Tag Archives: school

Of lions and lambs

6 Mar

As a follow up to my last post, I want to preface this post with the fact that February into the beginning of March has historically been the worst part of the year for me in my adult life.  In college, this was often when the semester was getting into full swing and classes were becoming more and more stressful and time-consuming.  In Japan, this is the time of year when I’ve been a hermit in my freezing apartment, huddling under the kotatsu for three months, when the days are depressingly short, when I’m sick of wearing a huge coat to shield me from the Gunma winds all the time, when I’m busy with end-of-the-school-year preparations, when I’m dreading the loss of my graduating students, and when I’ve inevitably gotten the flu and been out of commission and miserable for at least a week.  All in all, February and early March is just a time when I feel the most worn out, anxious for spring and drained of positive energy (or really, the energy to do anything at all).  Still, despite experiences like my last post and bouts of frustration and depression, what I’ve learned over the years is that the best thing to do is try to keep it together, because undoubtedly, April will bring sunlight, warmth, and good things.  As they say in elementary school in America, March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb, right?

So far, after the rampant big-cat attack that was February, so far, my first week of March has definitely been a mix of lions and lambs, but a spark of hope that spring might be coming came with my ALT Day, a type of event unique to Kiryu, in which several ALTs go to another ALT’s school and all run a fun English class with games or challenges for the kids.  I love ALT Days, and think that they’re a really great idea, because the kids get exposed to a variety of different teachers who have different backgrounds than the ALT they see every week, and because I (and all the other ALTs in my city) get to visit and interact with lots of different kids around the city.  Usually, we play English games, or do a sort of scavenger hunt type challenge where students put together clues in English to uncover the answer to the puzzle.  Generally, ALT Days are a lot of fun for both the teachers and the students, and I had been looking forward to mine, despite a bit of anxiety that something would go wrong.

Needless to say, nothing went wrong, and it seemed like the kids and the ALTs all had a great time, and I was pleased.  Once I had bid all the other ALTs goodbye, though, I figured that was the end of it, until my JTE asked me for photos of all the ALTs who’d come to the ALT Day.  She said she wanted to have the kids practice writing cards by writing thank you cards to the ALTs who’d come, and I thought it was a great idea, so I printed off a quick document with each of the ALT’s photos and names.  I didn’t think much about it after that until class the next day.

I should preface what comes next with a note about this particular JTE.  After spending three years trying her hardest to make English fun for the incredibly unruly and difficult class who graduated last year, she seems to have become jaded about English and about teaching in general.  We have a good working relationship, but she constantly remarks that English isn’t fun, or is too difficult, or that all the students hate it.  It makes me sad to hear, because I’ve seen the worksheets and games she used four years ago with her last class of incoming first years, and she used to have so many fun and interesting activities.  But since that class of kids basically trampled on her efforts to make class enjoyable, she seems to have (understandably) lost her will to try, and her belief that she can make a difference to the students.  Because of this, she seems to teach the class on autopilot a lot, and often forgets that I’m there and has the kids repeat after the CD, or forgets to tell me that the class schedule has been changed, leaving me scrambling to figure out what’s going on. I’ve come to realize that it’s not intentional or out of dislike, but I also don’t take for granted that she’ll always appreciate my presence.  She’s also commented to me before that I care too much, or that I’m too invested in trying to make sure the kids are having fun, like she saw me as young and naive, but soon I would become jaded like her.

So when I arrived in class the next day to discover that that she had added my name and the other ALT who works at my school’s name to the list I’d made earlier, I was surprised.  She told the class that they could of course write to us, too, but they ought to know what we look like by now (I’d hope!) so there was no picture included. I was touched and happy about that as it was, but then, I turned the paper to the other side to find that she’d made an example card for the students to look at:

Image

Yes, that’s right.  She had written the example card to me, complete with an illustration of me in the outfit I’d worn on the ALT Day.  I was so touched that I made a noise of surprise and kept telling her how happy I was, and I really just didn’t know what else to say.  This teacher, who had always seemed so withdrawn and unhappy, actually seemed to have enjoyed and appreciated my ALT day.  Maybe it was just a one-time thing, I have no way of knowing.  But after trying really hard to make a difference, to show her that English could be fun and not a class that the kids hated, to support her as best I could and help her help student succeed… I was really happy to see even just this little sign of being appreciated.

