Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Typical Day in Junior High

First of all, it's cold here. When I came home it was only about 16 degrees (61 F) in my apartment. I wouldn't mind it so much if it was just the weather outside, but the school doesn't have any heat so I was cold all day long. But right now I am sitting at my kotatsu and have a space heater sitting next to me and now this room is about 23 degrees (73 F). My new heater is much nicer than my old one. I said something at school the other day about my apartment being cold so a teacher let me borrow an extra heater. I'm able to stay pretty comfortable in my apartment for now, but I'm NOT looking forward to the winter! My apartment is so drafty and it doesn't have any insulation.

Anyways... I've realized that my posts rarely talk about school even though I spend a lot of time there. So, even though today was pretty uneventful, I will describe my day so you can know what a typical day is like "teaching" at a Japanese junior high school.

It takes me about ten minutes to walk to my junior high school, which is nice. Once I get to the school I am greeted by several teachers, and every now and then a few students, at the crosswalk. I feel kinda like a little kid as they hold up flags to stop traffic so that I can safely cross the street (often there aren't any cars but they hold the flags there anyway). I greet them with "ohayo gozaimasu" (good morning) and then head for the entrance. A few kids are usually running in between the entrance and the gym so I say good morning to them but usually not much else because they seem to be in a hurry.

The first thing I do when I walk in the school is take off my shoes and put on my indoor shoes. One side of the entrance is lined with cubby holes where the teachers keep their shoes. I change my shoes and walk to the staff room while saying good morning to the students. When I enter the staff room I say "ohayo gozaimasu" and all the teachers say it back.

The staff room is where all the teachers have their desks. In Japan, the teachers move from classroom to classroom. The students stay in the same classroom all day (though they do go to different rooms for subjects such as home economics, art, P.E. and maybe some others). So the teachers do their work in the staffroom.

This morning the 1st/2nd grade English teacher had some worksheets she wanted me to copy. Sometimes she even wants me to make copies of stuff for her homeroom class, which is not my job. But I actually don't mind it because I strangely enjoy making copies, lol.

Today was Thursday so it was a busier day than most. All five classes have English on Thursdays. First period I went to class 1A. Every first grade class begins with one student who says something and then they all bow. Then the teacher says, "Good morning/afternoon everyone" and the students reply with "Good morning/afternoon Ms. name and Jenna." Then we usually have Hello Time which is where all the students have to talk to 3 boys and 3 girls and 1 teacher. They ask each other "How are you?" and one other question which changes everyday. Today's question was, "What sport do you like?"

Today we played a game called Crossfire where a row of students stands up. I ask a question and the first student to raise their hand and answer correctly gets to sit down. It continues until one student is standing. Then that column has to stand up. That made class a little more interesting than the usual reading and memorization of the text book.

Though we did still do reading and repeating from the text book. Part of the dialogue says, "Does she read kanji?" "No, she doesn't, but she reads and writes kana very well." So then the students asked me if I can read and write kana (Japanese alphabets). So then the students asked me to write some of their names up on the chalk board. I did very well with writing in hiragana, but then they wanted to see katakana and I messed up a little bit. I hate katakana! But it was funny, lol. 

However, we didn't have time for the Halloween quiz I made, but I wasn't too disappointed because I would rather not do it at all than have it so rushed like yesterday. She told me I'd have 10 minutes to do the quiz, but then I really only had 3 minutes and I had to make it less fun. Not cool. :(

Next was class 2A. They are learning the word "if." So the teacher found a song using "if" and she played it for them. It's called "If You Come Back," by Blue. Before she played the song she told the students that Blue is really cool and popular in England. I think that they were popular at some point, but I don't think they are anymore. Oh well, lol.

The students seemed to enjoy the song though (I'll admit I did too... lol). After class the students and I looked through the teacher's CD case. It was a lot of Backstreet Boys, Exile (a Japanese boy band), and Disney. Maybe we should have used Backstreet Boys instead to teach the kids "if." They could learn the song "If You Want it to be Good Girl, Get Yourself a Bad Boy." Just kidding...

