Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Week in My Life as an ALT

  Next school year I'll be in Hamamatsu instead of Iwata. I really like my schools right now and wish I could stay in them, but I'm also excited about new schools. I haven't really talked about what my job has been like this year, so I decided to write about a typical week.
     I have two junior highs and one elementary school that I visit every week. I also have three kindergartens but I don't have any more visits to any of them. I haven't been to a kindergarten since early November. Kindergarten is a lot of fun, but it's pretty crazy and tiring. I'm glad I don't have it too often.

     This post got kind of long, but hopefully it's not too boring and shows what it's like to be an ALT. I also hope it is helpful for people thinking about being an ALT. So... here's a week of being an ALT!

Monday, February 17

     I woke up at 7, got ready, and ate breakfast while talking to Jonathan on Skype. I usually have cereal for breakfast but I ate bread with caramel cinnamon sugar because the grocery store had been out of fat free milk. It's not so healthy, but it's delicious!

           I left around 8 and arrived at my main junior high school a little after 8:10. It's not a very far drive. When I first walked into school, I changed into my indoor shoes and put my other shoes into a small shoe locker. As I entered the staffroom I said "ohayou gozaimasu" (good morning) and sat down at my desk. I didn't sit for long though because I had a bunch of copies to make. The paper only jammed once which was a bit better than the last few times I've made copies there.

     The first three classes of the day were third year (US 9th grade) classes. Their teacher had come up with the game we played, but I led the activity (and made all the copies). The students got into their lunch groups. I wrote a question on the board, such as scrambled sentences, fill-in-the-blank sentences, etc. When everyone in a group finished writing all correct answers we gave them puzzle worksheet. Some had clues and they had to match the names to the people in a picture, some were scrambled words, and some had definitions to match to words. One was particularly interesting.

     Yes, whale meat really is eaten in Japan. I'm pretty sure I had it in the school lunch in Toi. It wasn't good, but not horrible either. But... Free Willy! :(

      Anyways, the activity went well. It was cold though (no heat in the classrooms) and because of being in the cold for so long my fingers were swelling and kind of numb which made it hard to pass out all those puzzle worksheets.

     I had 4th period free so I spent the hour organizing some stuff and writing notes about the morning's classes in the notebook that I use to keep track of all my classes. Soon it was lunch time, but I didn't like much of it. We had plain rice and some cabbage which I liked, but I had some meat that I was unsure about and the soup had taro in it. Nothing was completely horrible, but it wasn't good either.

     Fifth period I had a first grade class (US 7th grade). The teacher in charge of that class has a few students have one-minute conversations with me at the beginning of each class. The conversations were okay that day but most of the students hate doing them. It's one of the few things I really get to do in that teacher's classes though. After the conversations the teacher had me read some stuff from the textbook and the students repeated after me.

This is the chapter that we did that day. It's kind of random, but kind of neat. The page with Braille on it actually has raised dots which is cool.

     Then they worked on worksheets and I walked around helping them. It was pretty boring, but other teachers have me do a lot more so sometimes classes like that are a nice break.

     During 6th period, the last period of the day, I had the first grade special needs class. There are only four students which is kind of nice. They're always excited to see me. First, they had a test so I just sat off to the side. When they finished, we played a Mario themed board game. Every time they landed on a "?" space they pulled a question out of the box and answered it.

  The board came from Englipedia, but I made my own question cards and added Daisy and Toadette to the characters.

     Then it was cleaning time. I helped some third year girls sweep half of the staff room (some boys do the other half). By the end of that I only had about fifteen minutes left so I looked over my lesson plan for elementary school the next day and packed up my stuff. At 3:55 I said, "Osaki ni shitsureishimasu." (excuse me for leaving before you) and left.

     I got home and walked to the post office ATM to get out some money and then walked to Valor, a grocery store. MaxValu is a bit closer, but I wanted some exercise. Plus I wanted to look around Shimamura (a store with some cute clothing and bedding stuff) which is connected to Valor. I didn't buy anything at Shimamura, but I got the stuff that I needed for dinner.

     I wanted to add a few more pictures to this post so here are a couple of pictures of the lovely post office and exciting Valor. I just got these from Google Maps street view, haha.

      I made taco rice for dinner, which was seasoned rice with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and green Tobasco Sauce. Easy and tasty!

     Then I talked to Jonathan on Skype, walked to Family Mart (less than a ten minute walk away) to print some materials for elementary school the next day, cleaned my apartment, finished a Rapunzel puzzle I had started the night before, drank peppermint green tea, and played a game on Facebook.

