Fridays are probably the most difficult days for me in terms of lesson planning. Unlike other schools, I plan and teach just about everything by myself. I originally didn’t want to do this but the teachers were always busy and weren’t available to talk until past 5 PM. I didn’t want to wait that long so I just said “Screw it, I’ll do everything on my own and let them know later.” Normally I would hate this but I felt like giving myself a challenge. How would it feel to be able to control everything in and outside of the classroom?
As the months passed, my lessons became more and more complex. I was trying to do something interesting and unique every week. Needless to say, when you’re doing everything on your own, planning and preparing for a lesson can take quite awhile. In the beginning I was very bored at school because I had four periods to do absolutely nothing. As my lessons became more complex though I began to use that time to plan and prepare stuff for the following week. Then I had to translate my plan and give it to the teachers. Before I knew it, I needed those four periods to get ready and prepare for next week.
At my Friday school I was only in charge of the 5th graders, which involved two classes. The main problem with the 5th graders was that their classes were too big. Each class had 43 students in it which is absurd. Anything over 40 is usually seen as not allowed and I could see why. Trying to get 43 students on the same page in my classes was pretty difficult and time-consuming. Games were limited to really simple ones as anything too complex would confuse half of your class, which led into chaos. Learning what worked and what didn’t took time but by the end of it, I knew those classes from the back of my head.
As mentioned before, I taught two classes, 5-1 and 5-2. 5-2 was always up first during third period. 5-2 had Okazaki-sensei, a middle-aged guy with messy hair. He is very Osakan, always joking around with staff members and had a really thick accent. He was also super strict with his students. Even the minor fooling around would involve him yelling at his students. Perhaps this is why they turned out to be very attentive. I’ll admit, it was awkward whenever he had to yell at them for anything minor but they were brilliant kids. They were so wonderful to teach because they listened to everything I had to say and always tried their best to follow my directions to a T. I challenged myself by limiting my Japanese until I absolutely had to use it and they were smart enough to catch on to almost everything. It came to the point where if I did use Japanese, it would weird them out. By the end of the school year, their knowledge of English was great compared to when they first started. They remembered mostly everything I had taught them over the past year and it made me proud to say that I was the one that was in charge of it all. Okazaki-sensei himself limited his participation in class but when knew when exactly to chime in when he saw his students not understanding and I couldn’t explain it to them well. I came to enjoy this style of helping; I originally thought he wasn’t helping at all and not paying attention but it was the opposite, he paid attention to what was going on in class and jumped in whenever he had to, being careful not to step on my shoes. Oddly enough, he reminded me of my dad. Quiet, stern, yet deep down very helpful and a jokester at heart. 5-2 ended up being one of my favorite classes to teach this year.
5-1 was always a bit of a tossup. The kids started out good but as the year progressed, I could tell some were getting brattier. A lot of them didn’t want to take the effort in learning so my teaching style with 5-2 ended up slowing 5-1 down. There were some days where I just didn’t want to teach them at all because I felt like my effort was being wasted. However, I knew some kids were taking stuff from the class. Also, Yamamoto-sensei did her best to help me out whenever possible. She ended up being active in most of my classes, which definitely helped me a lot. She also had a nice sense of humor, I’ll never forget her cracking up at some of the videos we saw in class. One time she was at the point of falling on the ground from laughing too much. 5-1 may have been bit more slow and rough around the edges, but it was never awful. I guess it was an average class.
I find it funny that despite the fact that the staff doesn’t really talk to me much, we all have a pretty good relationship with each other. Everyone is really friendly for the most part. Yamaguchi-sensei, the lady in charge of the curriculum is one of my favorite people to talk to. She will always drop by for a bit to chat with me in English or Japanese and will sometimes bring me into a conversation with other teachers. She’s been there since the very start of my career here so we get along well. Takahama-sensei, who I mentioned previously, is also great to talk to. He’s around my age so talking to him is really easy. I can tell he’s a great teacher too, I really wish I could get a chance to teach side by side with him. Maybe next year…
I used to think the vice principal used to hate but I think he’s just a really quiet guy around me. The principal and I are probably closer since he’s been there longer and we have some chats from time to time. I also had to help him alot when the Peruvian boy, Hiroshi, showed up. One thing that will always bother me though is the clerk lady. She sits across from me and always has this stern look on her face. She always seems to be scowling at me too. Now imagine sitting for four hours dealing with that. I still can’t get used to it.
When I first got here, this school used to be a struggle. However, ever since I came back, things have gotten better. I hope that continues to be the same if I’m still around next year.