My Wednesday school’s 4th grade class is quickly becoming one of my favorite classes to teach. The kids remind me of my 6th grade class (that just recently graduated!) in terms of personalities. Both the boys and girls like me a lot so there isn’t really a division of who I talk to. The reason this class is really fun though is because of Chika-sensei. Chika-sensei was originally a special ed. assistant in one of my friend’s schools. When the big transfer came last April, she cursed me as she was heading to my school. “You are a lucky son of a bitch,” she told me. I didn’t know what she was talking about until she came.
Chika-sensei is an advocate of English. Her knowledge in it is pretty good; she’s able to understand most basic English phrases. Because she likes to travel a lot, she has picked up on a lot of English compared to other teachers here. She’s also super friendly. While teachers to come up to me and talk to me once in awhile, Chika-sensei will always go out of her way to greet me and engage in some small chit-chat. You can’t help but feel happy when talking to her. I can see why my friend got really sad when she had to transfer out last year.
Her friendliness combined with the awesome students turns into that class into a really fun one. Although they’re a bit noisy, it’s usually because they’re having so much fun. Since Chika-sensei likes English, she’s really open-minded on what we teach them. Any plan that would usually get shot down for being “too difficult” at other schools is welcomed with “That sounds awesome! Let’s do it! Let’s do it!” from Chika-sensei. Recently we have started to get the 4th graders to practice writing the alphabet. This is unheard of because students don’t usually start doing this until junior high school. I was tired of doing the same things over and over though and figured it would be something different to do. The students actually really like to and try their damn best to try to get perfect scores. As a result, I have begun to grade papers; something that I haven’t done yet until now:
The 4th grade class is the only other class I eat lunch with besides my 6th graders. Originally I only ate with my 6th graders but on my way to their classroom I would always pass by the 4th graders. Every week they would say “Diego, eat lunch with us! Please! Pleaaase!” After awhile, I felt like I would be a total asshole if I never ate with them. When I finally agreed to eat with them, they went completely crazy. Somehow last week I was involved in some drama involving a group cheating into getting me to sit with them. This resulted in a little lecture/investigation where Chika-sensei had to inquire each student about what happened. I found it to be a little funny and cute how I managed to be the center of a problem.
“Now class, because Diego’s here, be sure to talk to him a lot! Try to in English!” is what Chika-sensei says when I eat lunch with them. Unlike some classes where I just sit next to my students and we all quietly (and a bit awkwardly) eat lunch, I get questions left and right from the students I’m sitting with. Sometimes I barely have enough time to finish my lunch because I’m spending half of the time answering questions.
I enjoy it though because that’s how I’ve gotten to know the 4th graders. There are a lot of memorable ones there. For example, there is Ichika. I compare Ichika with Maido (from junior high) because their personalities are really similar: they’re very active, loud, and always happy to talk to you. Ichika is almost always brought up whenever Chika-sensei uses a student’s name while we’re lesson planning.
“Uh, just out of curiousity, why do you use Ichika in your examples?” I would ask.
“Ichika? Well, she’s your ideal kid. Full of spirit and cute and pouty when angry.” That’s Ichika in a nutshell.
Then there’s Momo. Momo is Mao’s little sister (this is going to be a recurring theme). Like Mao, she’s very friendly and polite except since she’s a kid, she’s got that spunk. She likes to hang out with Azusa, Maho, and Maido Jr., who are all younger sisters of my junior high kids. Azusa is Takumi’s (a second year) younger sister who likes to mess up people’s games and is a so full of energy (just like Takumi). Maho is the same way and likes to insult her big brother Manchez, (a first year who likes to call me that so that’s my nickname for him) by calling him “a crazy boy” in English. Maido Jr. is (as you might expect), Maido’s younger sister. Unlike Maido though, Maido Jr. has longer hair, is a lot more quieter but friendly and smart. You can spot her doing what most girls do at her age: drawing pictures of animals and coloring pictures. I think Maido Jr. was the only girl I could recognize as being Maido’s younger sister—they’re just both beautiful kids that it’d be hard not to notice the similarities. Sometimes I’ll talk about how noisy Maido is to her—she really gets a kick out of that. Or she’ll tell me about how much her sister likes some bands that she also likes. She’s too cute. I’m just amazed at how many of them are related to my junior high students. It probably took me the entire year to discover all of that information.
The boys are also a fun bunch. There’s this small boy called Gen who originally kept saluting me by saying “Konnichiwa!” in the most incorrect way possible. Nowadays he’s usually asking me what a certain word in English is. It’s always the most random words too like “ground” or “traffic controller”. Well, whatever gets him interested in English, I suppose. He always goes above and beyond when it comes to writing practice.
Then there’s Luigi. I call him that because that boy is obsessed with Super Mario. He’ll be humming the theme very often and if he hears anything that sounds even remotely similar to the song, he’ll bring it up. His English name card is basically a Super Mario game screen. He’ll try to bring up the game as much as possible. I’m cool with that though.
Daiki is basically the younger version of Question Man. Always asking me random questions or giving me detailed explanations of games or anything Japanese related. Taiki is the younger version of Koryo—aka the older Bromance kid, he’s always clinging onto me and asking on his knees if I could eat lunch with the 4th graders. I have to give him credit—that’s how I originally started eating lunch with them.
Golgo is a kid who is somewhat bratty but not an asshole. I call him Golgo because he seems to like imitating gun battles including sniping (like Golgo 13!). He throws temper tantrums once in a blue moon—I remember Tanaka-sensei having to escort him out once which surprised me. Overall, besides being a bit noisy, is a decent kid. His English name tag involves snipers and crosshairs–not surprising. Also, he had the nerve to write “Read this: Die! Die!” on his sheet. Cute.
This past year with the 4th graders has been a lot of fun. I wish I could have taught them more (I only teach them once every two weeks) but that will change next year when they’re 5th graders and I get to teach them once a week! I think they’re going to turn into my favorite class in that school now that the 6th graders are leaving.