     On Tuesdays I go to an elementary school where I only teach fifth grade. Another ALT teaches 6th grade. I arrived at school around 8:10 and quickly grabbed the flashcards I needed before the teachers' meeting started. A bell rang and we all stood up and said "Ohayhou gozaimasu." I quietly organized my materials for the day while the teachers talked about I don't know what. I didn't even try to pay attention (and I'm pretty sure some others weren't paying much attention either). As soon as the meeting was over I made some copies and headed to class. I have the same schedule every Tuesday. I have class 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th periods.

     In each class we did several activities. We started out the class by singing a days of the week song. I use a touch screen TV in elementary school which has an interactive version of the textbook and all the songs.

     Most of the illustrations in this book are ok, but I think the days of the week pictures are super hideous.

     Then they practiced writing a few letters of the alphabet. Next we played a janken card game. Janken is Paper Rock Scissors and it's used a lot here. In this game each student got three cards with pictures of different school subjects. They walked around the room playing janken and the winners got to say a subject in English. If the loser had that card they gave it to the winner. At the end, the kid with the most cards got a sticker. I also chose a "lucky card" and everyone with that particular card also got a sticker.

     They have trouble deciding which sticker they want, but they love it.

     I kept a few of those cat stickers for myself. SUCH A CUTE KITTY! CUTENESS OVERLOAD!!!!!

     Next we did a chant from the textbook. One boy, who is actually good at English, decided to just yell gibberish. When  the teacher told him to not do that he started doing it in Portuguese instead. Haha.

     Then the students got into lunch groups and made their own weekly school schedules by gluing cards onto a blank timetable. Then I collected them and read a day's schedule and they had to guess which group's schedule it was. This activity was on my lesson plan from the school and I wasn't sure about it, but it ended up going well. Even my somewhat wild class paid attention.

     The time between 2nd and 5th period can be a bit long and boring, but I used some of the time to plan for Wednesday's first grade junior high classes. Though part of the time I wrote notes for this blog post.

     Lunch wasn't very good on Tuesday either. I have no idea what one of the things I ate was. No idea at all. And there were several of them. I don't know if it was seafood or some weird part of an animal or what. I probably don't want to know. (I later found out that they were clams. I had no idea, haha.) The taste wasn't bad, but they looked gross. The vegetables were cabbage and daikon which wasn't bad. The soup had some icky fatty pork in it. The yogurt was good though.

     That evening I went to Daiso and Seria, MaxValu (still no fat free milk!), ate leftover taco rice, made some materials for class the next day, and printed off the materials at Family Mart. I can print stuff at school, but it's a bit of a hassle. I don't have my own computer there and there's only one staffroom computer and if someone's using it I don't want to interrupt them. Plus I needed to glue the printed papers to colored paper and cut them out. I wouldn't have time for that in the morning.

     I didn't have too much free time on Tuesday, but it didn't bother me much because I only work a half day on Wednesdays. Yay! :)

Wednesday, February 19

     On Wednesday I went to my main junior high school (the same one I visited on Monday). While sitting at my desk, a teacher started yelling and ran over to another desk. I stood up to see what was going on and some papers were on fire. The teacher put out the fire and found a lighter that had started it. By then several teachers had gathered around the fire and were trying to figure out how it happened. I didn't really understand and still don't know. Well, that was a unique start to the day.

     So after that excitement I had a second-year class. I just did some one-minute conversations, did some read and repeat, and helped them with worksheets. Boring.

     Second period I had a first-year class and that teacher usually lets me lead the entire time so we do a lot of fun games. They were reviewing "ing" verbs so I had them play a memory card game. They had to flip over a blue card and a pink card and if they made a match, they got to keep those cards. One of the cards had a picture of Matsumoto Jun, from the boy band Arashi. Many girls like him, but one group kept yelling "kimo!" (gross) every time they flipped over that card. The picture IS creepy, haha.

     When a group finished, I had them write the sentences on a worksheet. Not too exciting, but the teacher wanted them to practice writing. Next, we played a row whisper race game. The students in the back of each row came to the front and I showed them a sentence. They went back to their seats without telling anyone the sentence because they got zero points if I caught them doing that. When I said "Go!" they whispered it from one person to the next. The person at the front had to write the sentence on the board. The first team to write it correctly got two points and then other teams without mistakes got one point. It's a fun game!

