little memories: TV time

24 Aug

Talking with a friend today made me remember this.

So sometimes I play with my kids during recess. Recently, though, with it being hot as the surface of the sun outside, I’ve been playing inside since the start of July. (After all, who likes being sweaty in work clothes?)

One day I went upstairs to find that some of my 4th grade boys were just howling with laughter. We have these alcoves, little nooks, in the hallway. They’re little sitting areas separated by a wall with circle cut outs. They tell me that they’re making TV shows, performing for the kids on the other side. I join in, get interviewed, watch a comedy routine where things get shot out of nostrils, both watch an participate in a travel show where I was everything from American to French to Spanish, and it was all well and good until monsters decided to start crawling through the television to eat us.

Don’t you just hate when that happens? Monsters always ruin TV time. 

The Apple Has Landed in Summer

19 Jul

Thank the asgardian gods above that this term is over. I just taught my last class of the term, and even though I am sitting in an un-airconditioned staffroom, I am  content. This has been, hands down, the closest I’ve been to just wanting to jump ship and leave Japan.

Is it cultural problems? Nah, those are wearing on me but I can deal with it. It is homesick problems? To some degeree, but mostly I think I just miss being able to shop in English, buy food at reasonable prices, and see my friends and family back home.

Is it a coworker problem? Yes, but not a Japanese one. At the end of this term, I know that I got close to wanting to quit all because of one supremely awful human being.  He’s rude, he’s condescending, and in giving “advice” he’ll just tear you down forever instead of actually giving advice to make your classes better.

It’s been years since I had a shitty worker and for that I consider myself blessed. A couple years back I worked at a regional airport and my boss there was a royal butthole. He’d never show up to work, had illusions of grandeur about what the Alamance Regional Airport could be (and spent company money to install things like wide screen TVs so, I dunno, the creepy old dudes that came through on Sunday could have something to watch?), he would say the company was too poor to help the BEST LADY THERE get life insurance (not even health insurance) so that her kids could be taken care of if something happened to her (she offered to pay most of it, even!), and he could complain about the economy while he went off in his PRIVATE PLANE to go to Barbados. Asshat. Also he was creepy.

Mostly I’ve been lucky to have good coworkers, and to be honest, after this horrible debacle, I now know that my coworkers at that school care for me far more than I realized and are willing to stick up for me and help me build up my confidence again after it got torn down week after week. Bless them. Did you know? No, you didn’t know because I didn’t tell you, but one day, after a particularly awful harangue, my vice principal showed up at my door with a box full of beautiful, meticulously decorated bakery cakes. And it wasn’t just that act of wonderful kindness. It’s like, now that this has happened, there is this bubble of sympathy, some unspoken rule that now that I have been crapped on as a teacher that I have reached this level of understanding, some level of “we’ve all been there, now have some blendy coffee with me” that puts me more in the in-group than I have been since I got here.

I wish I didn’t have to feel like UTTER SHIT to reach this point, but now that the wounds are fading (at least for now – the butthole is on vacation), and even though I am constantly worried that he’ll treat me like crap again next term, I feel okay and I like this ever-expanding realm of sympathy.

However, this term did have some wonderful upsides to it. My Filipino kids are freaking great to have around. It’s so awesome to have kids that I can talk to about any topic – not just little things that I can understand in Japanese. These kids can even ask me to be their friends on facebook. I won’t be their friend on facebook (I lie and say I couldn’t find them) because it crosses some creepy line, but I swear, having conversations that can go anywhere and always include vocabulary I can understand is a wonderful thing. (Side note: I asked them why a 4th grader would need a facebook, what they could possibly post on it. The answer was a good one, “anime pictures.” Naturally.)

I liked being able to be an English speaker for them if they needed it. You know, like when they have upset tummies and can’t tell the nurse. Or when they fall on the playground and come to get me. I was honored when they would come to get me. I was more than happy to say, “aw, it’s okay” and get to call someone “sweetie” until the nurse showed up.

And even though my 4th graders (all 3 classes of them) devolved into attitudes from hell, I am closer to the good ones now. I need to forever remember that at this point in time, summer 2012, I had an inside joke with a Japanese boy where we would, upon passing one another in the hall, would whisper or yell “persimmons” while flashing crazy eyes.  Sometimes that boy is also referred to as “Mr. Persimmons.”

I also got to climb a mountain with my mountain school again this year. Last year I went up with the 2nd graders and had an awesome time. (Did I post about it? I bet I did. Too lazy to check. Best part was when the little ladies kept handing me weed-flowers and snake straberries and then we found some animal bones and we all screamed and screamed and screamedn.) This year I went up with this year’s 2nd graders. Besides being super hard (just like last year), it was epically fun. It was, especially, a time for me to hang out with my badly behaved boys and realize that I still like them as people. One bad boy gave me a cherry at lunch. Another walked most of the 2nd half of the hike by my side, just chit chatting about anything and everything. (At one point he drove the conversation to Michael Jackson of all things and I had to inform him that Michael Jackson had died which apparently surprised him so much that he had to tell all the other little boys his surprising news. Don’t worry; it didn’t make him sad.) I was also the absolute slowest down the mountain. That crap hurts my ancient knees, yo.

