Where we left off last time, I was talking about the 3rd years in my junior high. Shall we continue with the rest of the school?
The 2nd Years
The 2nd years are probably the most awkward class of the entire school. No one wants to participate, do homework or talk. Basically when class begins, it’s like talking to a wall. Most kids are asleep, talking amongst each other or are just staring at you with a blank look in their face. If you try to get them to talk, it will usually fail miserably. It’s really hard to get through the class because it moves at a snail’s pace and it’s just so damn awkward when nobody is saying anything. Probably my least favorite class of the three I teach.
However, outside of class, a few students have warmed up to me. Oddly enough, the situation has been completely flipped compared to the 3rd years. A lot of the 2nd year guys talk to me while none of the girls do. Here are a few people that stick out:
Magician: I call this guy the Magician because he likes magic tricks. One day, during lunch he asked me in perfect English “Mr. Diego, do you know Mr. XXX?” After shaking my head, he pulled out a magic book out of his bag. The guy he was talking about is a famous local magician and this book contained a few simple tricks that you could perform. He showed me a few and insisted that I try. I failed but it amused him. On another day, he asked if I played some multiplayer computer game. I told him I didn’t but he still gave me his login name as well as his friend. He’s a really friendly guy and one of the few that will try to participate in class.
Kouki: Kouki is probably my favorite 2nd year kid. He is a mix of Yankee and USJ. He’s smart, witty and not afraid to joke around with you. Kouki always talks to me in class and it’s always about stupid shit. Lately he’s been trying to tackle me from behind and whenever I turn around in the nick of time he’ll raise his hand, exclaiming “What? What? You want some of this?” Kouki speaks very good English and is good at writing as well….but he never does anything during class. He is a member of the tiny newspaper club, which is where I met him for the first time. One of my JTEs (and the head of the club) invited me to have a picture taken with them. Kouki was the one who demanded we had a bro-like pose. He’s a silly kid.
The rest of the boys act very similar to each other, they will always salute me with “Yo!” and ask me silly questions as well as ask for high-fives. During class though, they could care less about me. Such is the life of an English teacher in a junior high school.
The 1st years, aka the freshmen, are the most energetic grade out of the school. Fresh out of elementary, they still maintain the energy of their childhood but not old enough yet to be broken by the ways of juku and puberty. All of them energetically salute you in class, raise their hands with passion and are not afraid to make a ton of mistakes. They are my favorite class to teach too because we get along really well. Here both the boys and girls talk to me quite a bit. Like my 5th grade class in my Wednesday school, I know most of their names by memory:
Ichiro: Ichiro is one of the smarter kids in the class. I call him Ichiro because he is the ace of the baseball club. He always speaks in this loud voice but as long as he’s following the class, I really don’t care. Lately, he’s been more of the class clown by doing silly postures and talking in a weird voice aloud while we’re doing dictation practice. Sometimes he’ll mock me during my morning greeting to the class. I hope he isn’t shaping up to be a 2nd year douche but you never know.
Shinji-kun: Shinji-kun makes Ichiro look like the quietest kid in class when it comes to his voice. Shinji-kun is one loud motherfucker. He’s a chubby kid that is always yelling out the answers in a more ridiculous voice than Ichiro. Anyways, the reason I call him Shinji-kun is because he fucking loves Neon Genesis Evangelion. When I was doing my self-intro, I said that I liked some anime and included a picture of Eva. As soon as Shinji saw this, he stood up and pointed at me, yelling “AH, YOU LIKE EVANGELION!?” The rest of his questions were Eva related: “Do you like Asuka or Rei?” “What’s your favorite Unit?” etc. Shinji will always bring up Eva in one way or another.
In junior high, the people who announce the food and plays the music during lunch rotates every week or so. Anyways, when it was it Shinji’s turn, all we heard while we ate was “Cruel Angel’s Thesis” loop the entire time. The second I heard it, I just thought to myself “Ah, Shinji must be in charge today,” without another thought. Shinji can get too excited too fast and we have to make sure that doesn’t happen because he will literally be screaming out answers, annoying the other students. He’s a good kid though and makes me happy that some junior high kids still have that elementary energy left in them.
Ina: Ina kinda reminds me of Yankee because of her forward attitude. I would say though that Ina’s forwardness surpasses Yankee’s. Ina always hangs out with this other girl, Tsu. In the beginning, they had the same haircut so I could never tell them apart. It didn’t help that Tsu was just as loud and forward as Ina. However, Tsu went MIA for a month or so and came back with a brand new haircut. Anyways, Ina and Tsu are always yelling out their thoughts and answers during the lesson, which is amusing. They’re eager to answer or question anything so it works for me. The two are inseparable, but I feel like Tsu is the happy-go-lucky type while Ina is more of the crass girl.
In the beginning, Ina avoided me like the plague. Anytime the students stood up and talked to each other and the teachers, she would literally run away from me with a “Goodbye.” Nowadays though, she will not hesitate in talking or messing with me. Just the other day I was walking with my JTE to the classroom and from the first floor I can hear “Diego! IkemenI Kakko ii! (He’s so handsome and cool!)” She kept yelling this until I finally came in and then she yelled in Japanese:
“AH, DIEGO! You’re really cool!”