So yeah, maybe March comes in like a lion. But maybe sometimes there are a few lambs thrown in the bag, too.

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What doesn’t kill you…

4 Mar

ImageI’ve always been an advocate of the JET Programme.  While I’ve only been a JET for under two years now, all of my experiences, both bad and good, have been a learning experience, both as a means of cultural exchange and as a step towards becoming an independent person in the world.  While experiencing culture shock and crying in front of my coworkers (as mentioned in this post) wasn’t really fun, it was enlightening in terms of knowing myself, and every time I’ve made an embarrassing mistake or been turned down when I’ve asked to do an activity or game in class, it’s been a building block in my understanding of Japanese office culture.  JET is absolutely what you make of it, and because I’ve really enjoyed working with the kids and living life here in Gunma, I’ve tried to put a positive spin on everything, including my two bouts of influenza and every small rejection I’ve faced at work. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say, and even at times when I’ve wanted to (or actually have) cried, even at times when I’ve been frustrated, or hurt, or sick, I’ve done my best to tell myself that I was becoming a better ALT and a better person from it.  And besides, times like the speech contest have made it all worth it.  

But recently, I had an experience that, while mostly minor and probably forgettable in other situations, would probably be the first experience that I’d classify as a completely negative experience.  Many ALTs will complain that they get ignored or forgotten because they’re ALTs, but for the most part, I feel that this sort of thing happens because Japanese staff are unsure how much Japanese the ALT understands and forget that things that are common in Japanese schools are not common in foreign countries.  They don’t realize that the ALT didn’t understand an announcement in the morning meeting because it was relatively simple to them, or forget that ALTs might not be aware of Japanese national holidays.  While these are things that I obviously find frustrating, I also understand that I’m the person who doesn’t understand in a workplace full of people who do, and I’m the one who chose to take this job and come to Japan, and that in most cases, it’s my responsibility to make sure I ask my coworkers for their help when I need it.  But in this case, there was really no way around it; I was treated poorly.  

What happened is this: Gunma Prefecture, and all of the Kanto region recently experienced a snowstorm of a high enough magnitude that no one was prepared.  Yamanashi Prefecture became basically inaccessible for days; Tokyo’s ever-running trains were stopped.  In Gunma, it was the most snow we’ve gotten for over one hundred years, and as a result, after the snow fell on Saturday and Sunday, school for the following Monday was cancelled.  Every teacher in my school received a phone call informing them that the students would not be coming to school on Monday, and asking them to take care but try to get to school so that we could all work together to shovel the parking lot.  Every teacher, that is, but me and my fellow ALT.  

This might not seem like a big deal, but for a second, allow my to talk about my regular work day. On a regular work day, I wake up around 6:45 to get dressed, do my makeup and hair, eat breakfast, and leave my house at 8 to bike for 15 minutes and arrive at school at 8:15, before the teachers’ meeting at 8:20.  My breakfast usually consists of two pieces of bread with butter, or maybe a cheese bread from 7-11, just enough to hold me over until the huge portion of kyushoku we get at 12:45.  Usually, I wear a skirt and blouse or sweater, nice shoes, and tights to work, expecting to stand in a heated classroom or teachers’ room for a few hours.  

