Friday, April 16, 2010

The first week of school...

Has been finally completed. A lot has happened this past week and I am having a hard time simply updating and keeping tabs with everyone. This post will be large and fairly long, not lacking much detail.

Also, please bare with me for a moment while I try to figure out the formatting of my blog. I am trying to find a more appropriate layout that can properly accommodate the videos I post from my youtube account. The previous layout was cropping the videos too much which doesn't allow for an enjoyable experience.

Okay, so here goes my story of working in Japan for the first week...

I started Monday returning to Chikasono Junior High. Like I mentioned before, the school sits in the middle of rice fields that just go on forever. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures, until this week...

This is the view from my desk. Well, not quite, I do have to get up. But when I turn my head, al I see are rice fields. During this week, the farmers began the process of flooding the fields in preparation for planting rice. By May, this area will look like a blue and green checkerboard, with little to no brown dirt showing. Its gonna be amazing.

Aside from the rice fields filling up with water, the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. They are quite a beautiful site and its sad to know that they will only be in bloom for a handful of weeks.

This weekend, there is to be a cherry blossom festival here in Otawara which I will attend. I am not so sure what goes on during these festivals, which makes the surprise a bit better.

I know there will be the standard eating and drinking but anything else is all up for grabs. I hope I see a dragon or something, that would be rad.

Sorry to get off topic ther
e but let me talk about school. Monday and Tuesday went by, rather quickly and with little interest for what happened in the day. The weather was cold and rainy. There were no classes for me to teach so I spent most of the day in the teachers room. I remember mentioning this before but its not fun when you feel useless. This all changed on Wednesday.

During the later half of the week, many of the kids were to be on field trips. Grade three, which is about equivalent to a Freshmen in High School; were out on a three day excursion. Meaning, I only saw them Monday and Tuesday. Grade two, (8th graders) were also out for the day. This meant that only grade one was present.

Since there were no classes, the Japanese English teacher encouraged me to spend the day with the First year junior high students. This is better than sitting around in the Teachers room, watching the day go by so I did. More or less, I had a blast.

The day started off in the computer room, where the students were to spend their first period researching a city they were to visit the following day.

In the picture, you can see a giant HDTV that is projecting a computers desktop. Before the kids arrived in class, I quickly drew a dog in MS PAINT that is common in Japan. A SHIBA! Who was saying 'Good Morning'

I then moved the picture to the desktop of the
computer that is controlling the display on the HDTV. When the kids walked into the class, many of them perked up and were happy to see a happy dog greeting them.

For the remainder of the class, I walked around and tried to get small talk started with the students. Keep in mind that many of the kids just arrived to Junior High so they might be a bit more shy. Some were to nervous to speak English while others were excited and ready to learn as much as possible.

There were a handful of boys who would come up to me and point at my glasses and say 'what is this'. I would them tell them. After they repeated, they would point to something else, and so on.

In return, the would say the Japanese name of something... Though, its hard for me to remember the Japanese vocabulary.

A good portion of the day was spent indoors where the kids worked on posters. The teacher of the class told everyone I liked to draw so to not be shy and ask if they needed anything drawn. This was also fun. Who would have thought I would be drawing more as a teacher than when I was in art school? Every day, I am constantly drawing.

The day was shortened a bit so the kids went home early. Before that, there was PE, which was spent in the gym doing team building activities and dodgeball. The dodgeball session was a bit nostalgic... Although, they are playing a different version I'm not used to. More or less, Wednesday was nice.

Thursday was essentially the same as Wednesday, except now the first graders were gone and it was the second graders who were at school. I have already established some connections with a handful of them so this time around wasn't hard either. Like the first graders, they were to spend a majority of the day working on posters, this time it was of the previous day. They went to Tokyo so they were posting pictures of that event.

I spent the whole day working with them, showing them little tips and tricks to make their posters stand out and look a lot better. Of course, these kids didn't know I liked to draw. I was just giving them advice on layout and such. This all changed with the Social Studies teacher mentioned I like to draw. About ten kids were in the teachers room, printing off pictures from their camera cards when she mentioned it. She told them to go over to my desk and look at all the drawings I had been doing the past few days.

