Destination X

Wednesday’s are always a fun day. Everything from three-second rule gaffes during home economics to messy self portraits in art and, of course, English lessons. If there’s an opportunity for me to attend a workshop with the kids, I know within five minutes of entering the office. As far as JET experiences go, I wish more schools were like this. Especially since all the down time with the kids makes for greater trust once they graduate to the middle school, where I teach all levels.

So it was with a mixture of anticipation and amusement that I stood before my favorite sixth years. I’ve come to trust them in many ways: asking them to help me research local dialects spoken by their grandparents, taste testing food they’ve prepared solo, water balloon fights, recommendations for places to visit within the prefecture. Now, I was about to integrate a lesson with real world application…

“So we’ve learned a lot about other countries in this unit.”

A couple of shy yeses pop up like groundhogs in the spring. Mostly it’s quiet. I take a deep breath.

“Where should I go on my next vacation?”

“Eh?”

“Nani?”

Their teacher translates. They look back at me, half-amused and half shocked.

“I’ll go anywhere – except war zones – I’ll take pictures to show you and I’ll bring something back for everyone to see.”

Everyone reacts. “MAJI DE!”

This is the equivalent of NO WAY. Also sometimes translated as YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME and YOU’RE CRAZY.

“No, I’m 100% majiME (serious).” Luckily my lousy attempt at a pun goes unnoticed…

“France!”

“Egypt!”

“Brazil!”

“ISLAM!”

We do a 7 minute review on why Islam is not a country. And yet they’re still too enthusiastic, excited even, to pay attention.

“Okay, okay! How about next week we write down suggestions on a slip of paper and I’ll draw one from a box.”

“Maji.”

That seems to be the theme of this semester: crazy English, crazy adventures ;D

We’ll see how it goes but at the moment all we’ve decided is that this trip must take place by Silver Week 2016 and I must take many pictures with myself in front of famous places and bring something back.

Hangman, the Art of Spelling

For all the 90s babies who remember what it was like to live in a decade without internet distractions or cell phones… And who remember having to play a good old round of Hangman to pass away the hours.

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Brought out this golden oldie for the junior high first years (who did not question the hanging man) and had a blast spelling out classics such as “SPAGHETTI” and stumping them with “GRAPES”.

Elementary kids on the other hand immediately called me out on the translation work…

Kids: “American kids actually play this?”

Me: “Uhhhhhhh YES :D”

Kids: “But it’s so mean!”

Me: “I never actually thought of it until now…”

Kids: “Stop hanging him, can’t you see it hurts?”

Me: “Then guess more vowels xD”

Kids: “Is Y a vowel?”

Me: “Sometimes”

Kids: o.O”

The best way to make this lesson plan work: after reviewing the alphabet and breaking them off into teams, allow younger children (elementary school age) to have a visual of the vocabulary open (textbook should be rife with illustrations and words).

The smart ones will start to count out the number of spaces. Once they get the feel for it erase the spaces for a blind version of Hangman. They won’t know how many spaces and the word will be slowly revealed for even greater suspense.

For more advanced classes, don’t reveal the word for them but leave the answered letter scrambled as they guess each letter. For example, if the word is “FISH” but they guess the letter in the following order: “IFHS” then leave it as is and offer double points for the team that unscrambles it first. Beware… POST & STOP are anagrams of each other.

And there you have it: Traditional Hangman and Blind Anagram Hangman all in one lesson.

Cheers!

If dreams and wishes were streams and fishes…

The kids (ages 10-14) are learning how to express what they want to be in the future. I’ve gotten some very interesting and specific occupations that probably would take their American peers by surprise:

OCCUPATIONS BY POPLUARITY

Soccer/baseball player

Pastry chef

Geriatric nurse

Carpenter

Nursery school teacher

Farmer

Gasoline stand attendant

Pianist

Teacher

Refinery worker

Dancer

Needless to say, their reasoning for choosing those jobs is above and beyond funny. It’s a real joy getting to know them week by week, assignment by assignment.

 

 

 

MACHIMONOGATARI, PART I

Long time, no write and hopefully it will be the last long hiatus! I wish I could brush it off as a matter of not having enough material from which to make a post, but the truth of the matter is that the opposite occurred and I have too much material and not enough days to whip up the requisite posts to do justice to all of these wonderful adventures. August and September are the busiest time of the year in Aomori Prefecture in terms of matsuri and speech competition training.

In a nutshell…

6am: Wake up, stretch, exercise, clean house… lately though my am schedule has been to furrow even more deeply beneath the covers and hibernate until the last possible moment. It’s so cold I already brought out the second blanket. Can’t wait to see how long it takes before I need to plug in the electric blanket >.>

7am: Cook and eat the best meal of the day: Breakfast! I’m a breakfast person; it excites me more than dinner or lunch although recently with kyuushoku with the kids

7:30am: Last minute preps/head out the door

8:15am: Monday through Friday, I teach at a different school in the area and in most cases teach just about every level imaginable depending on what they need me for that day. For the most part I love the elementary schools, crawling with children eager to play and sing in a foreign language. Middle school is trickier. By this age they’re quite over English and though it outranks math and science in terms of interest from the students, it’s still pitifully low on the scale. It’s a language so absolutely foreign, with so few opportunities to hear or to practice, that it gets chucked in the metaphorical bin in favor of more important subjects. English is studied intensively as a means of being admitted to a good high school or university but otherwise not regarded as a useful life skill. Unlike the United States where entry into high school is guaranteed on public funds for all minors, the Japanese school system favors test scores for admittance. Those who aren’t admitted into the public schools because their scores were too low must then apply to private schools, which are looked down upon for accepting anyone who pays. During the intervals when I am not teaching, I use the break to set up lesson plans and test out games. On the rare days when I am so well prepared there is not much to do, I study for the N2 as diligently as I can… which is to say not very.

Noon: Kyuushoku (school lunch) with the selected class of the week/day (more pictures to come). Not sure if this is just Aomori Prefecture but Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday is traditional Japanese meal: bowl of rice, bowl of soup, two side dishes (one veg based, the other fish/some sort of mystery meat). Wednesdays are considered the fun kyuushoku days: you either get bread or noodles (or both, as I experienced recently) instead of a bowl of rice. For me, Wednesdays are a Godsend because my body can’t digest rice… I don’t really eat much on the rice days. However, Wednesdays are however, either a hit or a miss. For example, the Doraemon pita pan kyuushoku featured: pita bread, noodles, and veggie salad… the kids ate the veggie salad and put the noodles into their pita bread… and they laughed when I did the opposite. Culture shock, man.

16:15pm: End of work. I like to stay behind for a couple extra minutes before leaving as it’s the polite thing to do in the Japanese workplace. Because I have my own car now, I’m not rushing to the bus station but can leisurely meter out my goodbyes and the general hum of cleanup time. I try to work out with my colleague Mina at least twice a week at the local gym, break down them kyuushoku carbs!

17:30pm: End of work out, grab dinner, prep for the next day, watch TV, read…

I’m practically dead by 21:00pm. Gone are the days when I could party all night long, sleep two hours, and get up in time for 7am class. I find myself missing my Waseda days more than I originally gave them credit for, especially since most of us are back in Japan spread out for work or school. I see my friends’ Facebook posts and think, man, wish I could be there now… but then I take a look at the beautiful inaka life that is Gonohe and I wouldn’t want to peace out on it for too long. Although I miss my family and friends, living on my own at my own pace suits me well 95% of the time 😀