On Monday, expecting classes as normal, I woke up at 6:15 in order to leave my house early to make it to work on time.  I dressed in my usual fashion: a light sweater, a knee-length skirt, and stockings before putting on UGGs, my warmest shoes, and preparing for the trek to work.  I left my house around 7:30 and brought my bike, unsure of what the conditions would be like but knowing that if I wanted to get to school in time for the morning meeting (which it would be highly highly frowned upon for me to miss), I needed to bike as much as I could.  Upon attempting to make it even a few feet, it became clear that the iced-over snow banks were not idea for biking, and that basically, I would need to haul my bike by hand all the way to school.  For anyone who’s ever dragged a bike across icy snow banks, you will understand that this is not an easy task. After my bike slipping dragged me down a few times and the sheer force required to move the thing over the uneven, slippery ground, I finally arrived at school just around 8:20, gasping and sweating, my arms aching from the effort.  What I expected was to go happily into the teachers’ room, take a break, drink some coffee, and pull myself together before first period. What I did not expect was to be the tenth-or-so person to school (out of a 36-person staff) and find everyone outside, wearing waterproof boots, sweatpants, and windbreakers, shoveling snow.  

It was only then that I was informed that today was a snow day and I would be required to help clear out the school parking lot.  When I asked the vice-principal about why I wasn’t informed, I was told that “I decided it wasn’t relevant to ALTs, because teachers have to come to school anyway.” So apparently, it was relevant every other teacher in the school, but it wasn’t relevant to me.  It wasn’t relevant to tell me that I should dress warmly and wear waterproof shoes, it wasn’t relevant to warn me that I should eat a filling breakfast because I was doing manual labor, it wasn’t relevant to inform me that I could take as long as necessary to come to school rather than attempting to bike and falling over and injuring myself in the process.  Apparently, my safety, health, and general wellbeing were not good enough reasons to make one simple phone call that probably would have lasted all of two minutes.  

I was upset and aggravated enough about that as it was, but then the shoveling began.  As more and more teachers trickled in a half hour, an hour, two hours late, having taken their time to slowly come to school in the safest way, I was required to use a six-inch gardening hoe to crack through layers of ice and allow shoveling in the parking lot.  While I’m not a fan of manual labor, I understand that this is what everyone in the school was doing, and what was necessary to allow the students access to the school the next day.  However, while my coworkers were happily dressed in clothes appropriate for the task, I was struggling to keep my expensive clothing clean and dry.  In the end, it was a lost cause; my tights and skirt were splattered with muddy, dirty snow, and my shoes were soaked beyond repair; in the long run, they are now unwearable despite having cost me $150 and being only a year old.  I always was feeling dizzy and lightheaded after not having eaten a real breakfast, and my arms had already been aching and tired after dragging my bike to school… which I wouldn’t have done if I had known I didn’t need to be on time.  One phone call would have saved me a $150 pair of shoes and my personal health… but apparently, it wasn’t relevant enough for my vice-principal to care.  

I understand that calling ALTs can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t speak any English.  I understand that he might have been worried that if he was unclear, it might make me and my fellow ALT think that we didn’t need to work tomorrow, causing us to lose a vacation day unnecessarily.  I understand that he was overwhelmed after all that went into making the decision to close school for the day and then calling 24 other employees. But that is his job, and I don’t think that those things justify the really unpleasant situation that my fellow ALT and I went through.  Because it isn’t just the fact that we suffered physically.  It’s the fact that there was no apology, and, in fact, insult was added to injury when we were told, essentially, that our health was not relevant to the people in charge at the school.  

There are plenty of ways that the vice principal could have contacted us.  He could have called one of the English teachers and asked them to contact us– under normal circumstances on the phone tree, it is the head of English’s responsibility, anyway.  He could have contacted my direct supervisor at the Board of Education, who has my phone number and email address, and asked for non-verbal contact information for me, so that it would be less stressful for him, or even asked my boss, who is directly responsible for me, to contact me.  I understand his (probable) concerns, but I don’t think that it’s an excuse.  This was not just a matter of personal inconvenience.  This was a matter of my wellbeing, and I got the message loud and clear that it was not relevant.  

I know this post sounds angry, but in some ways, I still am.  From people who I have trusted and so far had a good relationship, I find this behaviour shocking and hurtful.  And it wasn’t just me– the other female teachers at the school who I work with agreed, and kept saying that my situation was “pitiful” and sympathizing with me.  So clearly, it’s not just a cultural thing; clearly, something was amiss here.  

