It’s been awhile since I blogged, mostly because I’ve been studying like crazy for the JLPT (which is finally over, yay!). Other things have been occurring like preparing for an observation class later this week as well as a cooking class at my junior high. We’ll talk about that another time though. I’d like to finish writing about my school’s changes already since the first semester is coming to an end!
My Friday school has probably gotten the biggest change out of all of my schools. I was asked to teach the 6th graders for some reason; maybe it’s because they were more accustomed to me. The new teacher in charge of English looks freakishly similar to my old Japanese teacher, Uchida-sensei. I consider her the Osakan version of her. You can imagine how weird it might feel teaching alongside with someone who taught you for two years.
Anyways, similar to last year, each classroom has a different atmosphere. My kids have all been shuffled around and all the teachers are new to them so it’s definitely changed a lot of their personalities, mostly for the better. The 6th grade teachers are mostly the same ones from last year, with the exception of two. Judith, who taught 6th grade last year, told me that they were all very good teachers and one of the new teachers is actually one of the best she has taught with. I was still skeptical though, mainly because of my experience with this school last year…
One new thing that sucks about Fridays is that I start classes from the get-go: 1st period. I rarely have time to relax when I get to school and am usually preparing a lesson last minute (due to being told last minute…). Anyways, 6-5 is the first class I get to teach and it reminds me of last year’s 5-1. I’m teaching with Uchida-sensei’s twin and she can keep all of her kids in line. She tries her best to participate in our lessons which is a good thing but there are some days where she will leave everything to me. Needless to say, her classes can be very hit or miss sometimes but at least she is willing to help me out if she notices class isn’t going too well. Also, a lot of the kids in that class are pretty polite and smart so it’s not too bad. I have a couple of former 5-5 girls in that class and they’re actually learning a lot more compared to last year; I even had one girl ask me various questions about English after class. It was pretty much impossible to do this last year because everyone was so damn noisy and I’m guessing they were too embarrassed to try to stand out.
One thing I kinda dislike about 6-5 is Uchida’s suggestion of singing a song every week. I don’t mind singing except that the only songs we usually have available are either A) really bad or B) way too difficult. Half the time I will just sing acapella and write the lyrics on the blackboard for the kids to follow along. They get a kick out of the alphabet song because most kids don’t say “LMNOP” like we do. This is my ideal first class because I can see what works and what doesn’t as well as follow Uchida-sensei’s lead when I have to and apply her techniques with the other classes.
6-2 has a mix of louder kids and some of my good ones from last year. Luckily the HRT is pretty active in the class and can usually shut anyone down who is being too much of a dick. Once again, I have some former 5-5 kids here. Are you starting to notice a pattern? At first I could only recognize Moxie but as the weeks have progressed, I’ve been getting to know the other kids better. After I said I liked playing Mario in one class, one particular kid always sings the first 7 notes of Mario’s theme whenever I see him and expects me to follow through. For obvious reasons, I have started to call him Mario. There’s another girl here who hates all fruits. I’m not exaggerating. When I was teaching fruits to the kids and asked who didn’t like X, she would raise her hands to all of them. I can’t imagine a world without fruits! Overall, this class isn’t too bad. The teacher thinks her class isn’t the greatest for some reason, and I usually have to reassure her it’s not that bad. Compared to last year, I can do just about anything.
6-1 is probably the closest thing to last year’s 5-5. A lot of infamous 5-5 and 5-4 kids like Shin and Ryo, aka the fat brat are here. However, thanks to the HRT, which is one of the most active teachers out of the group, they never get too out of hand. The biggest surprise for me this year was Ryo’s reformation. Ryo was the cause of my frustration on my first day at the job in this school when he was throwing shit on the ground and yelling in the hallways but nowadays, he’s happy to see me and despite his poor English, he’ll try to participate. It’s so fucking bizarre how much of these kids have changed. Shin is mostly the same except he interrupts a lot less. Just recently I had to teach 6-1 on my own but they weren’t as bad as 5-5 was last year. Sure I got interrupted at times but I wasn’t screaming like crazy just to be heard. I’m glad those days are over (for now).
