So school has begun. I am finally doing what I came to Japan to do and I have set foot in a Japanese classroom. I am not just a loafer who spends my days lazing and around and going to Tokyo’s coolest attractions (even though I would love to do that full-time, it would get pretty boring after a while).
My first official day that I had to go into work was the Tuesday before the term started. I was asked to come in at 10am by my supervisor to have a chat and attend a staff meeting. Our chat was over in a matter of minutes (maybe, half an hour at the most) and I left to my own devices until 1pm for the staff meeting at which I was told I had to introduce myself in Japanese to the entire teaching staff. So, mild panic setting in, I drafted my 30 second spiel and successfully introduced myself. The meeting was so formal – everyone arriving on time, all the teachers with laptops with the meeting’s agenda, the door closing exactly at 1pm, a teacher reading out each item on the agenda. Of course, it was all in formal Japanese which I could understand maybe 10 percent of. But I was sent on my merry little way after my introduction and thankfully didn’t have to sit through the meeting, lost in a whirlwind of Japanese.
The next day that I had to come in was the first day of term for students – September 1st. Apparently on the first and last days of term, no classes are on and there is a big assembly on for the whole school. Today was the day I had to introduce myself to the students – all 1200+ of them! I had heard things about the students from teachers and my predecessors but this was my first day meeting them in person. The first thing of the day was an earthquake evacuation drill. We all congregated on the soccer field in the blazing heat (despite it only being 9am) and the image of each class neatly lining up in two lines quietly was out the window. If there is one big myth about Japanese students (at least the kids in my school – as most of them are on the road to being professional athletes) is that they are quiet. During the drill and the assembly I was surprised at the number of kids goofing off, chatting, not facing the front and all in all being the kids that they are.
During the assembly the principal addressed the students and then I had to get up on stage and do my introduction. I can safely say that is that largest group of people I have ever spoken to at once! And I survived! I also got to see what great athletes these kids are – while I was having a grand old time during my summer holidays, most of these kids had to stick to their rigorous training schedules. Some attended the national championships and actually placed in the top 3! After the assembly, I was pretty much told I could go home!
The first official day of classes was certainly an eye opener. While I never am and never will be teaching any class on my own, walking into that first class was definitely nerve wrecking. I team teach 10 first year English conversation classes – 9 out of these 10 on average have 43 students of which three quarters are boys. These kids are athletes which means they are either full of energy or they are so tired from all the training so they sleep in class. The number of kids that just sleep in class is astounding – but then to put things into perspective, when it is 30+degrees outside, and you’ve just come in after your 2 hour PE class, the only thing that you would want to do is sleep, rather than participate in an English class where you are forced to communicate in a language that you are not comfortable in.
I am having to put up the pretense that I don’t understand or speak any Japanese as that i not what I have been paid to do! It is to force kids to speak in English, so I often have to pretend like I don’t know what they are saying (at me or around me!). It has been a challenge to act like I don’t know what they are saying (and they do say some funny things!)
The way English is taught here is different to say the least – but I think I will get into that in another post when I get more used to the system here.
Sneaky pic I took of the staffroom when I was on my own!