I’m not retracting my positive review of the JET Programme, or even my positive view of my situation.  I am lucky to have been placed in a town where English is a priority and we have a great supervisor who looks out for us. I am fortunate to have been placed in a school that I can access easily by bike, and where there are teachers who I can trust and talk to, and where my JTEs all have quite good English, and where I at least have some students in every grade who are enthusiastic about learning English.  But I am admitting that sometimes, as an ALT, really crappy things just happen, and there’s really no way to see them in a positive light.  I know that this has been a learning experience, and I’m going to become stronger from it and move on, but at the same time, I’m just going to accept that while it didn’t kill me, it did really suck a lot. 

お久しぶり

19 Nov

ImageI guess I’d better get out my Swiffer duster (hah! How I wish I had one in Japan) and clear off this blog.  In other words: I’m sorry for letting this go so long without posting.  Like many people, I don’t feel that my life is that interesting, and worry that it would be a waste of people’s time to read my blog.  But hey, this is the internet!  There’s millions of blogs out there.  If people don’t like mine, they just won’t read it.  So I’m going to do my best to keep this up from now on, even if that means posting more about the little things that I do with my life, like fashion and idols and food, and less posting about Japanese culture and work.  There are tons of people out there who blog about Japanese culture and being an English teacher in Japan, right?  No matter what I post about though, I’m going to do my best to keep it thought-provoking and interesting!

In the three months since I last posted, one major thing that’s happened in my life is that my student participated in the city-wide English speech contest.  For this contest, the participating student must write her own speech in English and then deliver it without reading at the competition.  This can be challenging for many reasons (the students aren’t taught much about composition in their English classes at school since composition isn’t on the high school entrance exams and often have a very limited vocabulary; the students tend to be timid and poor at projecting to an audience; the students often are shy and afraid to use gestures or facial expressions to emphasize their speeches, to name a few), but they do usually have the help of an ALT, and so I saw it as my job to try to make up for any deficiencies in my student’s English education so far.

This year’s contest meant a lot to me in particular because of my experience with last year’s city-wide speech contest.  When I first arrived in Japan last year, I was tossed headlong into the English speech contest– it falls at a really unfortunate time any time an ALT leaves, because the speech contest student is generally without guidance from when they start practicing at the beginning of August until the second or third week of August when the new ALT starts coming to work. And even then, the new ALT has little idea of what she’s doing, which makes it a little hard to advise. I remember feeling jetlagged, lost, and unsure of what my duties as a teacher would be, and then on top of it all, I was supposed to be helping a student individually with something important.  It was scary and overwhelming, and I didn’t know what I was doing.

Last year, my student was really good at English. She wrote her whole speech with very little help, and practiced it on her own. She was able to give it with very little accent and memorized it without any assistance from me.  Because I felt timid and unsure in my new environment at the time, I gave her a few comments and corrections, but I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t want to give her the wrong advice.  Still, I felt that she was talented and hoped that she could do well even despite my lack of guidance.

Unfortunately, she didn’t place at the contest. She cried the entire way back to school afterwards, and I felt like it was all my fault. I felt like this was a premonition for my job as an ALT.  I had failed her by not helping, and now, despite the fact that it wasn’t her fault, she had lost.  I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind and put my best foot forward for my job, which was filled with ups and downs (as shown on my blog throughout 2012 and early 2013), but in the back of my mind I was worried that I would fail my student again the next year.

And so this year, I was determined to do my best to help and support whatever student was chosen.  The speech contest is in early September, and so as summer drew near, I began holding my breath, until finally, I was informed that my absolute favourite student would be the student competing. This student worked harder than any other at English, tried her best to say her Rs and Ls correctly, spoke with confidence, and did everything in her power to improve her English abilities in class. More than anything, I wanted for her to succeed.

And so I poured myself into the speech contest practices. Despite the fact that again, with only one year of speech contest experience under my belt, I felt lost and awash, grasping for good coaching techniques, I did whatever I could.   I spent hours helping her translate her Japanese speech into English, practicing the speech until she memorized it, and teaching her all the tricks I’d used in my youth to memorize speeches for school. I recorded myself reading the speech so that she could copy my tone and inflection, I guided her through translating it back into Japanese so she really understood each word despite how the wording slightly changed in the translation process. I added gestures. I told her where to slow down, where to speed up. I taught her emphasis. And all the while, despite how difficult it was for her, despite how different from Japanese it was, despite everything, she tried so hard to be perfect. And by the end, she was.

