A Brand New Year: Mondays/Tuesdays

The new school year has kicked off a little over a month ago.  The first month is always a little hectic since everyone is getting used to their new classes, positions, and even schools.  I have mentioned before that at the end of each school year, a nice chunk of teachers get transferred off to another school.   How long a teacher stays at a school feels completely random:  some stay for two or three while others can be there as long as ten.  Surprisingly, we lost only a few teachers at my Monday/Tuesday school.  Even more surprisingly is we mostly lost some awful ones and gained some good ones.

As for me, I have been switched back to the original plan of me teaching fifth grade.  Whether I taught them or sixth grade, I was in a win-win situation.  First, the asshole kids that I had to teach last year are completely gone.  Second, sixth grade has the benefits of having the best of the best teachers, including Nishikawa.  Unfortunately, I am unable to work with him again this year, which bums me out.  At least he didn’t transfer out, something that was highly rumored to happen.  Fifth grade has the benefit of having the kids I have enjoyed teaching since they were third graders.   They are mostly a polite, happy bunch; even the “bad” kids aren’t too awful.  Fresh fifth graders also still have that innocence that they tend to lose when they become sixth graders.  Needless to say, when I teach them, they legitimately enjoy it.  We started doing feedback sheets again this year and the ones I have seen so far have been nothing but positive. I’m already enjoying this year, it’s so opposite of last year.

"I'm really excited that I was able to understand some English! I look forward to the next class!"

“I’m really excited that I was able to understand some English! I look forward to the next class!”

"It's the second English class!  I want to be able to speak a ton more next time!"

“It’s the second English class!  I want to be able to speak a ton more next time!”

The teachers I have are also mostly great.  I have a couple of the former fourth grade teachers, Tsuji-sensei and Tanaka-sensei.  Both of them were some of the best teachers I had worked with here and since we have experience with each other already, we have an easy time team teaching.  I’m never doing everything on my own with them.

The other teachers I have brief experiences with.  Naoi-sensei is a tall lady with a ponytail and seems very sporty.  She’s also pretty badass.  I don’t know how to explain it, but just seeing her teach her class shows how much control she has over them.  She’s also very popular with the students, according to Toujo-san, the school’s librarian.  “She’s unfortunately married though.  Too bad for you, right?”  she teased.  Way to miss the point.  Anyways, she’s willing to help whenever I need it and since she has control over her class, they’re pretty good.

Next up is Masutani-sensei.  I have heard from Zoe that he is a really good teacher.  Unfortunately he was paired up with the worst class last year so he struggled with them.  Luckily for him (and me), we have better kids this year around.  Zoe wasn’t mistaken, he’s an excellent teacher.  He will usually go out of his way to ask me what we are doing that day and what his role should be.  I told him “teaching together is the best route” and we naturally compliment each other when teaching the kids.  He knows exactly when to step in and step out, making class flow so smoothly.  I’m lucky to have a strong addition to my team.

Finally, we have Sugimoto-sensei.  She’s a new teacher that transferred in and I can tell her class is going to be the most challenging one.  Even when I say that though, it’s nowhere going to be difficult as any class I had last year.  While I’m mainly left to do everything on my own, the kids are very attentive and not disruptive.  Hopefully she becomes more comfortable to help me out soon.

With all these changes, my Tuesdays are no longer the worst day out of my week, but shaping up to be a good one.   I’m still cautiously optimistic though.  I’ve only taught been there twice so far (due to holidays mainly hitting Mondays and Tuesdays this April and May) and I have seen great classes turn awful by the end of the year.  However, I’ll stay positive about it.

I think the reason why I’m being more positive is that the new teacher in charge of English is Isaka-sensei.  Isaka-sensei was the mentor of Subarashii, the infamous old teacher that I butted heads with my first couple of years here.  I was surprised to hear she was her mentor because her personality is so much more laidback and kind compared to Subarashii’s.   Being a former JTE (Japanese Teacher of English in junior high), her English is excellent as well as her ideas.  If I’m having trouble conveying something to the teachers or have a suggestion, she’s 100% behind the idea.  Oddly enough, she has been here ever since I came to Japan and it was only last year that I figured out about her past.  Why wasn’t she the head of English in the first place?  Oh well, I’m glad she’s helping me now!

It’s too early to tell how my Mondays will play out.  Like last year, who I teach that day depends on the week, but it will range between first and fourth graders.  From what I have seen so far, some kids haven’t changed at all and continue to be awful while some have done a complete transformation into being good, throwing me off.  I can deal with it though, as most of the awful teachers are no longer here.

Next week will be my first day back in two weeks.  If things will be like they were the first two weeks there, I think I will enjoy my stay there this year around.

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