As in my last entry, work has been so busy that I haven’t done much besides sit on my couch in my time off. Having new teachers in the office reinvigorated me, and I’ve been putting in extra time making games and worksheets, trying to make sure my classes are really perfect. Once I started making a concentrated effort to be more engaged and encouraging in all my classes, I saw an immediate difference. My first class of the week was more focused than they had been in months. After my second class, one of my young girls drew a picture of me on the board.
I think the strangest part of getting new teachers was having them observe my classes for two consecutive weeks. I got off pretty light with only two classes observed, one of them being my class of 3-year-olds. I’ve mentioned before that even small changes really throw them off, and they’ve never had a male teacher, so I was quite worried about how they’d react to having a man in the class. They went a bit crazy, though thankfully not as much so as they could have. The little boy in that class who doesn’t handle change well was, predictably, extra clingy, but I considered it a small victory that he called me by name for the first time. At that moment, “Kasaleen Sensei” was the cutest thing I’d ever heard.
The other class he observed was an elementary-aged beginner class that is always really well-behaved, which was a relief. As it is a class of four girls, they were a little embarrassed at first at having a man in the class, but they got used to him quickly. They also did quite well with the lesson that week, and I was glad they were able to be so confident in front of a stranger. Needless to say, I was very proud of them. When they were speaking Japanese together after class, I heard them saying my predecessor’s name, which caught my attention because they hadn’t mentioned her in a long time. It occurred to me that the last time they had had an observer in the class—me—it meant their old teacher was leaving, so they assumed it was happening again. I pulled in one of the Japanese staff to talk with them and found I had correctly guessed their train of thought. I’ve always felt rather close to that particular class, and it was gratifying to be able to understand them without understanding their words.
Much as they had with me, my students warmed to the observing teacher by the second week. Even my 3-year-olds weren’t frenzied by his presence, and I was quite proud of them for behaving. I felt the change, too, insofar as I was more comfortable taking notes and giving feedback on the observer’s teaching in that second round of classes.
The weeks of observation also coincided with the last weeks of our school year, which meant a big changeover in classes. For me, this meant saying goodbye to many of my favorite students. When I nearly cried after one of my kindergarten students hugged me goodbye, I knew I was in for a rough week. Some of the goodbyes were difficult but manageable, while others made my heart ache so much that my chest actually hurt. I don’t know how teachers do this year after year. One boy—my favorite student, if I’m being honest—was bouncing around the lobby when I came to his last class, so excited to give me a goodbye present. He had a class all by himself, and our tradition was to wave at each other through the window as he got in the car to leave. Waving goodbye to him for the last time… Suffice it to say, I am a sentimental creature.
Also in the vein of new experiences, I survived my first earthquake earlier this week! I use the term ‘survived’ lightly because, though it was a 6.3 magnitude quake—categorized as strong—it happened hundreds of miles away, giving Nagoya only a few small residual shakes. It is a testament to Japan’s earthquake preparedness that even in the quake’s epicenter, only about a dozen people were injured. I’ve mentioned before that Japanese buildings are built to withstand earthquakes and typhoons, which means they tend to sway and shake at the slightest provocation but sustain little damage. Because of this, I spent half of the 2 a.m. shakes trying to decide if it was an earthquake or if a large truck was going by.
|The distance between the earthquake and me|
After the club, a few of us ran across the street to eat gyūdon (rice bowl topped with simmered beef and onions). We decided what we wanted at the door and bought tickets from a vending machine, then handed them to the waiter and waited for our food. I had never had gyuudon before, and it was delicious! It was also a wonderfully cheap meal, coming out to less than $3. Seriously, SO good.
Random fun moments from the last month:
*The self-checkout computer at Seiyu froze and restarted itself before giving me my change. I showed the attendant the screen and then pointed to my receipt, and she immediately gave me the $60 change due. Though there wasn’t really a good alternative available to her, I still can’t believe how trusting Japan is sometimes.
*At lunch with another teacher, a woman just sat down and started talking to us in Japanese. We didn’t get all of it, but we know that she thinks we’re beautiful, she thinks it’s great we’re teachers, and she was irrationally excited that I liked miso katsu (fried pork cutlet). Never mind that my friend was eating raw fish—it’s the foreigner eating deep fried meat that warranted surprise. Later that week, at lunch with a different friend in the same restaurant, a man told us we were good at using chopsticks.
*After getting caught out in the snow, I taught a Japanese friend the “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops” song. It was a personal victory when I got her to walk down the street singing “Ah ah aah ah aah ah aah” with me.
*A group of junior high boys yelled hello to me as we passed each other on the street the other day. We had a very enlightened conversation that went something like this:
This continued for a while, with each boy taking his turn practicing an English greeting. When they hit the other end of the street, one yelled, “Sorry. See you!” Ah, Japan.
*I went into work on one of my days off last week and—in a sudden staffing confusion—ended up interviewing someone! I’m not sure what kind of impression I left, as I was in my exercise clothes, had no makeup on, and hadn’t even brushed my hair.
All in all, it has been a very busy, rather emotional month. Saying goodbye to some of my students was difficult but, thankfully, I’m already growing rather fond of some of my new ones. Next week promises to be insanely busy, as we have 2-month plans due AND extra work. The tradeoff for that extra work, though, was getting next Saturday off, so we’ll have a 3-day weekend! I’m more than ready for a little break, so it’s worth what is sure to be a week of long days. Here’s hoping it slows down again soon!
In any event, I can’t believe I have been here six months already. I’m having the time of my life, and I’m excited for what the next six months will bring.