Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Senami-Shou-Gakkou (Senami = Senami; Shou = Elementary; Gakkou = School)

Thank goodness the weather was fantastic on Monday evening so that I could blow off some steam by going on a ‘run-until-the-sun-sets-and-starts-to-get-scary-dark-while-bugs-start-attacking-from every-direction.’  Coming into this experience, I was hoping to be the kind of teacher who got really involved in her schools and ran with every opportunity presented. Unfortunately, and on Monday especially, I was left feeling completely useless.  I sat at my desk the ENTIRE day, shamelessly surfing the web, studying a little bit of kanji, and sending emails on my phone in some sort of around-about way of screaming “I have nothing to do!!  Please use me!!”  Finally I was asked to help out with the last class period, which at that point couldn’t really save me from wanting to bounce out of there as soon as my day was over.  In an 8-hour day, I taught for 50 minutes. 

BUT TODAY WAS FANTASIC!!!  Actually the day started out kind of crazy.  I was to make my first appearance at one of my four elementary schools: Senami-shou-gakkou. When I’ve visited this school in the past, I’ve either been driven by one of my supervisors, or taken a taxi because of the colossal rain.  All I kept in mind was that it’s located on the other side of the bridge, so I rode my bike over a bridge and just kept on going and going until I remembered that the school was not THIS far away, and couldn’t possibly be in the middle of a rice field.  I asked a lady passing by and she did the whole “thiiiieeee” slurping noise which means that whatever is happening right now is impossible or really bad.  She told me that my school was back on the other side of the bridge, which I knew was wrong because I clearly remembered going OVER that bridge.  So I ruled her out as a liar and rode until I got to Senami-onsen, which confirmed that I was lost because the school is nowhere near this resort area.  I backtracked, asked another man and it took him forever to form words and sentences because he was talking to me like I was a slow person.  Just when I was about to punch him in the face and run, I saw one of my students from Icchu ride by.  I told her I was lost, and she was sweet enough to ride with me to where I needed to be.  We rode BACK over the bridge, and then she pointed out ANOTHER bridge and told me to go over that and the school would be just on the other side.  GOSH!!!  I didn’t even realize that there were two bridges right next to each other that lead to two completely different places!!  Either way, that girl saved the day so I bought her a jelly thing to give to her the next time I see her.  Also, thank goodness I left my place ridiculously early because I was still able to make it to Senami in time, granted I WAS sweating from every millimeter of my body from freaking out and riding my bike as fast as I could all over the Senami area.

Anyways, this is where the REAL fun begins!!  Like I said, to day was FANTASTIC.  Hiki-sensei, the main English teacher who is in charge of me is FANTASTIC.  The other teachers, principal, vice principal are FANTASTIC.  The students, especially, are FANTASTIC.  Every morning they have some sort of assembly where everyone in the school gathers in the gymnasium to listen to the various announcements of the day, and sing the monthly song.  Since I’m the new English teacher, I gave a mini-speech in English and then in Japanese.  Then the swimmers of the school were announced and the winners of some competition were awarded certificates – I am DEFINITELY going to try to get involved once the season starts up again next summer.  Finally the song of the month was sung timidly since it’s only September 2, but I guess by the end of the month the students will be pros at it.  The school is made up with elementary first through sixth grade (6 – 12 year olds) and just watching them in the assembly as they watched me with smiles on their faces and waves in their hands got me all excited about a non-stop day of my self-introduction game. 

I was to teach four classes back-to-back.  Before each class, students were to come to the teachers’ room to ask me to come to their class.  I changed the self-introduction game (2 truths and a lie) a little bit to cater to younger kiddies.  Instead of raising their hands individually (which as I found out from my middle school, only gets about half of the students to participate), I had them split into groups and as a group decide which one they thought was the lie.  Each group would be awarded a point for every correct lie they chose to spark some competitive fun.  Also, instead of passing pictures around (which leads to a loss of attention by the students) I would take the time to go around the class to show each group the pictures of my family, me in China, me bungy jumping, etc. 

In my first class, I told the teacher what I was planning to do and it was as if we had planned the entire class together as it was flawless.  I was wondering how I would break the class up into groups when Hiki-sensei said “OK, now break into your groups” and every student immediately turned their desks from the individual-row-and-column arrangement to groups of 5.  I almost laughed because it was so cute how each one of them knew precisely where their desks needed to be.  The next three classes responded in the same manner when the word ‘guruupu’ or ‘groups’ was spoken.  The students were SO enthusiastic, and responded to EVERYTHING I said and asked.  I was only able to get through 5 or so ‘2 truths and a lie’ because there was absolutely no problem in getting every student involved.  When I asked for volunteers, everyone wanted to be picked.  When I asked questions, everyone wanted to answer.  When I showed pictures they all screamed, “Show me, show me!!  I can’t see!!  WOOOOOW!!!”  When I would announce which two out of the three were true, and which was the lie, I would make it all suspenseful and the students would scream and pray and then scream some more and jump up with joy or fall to the floor when they found out if they were right or wrong.  Even after just the first class, my face hurt from smiling so much.  

Every class was slightly different with how the JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) helped out and what and how much I explained to the students depending on their interest.  In one class, the students wanted to guess where Chicago was within the US.  I (poorly) drew a picture of the US map on the board a little bit too high, and had to lift each volunteer up so that they could guess at a point.  In one class, we played some charades with things that I like in order to learn the words in English.  In one class I thoroughly explained all of the pictures that I had of Chicago.  In some classes I let the students ask me questions, fielding ones like ‘Are you married?’ (to which I showed them my ring-less left hand and answered ‘heck no!!’) and ‘How old are you?’ (to which I had them guess ~ the guesses ranged from 18 to 45).  In one class, some little boy even cried a little bit when his group wasn’t right but then bounced right back for the next question.  These 6, 7, and 8 year olds were on the edge of their seats the ENTIRE class period, giving me their undivided attention and passion.  I LOVED every second of every class I taught.  For lunch I ate at a miniature desk with one of the classes.  This time the desks were arranged so that all students were in a half-circle around me.  They asked me questions and I told them about America and asked them questions, and it was wonderful!!

Even in the teachers’ room, the other teachers actually included me in conversation.  I might even be joining a golf club and run in a marathon relay.  They mentioned that after school, the 6th graders were practicing for a track and field sports day and I said that I wanted to help.  The vice principal volunteered to drive me back to my apartment so that I could change into running clothes!!  Even though I only taught and really interacted with the 1st and 2nd graders, the 6th graders were just as eager to be my friend.  I ran 3000 meters with a group of girls and then 4 x 200 meter intervals with the ‘fast group’ who pushed me hard!!  We said ‘good job!’ and gave ‘high-5s’ or ‘high-touches,’ and they asked me if I would come again!!  Heck yeah I would LOVE to go again, but that depends on the schedule of my other schools…

After the ‘training’ was over, and in my stinky state, I talked some with Hiki-sensei.  I asked her about places she enjoys in the area.  She told me that she enjoys a place not too far away from school, where the river and the ocean meet.  After showing me some pictures, I HAD to go, and so I did, and it was very very pretty J

little cove where there's a little waterfall

little shrine at the end of the little path

sun on it's way down

cute little fishing village street

sun on it's way down over a rice field

the river is the body of river below, and the ocean is above.  to see more pictures of this meeting place, click on the slideshow

oh yeah, haha.  when i was walking on the little path, i'd hear rustling with every step i took.  it was only when i looked a little closer that i realized i was in crab city!!

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