A Brand New Year: Fridays

Out of all the schools I work at, Fridays take the cake with the most changes.  It’s night and day compared to last year; instead of sitting around and doing nothing the majority of the day, I’m usually in the classrooms.  What made this change?

Hiro.  The Peruvian boy who I helped on my last day of classes last year is now a weekly thing.  From the first week, I was requested to help out 5-2 (his class) as much as I was comfortable with.  Since I hate being bored all day, I usually pay a visit in every period I’m not teaching English.  Hiro’s classmates continue to be as nice as ever to him.  Now that I’m there often, they have begun to get used to my presence and are more open with me.  I’d like to think that’s why my English classes with them are so smooth; they all participate and are well-behaved, with the exception of one douchey student.  But even he isn’t awful every week.  The teacher, Kawai-sensei doesn’t help me too much but just like Okazaki-sensei’s situation last year, as long as the kids are good, I don’t really care.

It’s also fascinating to be a part of a Japanese classroom.  Just watching how they operate and comparing it to schools back home is interesting.  Since the new school year started, I learned that everyone is part of a committee revolving the school; it varies from helping the library, being the announcers during lunch, helping serve food, to distributing textbooks and notebooks to the class.  Also, I got to check out how grades end the day with their Homeroom class.  I suppose it varies from class to class, but 5-2 has a few kids say what they thought went well today, following by applause.  Kawai-sensei then wraps things up with reminding the kids what they have to do for tomorrow, as well as passing out newsletters or news from the school.  While all this is going on, I’m doing my damn best to translate to Hiro. I’m not alone though.  Chihiro, who is currently sitting next to my Peruvian student, is always seen trying to help by making gestures.  If I’m translating for him and am having troubles, Chihiro tries her best to tell me in a simple explanation so I can understand.  She’s really a blessing because I’ve had kids who give up immediately if I don’t understand what’s going on the first time.  She’s also great in English class too!

Another girl that likes to bug me is Honoka.  She’ll usually start making small chit-chat with me the second I walk in the door and ask me random questions.  Sakura also does the same thing but is much more polite about it.  Her eyes hiding under her bangs, she always likes to talk about anime to me but I usually have no idea what she’s talking about since I don’t watch much of it nowadays.  Either way it’s fun.  But, being in Japan, kids do their weird things such as poke at my veins from my hands, try to read my palm, or simply rub my skin and say “This feels good!”  Kids will be kids…in Japan, I guess.

The more I hang around Hiro, the more I find out about him.  To be honest, he’s a bit of a weirdo, haha.  He likes talking about conspiracy theories and random facts about everything.  If you let him, he’d probably be doing it all day.  It’s not rare that I have to hush him while he’s talking because he’s usually doing it while the teacher is talking.  I know he’s probably excited to be able to talk to someone so I’m not too strict with him in that department.

He is though, a bit of a prankster, which annoys me.  He likes to mess with things and shrug it off.  One time he set the timer while I was teaching class and it went off while I was doing a little lecture.  A girl later came in and told me that that was the work of Hiro.  In Gym class, kids were putting back their supplies with a rubber band.   Hiro was busy playing with his and when I came up to him and told him to put it away, he launched it into the roof of the school and said “Now that’s three rubber bands up there!”  Oh man did I want to yell at him then!  Kawai-sensei took care of that though by just telling him to go look for a new one.  Oddly enough, he followed orders.  Seriously, this kid can be a handful.

It doesn’t help that he doesn’t want to participate in class, even mine.  Yes, I know he doesn’t understand the language but even if he does understand something, he usually won’t follow directions.  During English class, if there is anything that involves trying to speak English to another kid or me, he flat out refuses and just sits in his desk.  He understands the activities too, I mean, he asked me if he could go to the bathroom in English once.  I know it’s tough being in an environment where everything is foreign to you but one has to start putting some effort in order to get somewhere.  That kid doesn’t realize how lucky he is with all the friendly staff and kids that he has!

The other day the science teacher ran up to me and asked me questions about his answers on his homework.  It was funny because even though they were all in Spanish, I couldn’t read half of them due to his messy handwriting.  The staff cracked up to that and Yamaguchi-sensei said “It’d probably be easier for him to write in hiragana, huh?”  I honestly replied, “Yes.”.  More laughter ensued.  I eventually got through it and got his answers translated.  We also found out she had been waiting for this Friday to come up so she could double check things with me.  Yamaguchi-sensei also got my weekly schedule so she can now bug me any day of the week, no matter where I am!  She half-jokingly told me she was going to be calling me everyday.  I’m honestly a little scared, haha.  Seriously though, they should be paying me extra to be translating all of this!

The other class, 5-1, is really well-behaved.  The reason for that is because I have Miyashita-sensei once again.  I taught with him briefly during my second year in Japan before I was transferred out to another school.  He takes all school subjects seriously, including English and has a group of kids write on the chalkboard about what we’re learning, what students want to learn or their thoughts of today’s class, etc.  All the kids write this down on their notebook, something none of my other elementary school classes have.  He also likes to push the students to do more, like work on their writing and whatnot.

Fridays probably involve the most interactions with the classrooms compared to any other elementary school.  In 5-2’s case, a month’s worth a visit at another school’s class would be equivalent to only a day’s worth of 5-2.  I’m not sure how long this pattern will last, it has been hinted that Hiro will go back to Peru sooner rather than later.  Until then though, Fridays feels like being a student all over again and I’m okay with that.

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