6-4 doesn’t stick out too much—it’s an average class. The teacher probably participates the least out of the five but his kids aren’t really noisy. Beaver is present here but he’s mellowed out a lot and rarely screams out the answers anymore. He’ll happily follow my lessons and want to participate every time. At this point, I’m starting to wonder if last year really happened. How did all of these kids turn good? Is this the power of a good HRT and growing up?
One funny thing the teacher does is raise his fist up in the air, like he’s doing some Black Power gesture. At first, I was really confused what he was doing until he told me “Diego, this is a sign for them to quiet down.” It feels really weird to see him lift his hand up in the air with his fists clenched, followed by dead silence. What the hell does this guy do when he gets angry? I don’t want to know.
6-3 is by far my favorite class to teach on Fridays. The teacher, Nishikawa-sensei, is one of the funniest people I have worked with in Japan. When I first taught this class and did a quick self-intro, Nishikawa-sensei added in “You know, sometimes Diego and I play futsal.”
Me (thinking): Uhh, we do?
Nishikawa: Isn’t that true Diego?
Me: Oh, yeah yeah! He’s a good soccer player!
I didn’t realize it at first but then it came to my attention that he is one of the elementary teachers that plays with us every Saturday. I don’t go every weekend so I don’t really know most of their names except for the person who invites me to them, H-sensei.
Anyways, I also heard from Judith that Nishikawa was one of the best teachers she had worked with when she taught 3rd graders with him once. As a 6th grade teacher, he’s really good at relating to his kids as well as shutting them up with a sense of humor behind it. He’s also pretty good at English. Our first lesson was pretty hilarious because anyone who tried to interrupt us would be welcomed with a quick “Shut up, shut up” from him.
One of the running gags we have going with his class is during our daily greetings. I ask my kids how they’re doing and then they ask me as well. I started having them ask Nishikawa-sensei, to which he always replies with his head tilting back, followed by “I’m very very very very very very tired because you kids are crazy.” None of the kids know what he’s saying so we always translate it to “He’s tired but he knows all of you are super smart.” The kids start to complain that he’s always tired every week to which he will reply with “It’s because you kids are crazy! “ Laughter ensues. If I ever run into him outside of class, he will usually give me the “very very tired” reply.
Besides Nishikawa-sensei, the kids themselves are pretty funny. The first noticeable kid I came across to was Miki. If you don’t recall her, she’s the one who I translated a song into katakana once. Her buddy Rei is always next to her and they always give me this fake cheer and high five whenever they see me. According to Nishikawa, she is “really crazy and loud”. There’s this other girl I like to call Mickey Mouse because she did a perfect impression of him one day and asked me to call her Mickey from now on. Wish granted! If you ever get a chance, listen to Mickey in Japanese once, it’s pretty hilarious.
The Class Rep-like guy from last year is also in this class. I’m changing his name to King Sai because when we were making name cards, he wrote his name in front of a huge crown. For shits and giggles, I started calling him King Sai and he really likes it. The kid is super polite and friendly nowadays compared to his louder days in 5-5. I’ll sometimes run into him in the hallways and say “Hey Sai.” He’ll correct me with “Hey, KING Sai!” “Oh, sorry.” What a dork.
All of these kids aren’t afraid to mess with us, but in a humorous way as opposed to a mean-spirited one. Nishikawa and I are not afraid to fight back, which results in humorous dialogue. All of us have a really good relationship with each other and that’s why I look forward to 6-3 every Friday. Some kids even came up to me after one class and interviewed me, telling me it would be feature during lunch’s announcements sometime this month. It’s an excellent way to end the work week and start the weekend.
That concludes my thoughts on my schools this year. I’m sure I’ll have more amusing things to say as the year goes on. Now here’s hoping I don’t switch schools after this semester is over….