And I was happy. As long as she did her best, I was happy, and I knew that if she felt like she did her best, she would be happy, too. But in my experience, when we do our best and some arbitrary authority tells us it wasn’t good enough, that’s the hardest of all, and so I was terrified of the judging. I wrote her a letter wishing her good luck and telling her she’d always be number one to me, but in the end, I knew my opinion didn’t matter nearly as much as that of the omnipotent judges (who have been known in the past to give make judgements that I personally don’t agree with).

I was a nervous wreck on the day of the speech contest. I almost threw up at lunch, and my hands shook as I taught my morning classes. I was so invested in seeing her succeed, in not seeing her crushed the way my student was last year, that I was making myself ill. But despite all my worrying, she delivered her speech beautifully. She didn’t falter once, and she spoke with more passion than I ever could have expected from a middle school student who was speaking a language she had only barely come to understand over the past three years. I cried at the end of her performance, and I was prouder than I’ve ever been in my life, but the worst was yet to come. Knowing that she’d done her absolute best, I couldn’t handle it if she wasn’t rewarded. Last year, I hadn’t known what I was doing. This year, if I’d done everything I could with my year’s experience as an ALT and still failed her, I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself.

At the end of the contest, they announced the results from sixth place to first. I could barely breathe. With each name that was announced, my hopes dwindled.  Last year, I’d been confident in my student and she hadn’t even placed, so this year, it was hard to believe, even despite the difference in my involvement and understanding. When second place was announced and it wasn’t her, I began to cry; I thought it was all over. There was no possibility in my mind that she had won first place.

And then she did.

I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my entire life, or at least, not in the same way. I felt like as a teacher I was really able to help one of my students succeed, and that’s been the best feeling so far.  Even if sometimes, the job is frustrating, or confusing, or scary, or lonely, and even if sometimes I disagree with what my students learn in class and how English is taught here, knowing I was really able to help one of my students learn, grow, improve, and overcome an obstacle really makes me happy.

…now I just have to keep this up for next year’s contest!

Everyday I’m shufflin’

5 Apr

I have to admit that I know next to nothing about what it’s like to be a teacher at public school in America.  While I went to public school and know from experience what sort of things my teachers did and taught, I don’t know anything about the rules and regulations they faced on an everyday basis, or what sort of outlines they followed in order to prepare their lessons and test their students’ knowledge.  But I’m fairly certain of one thing: that the system is different from Japan.  

The end of the school year in Japan is a big deal for Japanese teachers.  The end of the school year (around the end of March) means that not only students will face changes, but the teachers as well, because in the Japanese system, teachers are sometimes– often, even– transferred to different schools at the end of the school year.  In Japan, the break between the end of one year and the beginning of the next is a whopping two weeks (unlike the three months between the end of school in June and the beginning of the new term in September in America), which leaves these teachers with a very brief period to adjust to a new environment, a new school, new coworkers, and new problems and challenges.  

On top of this, I was informed recently by a coworker that in Japan, the license to teach elementary school is the same as that to teach middle school is the same as that to teach special education.  In other words, a first grade teacher could suddenly, over the course of two weeks, be switched to teaching geometry to fifteen year olds, and a middle school music teacher could be forced to quickly become accustomed to teaching every subject to elementary kids with special needs.  I can’t possibly imagine mastering so many subjects to the point that I could teach them at all comprehensively, and the whole system is admittedly rather mind-boggling to me.  