There’s a part of me that feels like this term got wasted because more than half of it was spent feeling horrible and having so-so classes because I was being overly critical of myself and had no confidence left. But then I remember that I had one more term of hanging out with my little ones and that makes me happy.

I have one more year left, but I will miss these kids like crazy when it’s time to go.

I know うんこ in English.

23 Apr

Sometimes my kids surprise me with the English they know. Sure, there are those students that know how to say “My name is…” in first grade before they start English class, and some of my older kids know more things because they do cds at home or go to lessons after school, but there are some more random things.

Every season in special needs for about 4-5 weeks I do a seasonally-themed vocabulary unit. I figured, it’s things they’re going to run into every day, and are therefore more likely to remember, and also Japan is really into seasonal things. It’s worked well so far. Sometimes, though, the words are… odd because I am trying to push for at least 9 to 10 words. Chestnut? Yea, all over Japan in the fall, but weird to say in English. This month, we’re doing spring words. Most are pretty normal – flower, bee, rainbow, ladybug – but one is umbrella. That is a whole lot of weird r and l sounds. When the words got field tested at my base school, the kids had problems. Oh noooo, I thought. Umbrella is way too hard. But we’ll do it!

I get to my mountain school the next week. One by one we’re doing each card in Japanese to make sure they know what the card IS and then I teach it in English. We get to umbrella, and I start to say, “this one is a little bit hard…” when my 2nd grader shouts out “UMBREEEEELLA.” I cannot appropriately type the flourish with which he delivered it, but it was stunning. All the other boys were like, “heck yea, N-kun! Say it again.” Um-buuuu-reeeeellaaaaa. Fantastic, little dude. And what a random word to know!

So, you’re thinking to yourself, not all that interesting. I know, you had to be there. This is mostly so I remmeber how cute my little round-faced N-kun is. Just imagine it, can you? He’s the shortest, round-facest, most adorable little 2nd grader in the world. He also has a lisp which, as a future Speech Pathologist, I should be like “nooo, must be fixed” (and it is being fixed, he has an SLP he sees once a week), but it is so dang cute.

Also last week I started playing at recess again so I could get to know the new first graders before English class. At my mountain school, I watched 3rd grade girls make “dango” out of mud, filthying their hands up proper in the process, pushed kids on the swing, and ran away from a pack of girls that were trying to slap my ass. I also had a run in with an incredibly genki little first grade boy.

ImageThe first thing he shouted said to me was 英語みたい. What? I look like English? The language, not a place? I replied. 日本語みたい. The joke was lost on him. The next thing he said was, “I know how to say うんこ in English.” I told him to go ahead. “CRAP!” he shouted. I told him I was impressed. Encouraged, he then said, “I know how to say しっこ in English – PEE.” And “I know how to say おなら in English – GAS!” I applauded him. I also whispered to him that he could say “fart,” too. I’m creating a monster. As he danced around singing “crap crap crap crap” he turned and said, “my dad taught me those words.” Awesome.

My little guys don’t always remember English, but when they do, it’s the randomest stuff possible.

The Stuff I Forget About

16 Apr

As the English teacher, I always just get to show up, teach some English, have some fun (or yelling time) and go. I know the kids’ names, but I don’t really know much else about them. I’m not like their homeroom teacher, who has to deal with everything – the good (like the hilarious crap they say), the bad (like some discipline problems), or the ugly (you know, like the puke).

-or something the really bad. The kind of bad stuff that makes my guts twist.

Today a 2nd grader came in with some obvious marks on his face. Far from being the usual scrapes and such, this one was unmistakably finger marks, and they had left some serious bruising on his face. 

It just knocks the wind out of you. His teacher took pictures in the staffroom, which makes me wonder if it isn’t the first time, and they whispered about what to do once he went back to class.

But what to do?


Sensei, it’s not going to work.

13 Apr

This morning, as I was trying to shove a turtleneck over my head without having first removed my glasses, I was reminded of the following:

Last school year, I was in first grade and all the “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” singing had made me hot. A layer simply had to be removed. I started doing it without thinking about it when I realized that every little eye was on me. Oh dear, embarrassing, sensei is removing a layer. Worse, though, was the fact that a little boy in the front had realized a dilemma I had missed  –

“You didn’t take your glasses off.”

Aw crap. “It’s fine. I can do it.”

“Sensei, it’s not going to work.”

Double crap. He was probably right, but I had to go for it now. In the end, it wasn’t the glasses the got me. It was my tight sleeves, jammed against my body by three, four, five layers of shirts to keep me from dying in an unheated school. My arm got trapped. I tugged and tugged but there were just too many shirts. It was doing that thing where your elbow can stretch the sweater a million different ways, but it can’t find its way out. 28 little faces were watching now and I was stuck in a sweater.

I got it off, I did, but I always wonder if that’s the day, for some of them at least, that they realized the English teacher probably wasn’t a real grown up.