I had a break from classes during 3rd period. I checked some of the first graders worksheets and put stickers on their notebooks. A couple 3rd grade students saw the stickers and talked to me about them. They saw some stickers of Marie (the white cat from the Disney movie The Aristocats) and they thought it was cool when I told them that Marie is my middle name. One of the girls then told me that I have pretty eyes. It's interesting how often the students comment on things like that. I guess it's because I look so different.

4th period was class 3B. Every class begins with the students receiving note cards with various questions like, "How did you come to school today?" "Will you study math tonight?" and "What were you doing at 9 last night?" The students have to ask each other the questions. I really enjoy this time because it is often the only thing I get to do during this class besides reading the text book and practicing flash cards. Today was a bit more fun than usual though. The students received a copy of a page from a Where's Waldo? book. I asked them questions like, "Where is the person holding a pig?" "Where is the person eating a carrot?" and they raced to see who could find the people first. Then they made pairs and wrote their own questions to quiz their friends. I got to help the students a lot with this. Often the worksheets in class are translating between Japanese and English and it's hard to help with that. So today was a very good class because I got to be more helpful.

Then it was lunch time! Today's lunch was some sort of ground beef and potato casserole thing with ketchup on top, vegetables (cabbage, beans, and cucumbers), bread, soup (cabbage, carrots, and long thin white mushrooms), and an apple slice. This was a really good lunch because I actually enjoyed everything. There are many lunches that I consider good because I can tolerate everything. This one I actually enjoyed! Though it would have been better if it had been warm. It was all cold and I wanted something warm on a cold, rainy, windy day. The school lunches are never hot though. Sometimes they're slightly warm, but now that the school is cold, as soon as the food is dished out everything cools off.

After lunch was 5th period. I went to class 3A. It wasn't too exciting. We did the interview cards and I got to read something from the text book and they repeated it, but that was about all I did.

The last period was class 1B. I arrived in class a little early. One of the students had her eyes closed and was being led around by a couple other students. They were taking her around the room and making her guess what different objects were. I walked over and held out my hand and they led her to me. She kept guessing different students. Finally she opened her eyes and she was so surprised to see me. She fell to the ground laughing. It was pretty funny.

This same girl was reading a Goosebumps book yesterday. I was very amused because those were super popular when I was a kid and I was surprised to see one in Japanese.

During class they also played the crossfire game. Then I read from the text book and the teacher criticized my pronunciation of the word "Japanese." Apparently I don't emphasize the "nese" part enough. She corrected me the first time I said the word to the class a long time ago, so I'm usually pretty careful, but today apparently I said it wrong again. Ugh, it's annoying. I also don't pronounce "often," "umbrella," and "our" correctly either (though I looked up their pronunciations online and I am also correct).

During class one of the boys picked his nose for a long time. The worst part was that he was eating the boogers too. He would pick his nose, then look at his finger, then put it in his mouth. He did this over and over and over again! I was pretty grossed out. Sorry that I probably grossed you out too, but I just wanted to point it out. I see quite a bit of nose picking in Japan. I was pretty shocked the first time I saw it on a train. Some woman was sitting on the train picking her nose for several minutes, not even trying to hide it. It's not like I see it all the time, but I've seen it many times. I wonder if it's not considered as gross in Japan as it is in America.

Soooo... back to school...

After 6th period was cleaning time. Japanese schools don't have janitors. The students are responsible for cleaning the school. I help out with mopping the outdoor steps and the entryway where the students take off their shoes. I generally like doing that, but the past few days the wind has been soooo strong and chilly that it's not so enjoyable.

After that the students returned to their homerooms and I spent a few minutes in the staffroom before it was time to leave.

So, that's a typical day at junior high for me!


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