As someone who’s hired outside this system, I stay at the same school for my duration as an ALT.  But the spring shuffle (as we call it) means that every year, I have to learn to team teach with new teachers and develop new relationships with new coworkers.  I’m sure some of the changes this year will be for the better, and that I can put my best foot forward, but since it’s my first year, this sudden change in staff is very disorienting to me.  I guess there’s nothing to do but try my best!  

all good things come to an end

26 Mar

Last Friday was the 84th and final graduation ceremony at one of my elementary schools, Showa Elementary.  Because the population of Japan is decreasing and the population of non-metropolitan cities is decreasing even more steeply, the number of students in the school was dropping (Japanese classes average between 30-40 students in a class, and my first grade class had 12 students) and the decision was made to merge it with another public elementary school in the district.  It’s a little sad for the students, who naturally are fond of their elementary school, but I think it’s more sad for the teachers, who will be scattered to different schools next year.  The teachers at this particular elementary school were really great, kind, and enthusiastic about teaching; they were always invested in creating fun English lessons for the kids (rather than sitting back and just letting me do all the work) and were really helpful and welcoming to me when I was first getting situated in Japan.  This is the school where, when I had culture shock and was afraid everyone might hate me, everyone came together and told me that they loved me.  I’ve gone out to food and drinks with the teachers from this school multiple times, and when I was sick, one of my coworkers there brought me medicine and supplies.  When I gave my leaving speech on my last day, I made the principal cry, and she said that I had brightened everyone’s lives and made the school a better place.  So, needless to say, I was really, really sad to see it closing.

I may have cried through the whole ceremony, but even so, it was interesting to experience a Japanese public school graduation.  I went to public school for elementary school, and while we had an assembly where the leaving class (in my case, 4th grade) were given awards like perfect attendance and straight As, it was definitely not called a graduation, and we weren’t given diplomas or anything of the like.  But in Japan, every level of school from pre-school/kindergarten (in Japan the two are basically the same thing; 幼稚園, yochien, is pre-school day school which has a class for 3, 4, and 5 year olds) to elementary, junior high, high school, college, and on have graduation ceremonies with formal proceedings, suits, ties, lots of singing, and speeches from everyone and their mother (literally– there was a speech from a parent representative thanking the teachers for their hard work at both my elementary and junior high graduation ceremonies).

ImageOne interesting thing about the ceremony was that while in junior high, a graduating student and an underclassman had each given a speech, one reflecting on her junior high school experience and the other thanking the graduating students for their leadership and wishing them well in high school, in elementary school, the interaction between younger students and graduating students was much more performative.  The graduating students and the underclassmen faced on another in groups, and first, the underclassmen wished the graduating students well in a sort of composition where each student said a phrase or a sentence, coming together to create a speech of sorts.  Then, the underclassmen sang a song together.  Afterwards, the graduating students responded in a similar way, as well as reflecting on their elementary school experience, and each student got to speak at least once.  Then, the graduating students also sang.  It was very touching, and needless to say, I cried.

One more interesting point of graduation in my town (if not more places) is that it seems to always be accompanied by cherry blossom tea.  However, from now on, I think I’ll stick to looking at cherry blossoms, rather than drinking them.

Graduation

15 Mar

Wednesday was the day of the graduation ceremony for my junior high school, and let me tell you, it was a Big Deal.  In my experience in America, public junior high school graduations aren’t usually extravagant; mine wasn’t even called a graduation, but a “finale” or something of the like, I guess to signify to our parents that they shouldn’t get too excited; we weren’t going to get a diploma or anything like that.  I’ve heard similar stories from friends; while there was a little something to celebrate the accomplishment of finishing three years of schooling, it wasn’t a formal graduation ceremony.  

However, here, where pretty much everything is formal, junior high school graduation is a very important occasion.  I was told to wear a formal suit, which I dutifully did, wearing my hair and makeup much the same as I do every day.  However I arrived at school to find that everyone had done the same– which is hugely different from normal, when usually I’m the only person in the school who dresses up.  My coworkers, who usually wear track suits or slouchy sweaters and their hair in ponytails or, for the guys, barely having been brushed after waking up, were dressed to the nines in fancy suits with pearls and extravagant updos for the women and clearly styled hair and silk ties for the men.  I was glad I always dress up, since I fit right in with the crowd by and large, but the real surprise was the one female third-year (the graduating class) teacher, who was dressed in a full formal graduation kimono.  