     Third period I had the 2nd and 3rd year special needs class. There are five students. First the teacher had us play shiritori where you say a word (in Japanese) and the next person has to say a word beginning with the last syllable of the previous word. For example: shiritori - risu - suika - kagi - etc. I'm not sure why we play a Japanese game, but it's fun. Then the students gave self introductions (names, I like ___, I don't like ___, etc.). After that I took over and we played the Mario board game and the Bad Number Game. The students stood up and could each say one or two numbers. Whoever said "ten" had to sit down. It continued until one student was standing. So like this: "One, two." "Three." "Four, five." "Six, Seven." "Eight." "Nine." "Ten." It's a good game to do at the end when we finish another game but only have a few minutes left.

     Fourth period I had another first grade class and we did the same things as I did during second period.

     I only work until 12:30 on Wednesdays so after fourth period I went home. After eating a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, salad, and chips for lunch, I walked to the post office to mail something for Jonathan. On the way back to my apartment I took a picture of a cute mailbox.

     Then I took the train and rode my bike to Jonathan's apartment. I took some pictures along the way.

      The street to the station is boring except for a really pretty temple. It's small, but it's VERY well kept!

I passed by a house with a bunch of bonsai.

     The picture above is Iwata Station. The next picture is taken from the station.

     It's only a six minute train ride to Tenryugawa Station which isn't bad at all. From there I took my bike, which I usually keep parked at the station, to Jonathan's apartment.

     I was glad to see my bike because the last time I went to the station it had been moved to a corner of the lot and had a tag on it. I had left it there too long and was going to be taken away if I didn't claim it soon.

     That's the station in the background. It's not very exciting.

     I ran four kilometers at the park, played video games with Jonathan, biked to Valor to buy some groceries (finally got some fat free milk!), ate dinner (chicken nuggets), played more video games, biked back to the station, took the train, spent some time on the internet, and started writing this post.

Thursday, February 20

     When I woke up I realized that I had left the milk in my purse overnight. Ugh! So I ended up eating English muffins again.

     On Thursdays I go to a different junior high school. It's a little bit further away, but not too bad. It takes about 25 minutes to drive there. It's in a nice area with a lot of tea fields so it's kind of pretty. Oh and part of the school is painted lime green! So it's just awesome.

     The beginning of the day was really boring. I didn't have class until 3rd period so I just wrote about Wednesday's classes in my notebook and maybe organized some stuff. It was kind of cold, too. Boring and cold. Bleh.

     That day I assisted with the third year classes. There are only two third year classes so those days can be a little boring. The students were making these board things where they put a picture and then wrote three different sections: about themselves, their junior high school life, and their dreams for the future. The classrooms were cold, only 10 C (50 F). They've been colder before, but my hands were being really annoying that week and a few of my fingers were pretty swollen. I wish I could wear gloves! But I've never seen anyone wearing gloves inside so I think it's not allowed.

     But despite the cold, the classes weren't bad. I kept busy reading their stuff and helping them. So the time passed pretty quickly. Some of them were interesting, like the boy whose dream is to be an air guitarist. Haha.

     Those two classes were 3rd and 4th period so then it was time for lunch. I eat in the nurse's office with several other female teachers. The men eat in a different room. I don't know why it's split like that, lol. Lunch that day was pretty good. We had corn soup with carrots and onion, hamburg (like a hamburger without bread), bread with bits of apple in it, and cucumbers with clear noodles and seaweed. I didn't care for the seaweed, but overall it was a good lunch.

     I didn't have any classes in the afternoon so it was pretty boring. I didn't have anything to plan because on Friday students were having tests so I didn't have any classes. So I wrote some more stuff for this blog post and made a list of things I needed to print for my activity binder. I have a big binder of all the activities I've done and have notes for possible future activities. It's all organized based on pages in the textbook. I had some things on my computer to add to it though so I made a list of what needed to be printed.

     Finally it was 3:55 and I was able to leave. The students didn't have club activities that day because they also had tests the next day. So they left at the same time as me. When the students leave school they play music over the intercom. It's always the same three songs. Chiquitita by Abba, You're the Inspiration, and Africa by Toto. I had heard that first song before but I didn't remember that it was Abba. I had no clue who sung that Africa song either. I just always think it says something about "men on mars" but it's not what it says. Anyways... I wonder who picked those songs. It's always kind of dramatic hearing You're the Inspiration blaring throughout the school and outside. Lol! I guess the people in the surrounding houses get to hear those songs pretty often.