“(In English) Hand…Handsome!”
“VERY HANDSOME MAN!”
“Well…you’re very BEAUTIFUL woman! (mocking her)”
“Thank you, handsome man.” Then the rest of the day involved her looking at me and saying “You’re handsome aren’t you?” or “You must have a ton of girlfriends, right?” She likes to mess with me a lot but I now return the favor during class.
Bookworm Girl: Bookworm Girl is the quietest kid in the world. She looks dead inside. She never talks, smiles, or anything. I’ve seen her laugh twice the entire time I’ve been in school. I was in the library one day and the librarian tried to have her talk to me. She pretty much stayed quiet and scoffed, ignoring me. Unlike Momo, she’s not really social. Well I guess you can’t win everyone’s heart.
Manami: Manami is one of the brighter kids in the class. Mellow like Momo, but she is more social and has friends. I really like Manami because it looks like she’s trying her best in class: she’s paying attention to me diligently when I talk about things while nodding her head, prepares her English speeches well in advance and speaks very good English. We recently had a English speech about our dream robots. In between classes, most students hang out and talk to each other. Manami was focusing on practicing her speech the entire time, impressing me. When it was her turn to present, she surprised everyone with her perfect pronunciation. I told my JTE, “For a second, I couldn’t tell she was a Japanese girl speaking English.” Apparently she passed the message to her sometime later during the day. I saw her again when I was passing by the library; she looked really happy to see me. I’m happy my compliments can cheer people up like that. Maybe I’ll get to know her even more if she hangs out in the library…
The rest of the boys and girls share the same energy as the energetic kids. They will follow the lesson and instructions just fine and actually have fun in class. It’s definitely one of the more laidback classes in my week.
Just like with most of the classes, the staff there is really fun too. My two JTEs are two middle-aged women and basically act like a temporary mom to me. One speaks English to me exclusively while the other likes to switch around a lot. As I’ve gotten to know her more, she’s more comfortable speaking just Japanese to me. I think she’s taking a liking to me—I’m invited to eat lunch with her and another ALT during spring break. She’s a very good friend of Ako-sensei from my Wednesday school so she sometimes acts like a middle (wo?)man when we’re trying to talk to each other. My two JTEs usually teach with me in my elementary so I see them pretty often.
Other staff I’m friendly with is Mr. Shiba. Mr. Shiba has got to be one of the funniest guys I know. He’s a P.E. teacher and if Japan has taught me anything, it’s that P.E. teachers are the super silly and badass people of the school. Mr. Shiba is no exception. He likes to mess with all the students and if I’m present, he will pull me right in. He also uses a lot of puns, which is an A+ in my book. In fact, the first time I met Mr. Shiba, we all ate lunch together at a restaurant with the other male teachers. It was at this moment where he created my famous nickname:
“So you’re name is Diego, correct?”
“Ah! I’ve got it.”
“Ichi, ni, San-chez-san!” (Ichi means one, ni means two and san means three. Essentially he’s making a pun out of my name: 1-2-3chez)
“Ah! Another one! A-B-C-Diego!”
Ever since that day, the nickname has spread around the school. A lot of the male students usually call me it. It was even featured in the school newspaper:
Another cool guy is Mr. Aoki. He’s one of the teachers that teaches Japanese and is young, like me. Every time we talk to each other, there is this aura of awkwardness that always gets us laughing. He’s a big fan of the color blue, which I am too. His surname literally means Blue Tree and a lot of the 2nd years call him that to mock him. The 2nd years have taken a liking to him and like to talk to him as well as make fun of him. Mr. Aoki doesn’t really know how to discipline them so he just awkwardly tells them to shut up while laughing and then the students just mock his laugh. It’s an endless cycle but it is hilarious. We’ve been talking more as the months go on and he’s a really cool guy.
The librarian is someone I have recently gotten to know and I regret not visiting her sooner. Whenever she comes into work, she always says “Buenos dias” to me and as the months have progressed, she has been practicing her Spanish with me. I teach her a few words every day. She went to a college with a lot of foreign students so her English is pretty good for someone who didn’t focus on the language. As I mentioned previously, I recently visited her library and try to go there every week now. It’s very warm during the winter…something very rare in a school here! Also, Momo hangs out with her a lot too so it’s a nice way to relax and just chat with the two until the day is over. She’s a very nice person and usually gives me hot cocoa and ride homes nowadays. She’s a big fan of the northern lights as well as Finland. I’ve been practicing my Japanese with her recently.
My principal and vice principal are very kind people. My principal apparently visits the U.S. a lot and speaks very good English. He’s also a marathon runner—sometimes I run into him at the gym. As for my vice principal, she always tries to talk to me about random things. As much as my Japanese sucks, I really appreciate this because most of my vice principals don’t really talk to me about anything besides making sure to clock in at work or other stuff.
So that’s my Thursday school in a nutshell. It’s a lot of fun which I hear can be a very rare thing for a junior high school. I feel very lucky to be placed here. Even if it’s a little far and in the inaka, I don’t mind at all.