair was just short. And my picture of Max has been introduced to gasps and laughter nearly every time, although one student, a special ed girl, cried for five minutes straight because she thought he was so scary looking. I answer the same questions over and over again.
Do you have a boyfriend? No I don’t have a boyfriend.
What food your favorite Japanese? I like sushi.
What sport do you like? I like Baseball.
Do you like Japan? Yes I do.
What favorite color? My favorite color is blue.
I had one fifth grade boy who was very excited to learn I didn't have a boyfriend. His very next question was what kind of men do I like. I said, with a sly smile, tall men. Japanese men aren't known for being tall and unless this kid has a growth spurt soon, he will be no exception. His face fell. Later in the class, the students had to come up, shake my hand, and tell me their name. This kid, with a michievious smile, came to the front, stood on the tippest of his tippy toes and boldly introduced himself. He still only came to my shoulder. He might my favorite student (even if he isn't my type! ).