The kids then wanted me to draw something. So I sat down and asked what they wanted. One said 'A monster' then another kids said 'Zombie Mickey Mouse'. I spent about ten minutes drawing a zombie version of Mickey Mouse when the teacher told them to let me work and come back at the end of the period to see the finished product. When the bell rang all ten kids were back to see the finished product. They all loved it and I let them keep it. I am not sure which kid took it home...

After lunch, I spent time with a few kids I already knew. They asked me what I studied in school, which I replied with 'Animation'. The word didn't completely register with them when I explained it was essentially 'Anime'. I spent about the next 10 minutes teaching them the different kinds of animation; stop-mo, CG, and hand drawn. Going over how I worked on Coraline and everything. There was one girl in the group who knew what Stop=motion was so any blank space I didn't fill in, she explained to the kids. Who would have thought that my explanation was going to be successful?

They beginning of the day continued on like this. I was able to spend more time talking with other teachers and staff. Getting to know them a bit more. The Japanese English teacher was gone that day, she might have been out on the field trip, so it was up to me to do whatever I wanted the whole day.

As far as today goes, Friday. It was pretty awesome. I arrived at school and looked through the teachers book on what we might be covering. It was basically questions that revolve around 'getting to know someone'. For example; 'where did you go to school?' 'favorite color?' etc...

I then spent the whole first period thinking up questions that kids might ask. I wrote down about 30 or so basic questions people ask when they are trying to get to know about someone. I really didn't think it was going to be useful in class today but surprisingly it was.

Class started and there was no need to be nervous at all. This was grade two. I already know most of the kids. I did a brief introduction of myself then the Japanese English teacher explained what they were doing today. The kids splintered off into groups of there where they helped each other forming questions.

The Japanese English teacher then took the piece of paper I thought was going to be useless and pinned it too the wall as an example. Every kid in the class got up from their chair at once to look at the paper. I think the examples helped the kids out a little and it clicked in their head what they are to do.

While they were writing down questions, I walked around while student by student would approach me and ask 'What is your favorite sport' or 'what is your favorite movie' or 'who is your favorite actor' or 'where are you from'. I would then reply, using part of the question as my sentence 'I am from Washington State' and then ask them the same question in return 'Where are you from'.

The class went by rather quickly so not all the kids were able to ask their allotted amount of questions, which is a shame.

Next up was the first graders. I didn't do much during this period. It seemed to be more or less establishing what is going to be covered over the course of a year and what they were to do the first day.

After both periods, there was one more before lunch. I spent this period of time, going over the work sheets the second graders began. I wrote in my answers on each of their papers that they were asking me. On most papers, I drew a little picture to accompany what I might have been talking about.

Lunch went well, more of the kids wanted to talk to me and I was called to sit down with another group. 'Jelly, jelly, jelly'. Thats what I hear. I spent the break period with the students trying to say crazy phrases in Japanese. They were all getting a laugh out of it.

After break, I just continued to work on the worksheets. When I was part way though them, the first grad homeroom teachers showed up in the teacher room to grab colored paper and other material. I asked her 'Are you working on more posters'. She said enthusiastically, 'Yes, can you come up to the room?' I told her once I finish the kids papers I would.

That teacher is so tiny. I bet I could pick her up with one arm. Not kidding.

Eventually, I finished the papers and went up to join the first graders on their poster project. I drew a few things for a couple groups. When there was a moment of down time, I drew a hamburger, which one student wanted and placed on his poster, even though it has nothing to do with the content on the poster. I had to laugh at that one.

The day wrapped up and its sad to say but I won't return to that school for a couple of weeks. The job of the ALT is to show up at multiple schools. Only if you are at a large school, would you spend all your time there. Since the schools in this area are small, I have one other Junior High to go to and possibly one other Elementary.

Come Monday, I will meet with a whole new staff and a new set of kids. This will be interesting. I think the only drawback would be if the school was more uptight than my previous school. That would be a bummer.

Thats all for now. I got really tired typing this.


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