Thursday, April 8, 2010

Easiest Job of My Life

Today I started my first day working as an Assistant Language Teacher in Japan. Though I will be working at a handful of schools, I began at my first Junior High. The school is surrounded by rice fields and farm houses. In the distance is snow capped mountains. Its beautiful.

For the past few weeks, my nerves have been building up but each time I'm tested, to introduce myself for example; the nerves disappear. The Japanese like to smile a lot and that puts you at ease. Today was another one of those tests...

I sprung out of bed at 6:10 this morning anxious to begin the day (I had to be there by 8). Last night I could hardly sleep, partly cause I was thinking about Japanese ghosts and the paranormal but also because I was nervous to began working.

Today, I was ready to start full steam but instead felt like a dead battery. I fumbled my way to my car and left far to early. Its a ten minute drive but I left an hour ahead. My parents could be thanked for that stupid lesson 'better to arrive an hour early than one minute later'. In the long run, it was only 20 minutes. I took a stop at a nearby convenience store to get some coffee, gum, and kill time.

As I got closer to the school, I noticed that the 'Kyoto no Sensai' or Vice Principle was standing outside making sure every kid made it to school and greeted them with the standard 'good morning', in Japanese of course. I waved to him and said good morning as I pulled into the parking lot. After a few minutes of fumbling around through all my belongings, the English teacher arrived. I was able to meet her before entering the building.

When I got to me designated desk, I didn't know what to do. I decided to introduce myself to a few teachers before sitting at my desk. Adjacent to me is the English teacher, across is the nurse, and kiddy corner is the music teacher. After looking like a lost dog for five minutes, the social studies teacher showed up in the room and goes 'Jacob-San'. I met her last week when touring the school. She wants me to join the kendo club and hit me over the head with a wooden stick.

Before the actually school began, there was about 10 minutes of school announcements in the teachers room. Shortly after, was cleaning. The Japanese school system doesn't hire much, if any Janitors. The school is cleaned by the students and staff. This means everything in the whole school is cleaned in thirty minutes. Everyone is sorted out and works like a group of ants, furiously polishing every inch of linoleum. Its insane.

At this point, it was the first time I saw most of the students. There was the occasional few I said good morning to while they rode in on their bike but more or less, this was when they all first saw me. Many of the guys would say hello, a few approached me and shook my hand and introduced themselves. The girls were... Um... Embarrassed to meet me? Most of their 'hellos' were followed by uncontrollable giggling. One girl at lunch time came right up too me and wanted to stare into my eyes because they were blue. Its kinda... Strange. But I've had this happen on a fair share of other occasions while being here in Asia, so its not out of the ordinary.

After cleaning, there was a handful of free time but not much. Soon followed a ceremony. This was where myself and about five other teachers introduced ourselves in front of the school. I was nervous but when it was my time to introduce myself, I didn't have much of a problem. I'm sure there is extreme curiosity among students about their foreign teacher. There were a few 'eh?' with ascending tone when I mentioned I liked to snowboard. Some kinds tossed on the 'sugoi' sauce to that as well. (sugoi means awesome)

My introduction was in Japanese of course, so it was fairly short. Following the introduction of the teachers, was a long precession of 'I don't know because I can't speak Japanese'. The vice principle would get up, say something, then everyone would bow. A handful of students got up said something and we bowed. There was so much bowing. A few students were presented with awards of some kind, followed by us bowing. It was all very formal, but I have noticed, that the rest of the day was very laid back.

When the ceremony completed, I headed back to the teachers room, I still didn't know what to do. Then the English teacher suggest I help out the Music teacher. We went to her room and I helped her hang up some papers on the walls. It was a good way to spend some time. Then of course, I returned to the teachers room and didn't know what to do.

The English teacher was unprepared because she has been sick the past few weeks. She couldn't give me much advice aside from look over the book. I did this for about 10 minutes until I said 'I'm and American, I do what I want'. So I prepared material I thought would appeal to the Japanese students. I spent the rest of the free time I had, during the day drawing a one page comic about myself and my hobbies. Other teachers stopped by to see what I was doing, I got a lot of 'sugoi' which is like saying 'cool' or 'awesome'. They were impressed and when I told them my other hobbies, they volunteered me to shoot video for the opening ceremony tomorrow. I think I made a really good impression. Of course this puts me in a tough spot, I can't go lower as in terms of quality of work, I have to go higher. I set the bar high for myself. Which is fine cause a challenge is sick to the power of benign.

I am sure some people might be wondering why I didn't teach today but that is saved until the 14th. Between now and then, I have a lot of time to prepare material. Get to know students before class as well as the other teachers. Its a long way from now, so its a bit strange.

As far as lunch goes, it tasted awesome, totally rad multiplied by killer. Rice, curry, salad, milk. There was a cook or two but the kids served the food. Again, like ants, everyone had a role, even myself. Everyone had their food in about 5 minutes but no one was eatting. We all paused for a moment of silence as one student went to the front and said something in Japanese. About everyone formed praying hands, buddhist style, then said 'itadakimas' which is generally considered grace but literally means 'I humbly receive' Everyone eats at the same time as well, this includes the principle and vice as well as other teachers. All mixed in with the students. Lunch was done in about 25 minutes, then was followed by everyone brushing their teeth. That was different, maybe I should join in. I generally only brush in the morning and evening.

While everyone was brushing I went around to talk to the students and get to know there names. After the brushing was followed by a break, were all the kids do whatever for about 45 minutes. Its kinda like PE or something. I will need to get some 'play' clothes for this time cause all I could do was stand around. Got to talk to the science teacher which was nice.

Yeah, I am getting bored typing this but I might as well finish it off.

I folded some papers that are for another ceremony tomorrow. Eventually, I finished the page of the comic. I then spent the rest of the day hanging out with the kids. It was a good time.

Highlight of the day was running into some former High School students visiting the school. For whatever reason, they freaked out when they saw me in the form of a positive reaction. One of them ran up to me and gave me a hug. He then told me 'hes fat', which, by Japanese standards, yeah but he has a long way to go to be American on that one. He took off his hat and put it on my head. I then smiled and threw down some gang signs like the cracker I am. I think the Japanese just generally have an impression of ALTS being carefree and laid back, so they treat them all the same. It was pretty fun.

That is all for the first day, went out and bought some clothes for exercise tomorrow. Might give kendo a try as a club activity.


1 comment:

  1. Wow, your school sounds much more exciting than mine. I guess I need to try harder to talk to some of the other teachers, but they're always running around looking extremely busy... I wanna join kendo club! *jealous*

    Anyway, sounds like you're gonna have a great time, at that school at least.