Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Children Everywhere!

I finished my third day of school, and I am starting to figure out where everything is and understand how things are going to work.

My first day at Yamabe Junior High School was eventful. I arrived a solid amount of time early just in case I got lost on the way there or some other emergency presented itself. I was told to wear a shirt and tie, and after a half hour of bike riding in the desert heat, I needed a good amount of time to cool down once I arrived. My first little introduction was for the teachers. I did my little script and then I went and sat at my desk. Offices in Japan are a bit different than the US equivalent. A room of 50 teachers is divided into little clusters, based on some sort of hierarchy that involves age and title. All of the desks are in direct contact with each other, and there are no cubicle walls or anything of that sort. Not a lot of privacy, but it makes it easier to chat with coworkers.

Some time later I gave a little speech about myself in front of hoard of Japanese children in the gym. A bit in English, a bit in Japanese. I'm sure that they were all thoroughly bored by the experience. Among some other quite long speeches, everyone sang the school song to piano accompaniment. I assumed that the kids would all be hardcore about school spirit, but most of them didn't even pretend to sing.

A sea of children

The classes themselves have been pretty enjoyable so far. I have been giving quite a few self introductory lessons, which are interesting. With variations, I usually talk a little bit about myself and then quiz the students in some way on what I said to test comprehension. One especially cool teacher had each student read aloud from a book as fast as they can, and timed them with a stop watch to strengthen their reading ability... quite fun.

Every day I have a different group of kids that I am assigned to eat lunch with. I suppose its a nice way to meet everyone, but it seems like it might prevent me from making any genuine friendships. I feel a bit like a politician, just sort of shaking hands and then moving on.

That leads me to another interesting point. The kids eat on their desks in their individual classrooms. School lunches are made in a central location in the city, then trucked out to the individual schools. When lunch time rolls around, the students lug the big containers of food to their respective classrooms. As far as I know there is no janitorial staff. At a certain time everyday, the students all go to a predesignated place and clean it. Some students clean the floors in the teachers room, others clean our coffee mugs in a nearby sink. Some are honored with cleaning the bathrooms. I get to go outside and sweep a set of stairs everyday.

There are all kinds of interesting things going on around here. More later.

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