Sports Days, Enkais, and NOT SUCKING AT MY JOB!!!!

So I have done my first week of teaching. And to my absolute delight, I DIDN’T TANK!!!!!!!!! I didn’t “forget my lines” (if you know what I mean), I didn’t have gaping gaps of empty time at the end, I didn’t put any students to sleep, and I didn’t piss off any of my JTEs!!!!! Go me!!!!

To be fair, though, a lot of it comes down to the JTEs. They’re awesome. Especially at my base school, Ariake Junior High. One of them in particular speaks near-flawless English, and the other two are pretty awesome as well. One of them even has the beginnings of an American accent. They are all great about keeping the class under control for me (two out of the three pretty much gave me centre stage for the self-intro class and just kept the class in line and explained any stuff they didn’t understand) and the ratio of Japanese to English spoken seems pretty good, and is adjusted depending on the grade level. As with probably most ALTs, how much I do depends on the JTE. Two of the Junior High JTEs, like I said, left the actual content of my first lesson up to me and just kept an eye out for any problems, whereas the third only wanted 15 minutes taken up by my self-intro and then the rest was normal class stuff with me helping out – which was a good break from lesson planning, and also gave me a chance to see what they do in a normal class. At the other end of the scale, in Ariake South Primary (the 3 primary schools are called Ariake South, Ariake East and Ariake West – not all that imaginative, but easy to remember!) I was basically doing all the talking and the teacher just kept the kids in line. In that case, I needed to use a bit of discretion about when to use Japanese. I don’t like to use it in class, I prefer to let the JTE handle that side of things, but the kids were quite young, so they needed a little help. One thing I DON’T want is to have what I’m saying go over their heads. I have been in that situation myself a few times (*cough* Vodafone Shop *cough* Tiki Tiki Internet helpdesk) and it is extremely discouraging. The whole point of this grassroots internationalisation stuff is to DISPEL the whole “gaijin = scary” thing, not make it worse!!

Speaking of primary school kids, DAMN they are cool!!! As Justin was saying, the junior high kids are quite jaded, especially the older ones, but the primary school kids are something else entirely. You direct a question at the class in general and they all yell out the answer. They’re so hyper that it makes me hyper too!! That said, the junior high kids are pretty good kids too. Case in point: the bike crash. Riding a bike in Auckland is a great way to commit suicide, so the last time I had been on one before coming here was when I was 10. So the teachers at the junior high let me practice on the field before I rode out to the primary schools. Picture, if you will, me wobbling around the field on my bike, and a bunch of kids milling around after Saturday sports games. Then picture me forgetting where the brakes are and nearly crashing in front of about 20 kids. And these kids? Were all, “Ganbatte!!!” Seriously. In New Zealand, if an intermediate school teacher nearly fell off her bike in front of her students, they would laugh hysterically and not let her forget it. Ariake Junior High = THE BOMB.

I’ve also been doing a lot of marking. Ogawa Sensei, one of my JTEs who sits next to me, has me help her out sometimes. The best bit was marking these holiday diaries they had to do. It was a lot more fun to read than the boring drills they usually do (the only bit I don’t like about the way they’re taught) and gave me an idea of what they’re into, as well as how much effort they put in. This one kid made a heap of mistakes, but you could see how much of an effort he’d made to try out different words and sentence structures. He’d obviously put a lot of thought into it, rather than sticking to a couple of words and structures he knew or found in the textbook. A lot of the others seemed to do that, either out of fear of making mistakes, or holidayitis, or both.

Sports Day yesterday. The amount of preparation that goes into one of these babies is amazing, and a far cry from the sports days at my old high school where the majority of senior students (myself included, I have to admit) only turned up for the opportunity to lounge around reading magazines during school time. Not being a great sports fan myself, I thought it was a little excessive at the time, but when the day came, and it all got put together, you could see what all everyone’s hard work was for and it was awesome. One of my JTEs who was very involved in planning it, asked me if I wanted to do anything. Well, I as I have mentioned, I’m no athlete. But hell, who cares if the ALT comes last? With that in mind I decided to shock everyone by doing the marathon. The school video will show me bounding out the school gates all bright eyed and bushy tailed and la la la, I am a crazy gaijin doing the school marathon, and then staggering back in at the end, puffing like a steam train and saying “Is it over yet? Is it over yet?” in Saga Ben. Fun breeze! The best gaijin comic relief, though, came later. They decided to do a teachers’ relay, which involved pushing a hoop round the track with a stick. And here we have the ALT, dropping it every few seconds and laughing hysterically. Lalalalala. Not much else to mention except the kids were amazing. The marathon was the first thing on the agenda, and I was ready to drop dead by the end of it, but here they all were doing relays and sprints! O_o

Afterwards was The Enkai. And…wow. As a pre-enkai thing we went to an onsen. We left it a bit late, though, so we only got to spend 10 minutes there and only like two minutes in the outdoor pool (boo hiss. That pool was awesome!!!) But the enkai more than made up for it. For starters, there was karaoke. I LOVE KARAOKE. The principal sang an enka (traditional Japanese style ballad) and he was pretty good too! Then me and Ogawa Sensei did a duet of Top Of The World by The Carpenters. And THEN…oh God. They actually had a Teachers’ Sports Day!!!!!! There was this thing where they had to move azuki beans from one bowl to another with a spoon (based on a similar game at the sports day), and a Mexican Wave contest, and a relay where everyone put a Tomato Pretz in their mouth and the teams had to pass a rubber band down the line using only the Pretz. All this was accompanied by much cheering and booing and it was an absolute scream. I mean, these serious teachers acting like kids!!! Can you imagine this happening at a NZ work party??? NZers = deprived.

Well, that’s it from me now. More tomorrow, if I’m not still buggered from karaokeing til 1am last night…