     After leaving school I went to the gas station, stopped by my apartment, and then went to MaxValu to buy milk again. Here's another picture from Google Maps.

     That day I had been excited to watch figure skating on TV. The ladies' short program had been shown live from midnight to four in the morning, but I hadn't been able to watch it because of school the next day. But I saw online that they would show figure skating again from 7:30 to 8:45. So I figured they would still show quite a bit. I turned it on and they just talked for a while and then showed the results! I thought maybe they had given a spoiler alert (like they often do in the US during the Olympics) and I just hadn't paid attention. But then when they showed the skaters they had their scores and placements in the corner of the screen. So stupid! They also didn't show very many skaters. They showed the ones currently in 1st through 3rd place and the three Japanese girls. I figured they wouldn't show that many, but they should have at least shown a few more skaters who still had chances at getting a medal. After showing the skaters they had interviews and showed letters and stuff that people had sent in to the skaters and other stuff I really didn't care about. I was pretty annoyed.

     Then I prepared the stuff I needed to print for my activity notebook, walked to Family Mart to print everything, watched some of the American skaters online (though it's not as fun when you already know the results), and went to bed. I had trouble falling asleep for some reason though. I usually fall asleep really quickly, but I didn't fall asleep until about 2! Maybe it was because I was kind of tempted to actually stay up until four in the morning to watch figure skating.

Friday, February 21

     Despite not getting much sleep, it was surprisingly easy to wake up. I talked with Jonathan on Skype while eating cereal for breakfast. I went ahead and looked up figure skating results because I knew there wouldn't be a good way for me to watch it.

     On Fridays I go to my main junior high school. That day the students were having tests so I didn't have much to do. I spent the morning organizing all the papers I printed out the night before. During 3rd and 4th period I did some listening tests over the intercom. They didn't take long, but they were at least something.

     For lunch we had that weird mystery stuff again (the same thing I had on Tuesday, and now I know they were clams). Luckily we also had a potato croquette and strawberries which were delicious. The soup was okay. It had beef and carrots and konnyaku. Konnyaku is like tough, rubbery Jell-o made from some type of potato. It's not disgusting, but it's flavorless and just pointless to me. It's pretty common in soup at school.

     After lunch I was in the hallway and saw some student outside walking away from the school and waving to other students and doing poses. Some teachers ran out there and yelled at her for trying to leave school early. Wow, she wasn't very sneaky at all.

     I was really bored the rest of the afternoon. I even rewrote some stuff in my notebook a little more neatly. Yeah, I was very bored. Eventually it was cleaning time. On test days students aren't allowed in the staffroom, so I swept the entire room by myself. After that there was still half an hour left. I'm not sure what I did, but I'm sure it wasn't exciting.

     After school I went home and then went to an English teachers party. It was for English teachers and ALTs in Iwata and Fukuroi (though only one other ALT besides me went). Originally there was going to be a bus from the station to the party but not enough people wanted to use it so I was instructed to take a taxi. So I took a taxi by myself for the first time which was kind of interesting. I could have driven, but I don't have GPS in my car so I probably would have gotten lost. Plus, I didn't have to pay for the taxi because transportation had been included in the price they paid for the place.

     I had been kind of worried about the food at the party because there's usually quite a bit of seafood and sashimi and things I don't like. But luckily it was a buffet so I didn't have to eat anything that I don't like. But actually I liked pretty much everything anyways! I even took something that looked like calimari but ended up being an onion ring!

     Overall I had a pretty good time, but I'm not really sure I got 5500 yen worth of enjoyment out of it. I didn't really want to go that much because I didn't want to spend the money, but I hadn't been invited to anything like that this year so I felt like I should go. But it was nice and I did enjoy the food.

     So besides the small fire and the party, that's a typical week for me. Well, actually a little more boring than usual because of the tests on Friday.

     I've really enjoyed working as an ALT this year because I've stayed busy and had some really fun classes. It's a lot different than when I worked in Toi. I stayed busy at elementary school, but the junior high school was boring. The school was small and the teachers didn't have me do many activities. The one teacher that did have me make some activities always had something negative to say about any activity I ever did. Even if it was something really stupid like the time she told me I should have glued the cards for an activity on pink paper instead of blue. Does that really matter??? But sometimes she was really nice too. It was kind of weird.

     This year I've loved having three schools. I never work the same place two days in a row so I have quite a bit of variety. It makes the work week go by pretty quickly! I haven't gotten info about my schools for next year, but I hope I have several and stay busy.


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