The kids, who are usually allowed to wear school-issue sweatsuits to class (presumably to allow them to study more comfortably) were also dressed up in their formal uniforms, and the third year students all had flowers for their lapels in their class colour.  They filed into the gym to classical music, did sharp military turns at every corner, and all stood and sat in unison.  They were required to stand, bow, sit, and then immediately stand up again multiple times throughout the ceremony, and did so as if they had been trained by a drill sergeant– no wonder they had been practicing for graduation for the past few weeks, I realized!  

The ceremony was long and included each student having her or his name called before receiving her or his diploma, a speech from the principal, speeches from various PTA and school board people, a speech from a representative from the parents of the graduating students, a speech from a second year (remaining student) and a speech from a third year (graduating student).  There was a bunch of ceremonial walking around and receiving and giving of gifts, and at the end, the first and second year remaining students and the third years both sang songs.  It was much like an American graduation in that it was long and boring, but it all was made worse by the fact that we were sitting stiff as boards in the freezing school gymnasium.  

Probably the most exciting part of the ceremony was the fact that three students fainted over the course of the morning.  I was very alarmed at the time when students started suddenly falling out of their chairs, but I learned later from other friends in the area that this is in fact normal.  I’ve heard it theorized that it’s because of how rigidly the students are forced to sit during class, but whatever the reason, in my town, it’s common for students to simply faint in the middle of graduation.  Who would have guessed.  

This year’s graduation wasn’t so sad for me… because of entrance exams and because my third years have behavioral issues, I didn’t teach them this year.  But next year, when this year’s second years graduate, I’m sure I’ll be very sad… I guess I’ll just have to enjoy my last year with them to the fullest!

Can’t help fall-in’

27 Nov

ImageFall has officially (?) come to Kiryu!  Or rather, it’s been freezing for a while now, and I’ve had my kotatsu kicking and my space heater on in any attempt to keep my poorly insulated apartment warm, but it seems as if the world at large is only just beginning to consider it really autumn.  Only now that the temperatures are nearing 0 in Celsius are the schoolgirls biking to school around me wearing scarves (they’re still bare legged…) and the trees are finally dropping their leaves.  At work, we’re all freezing; apparently, the teachers aren’t supposed to turn the classroom heaters on until December, but at least the teacher’s room is relatively warm.  And the view out my window is nice, if nothing else.

ImageSince it’s really freaking cold to me (even if it doesn’t seem to be effecting lifelong Kiryu natives), I’ve been continuing my quest to make warm and fall-seeming foods.  I mentioned my first try at white stew last time, and as I said, for my next stew-making adventure, I tried to use “Japanesey” ingredients to make a more wafu style white stew.  For whatever reason, wafu style yoshoku is sort of a thing; I’ve had wafu hamburgers and wafu spaghetti before, so  wafu white stew didn’t seem out of the question!  Instead of the carrots and chicken I used before, I used enoki mushrooms and Japanese bacon, as well as the peas and carrots from before.  It turned out quite delicious, in my opinion, and I’m likely going to try to make it again sometime soon in order to keep me warm!  Because it’s definitely only going to get colder…
 
In terms of seasonal activities, because it’s not quite time for Christmas but too late for Halloween, I did some Thanksgiving activities with a few of my elementary classes and my junior high special needs class.  Since the lesson was originally planned for third grade, the main focus of the part I taught about was food, and ended with a quiz as to whether certain foods were eaten in America on Thanksgiving (hint: yes turkey, no KFC).  For the second half, however, I thought it would be fun to do hand tracings to make turkeys, since that’s not something I’ve seen used for many crafts in Japan.  I had them trace their hands, make a turkey, and write a message to someone they’re thankful for in Japanese.  I made an example to show the class, too, and the kids really liked it, I think!  I know I had fun making mine.
 
Unrelatedly to all things fall, next weekend is my birthday and I’m headed to Tokyo!  Hopefully I’ll bring back some interesting stories… and maybe a few presents to myself!