Friday, June 27, 2014

Banshee Girl Screaming Fits of Death

Today I taught 4 classes back to back in the morning.  I enjoy flowing along from one class to another and today was as smooth as a baby's backside.  The kids in my classes enjoyed the lessons a lot and we seemed to have a good time singing, learning new vocabulary, and practicing pairing adjectives to nouns. 

So after lunch, I come to the teacher's room to catch up on some paperwork and take my break for the day.  When suddenly in comes this wailing, crying girl who looks like Hell Boy because her face is so red from crying so loudly.  A couple of teachers and the school nurse come dashing up to her and ask what's wrong.

She says, "My stomach is hurting."  And she goes back to crying like a banshee.  Well the teachers looked worried and they started asking her if she got injured, fell down, was hit, etc... Every answer came back no.  They then asked did she eat breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday.  The replies were all yes.  So they started probing a little further and one teacher seemed to get what was going on.

She asked the little girl, "When was the last time you went to the bathroom?"  The little girl replied, "Before lunch."  So then the teacher asked, "When was the last time you made a poo?"  The little girl didn't reply.  So the teacher asked again.  Finally she said, "The other day."  The teacher needed more clarification so she asked her for a specific date.  The little girl said, "On Monday."

It had been 4 days since she had pooped.  Her system was backlogged, and was in dire need of a flushing.  So the nurse took the girl to the toilet with orders for her to sit there and push, grunt, and squeeze until a big one plopped out.  And off they went.

I don't know if she managed to relieve herself but I can say I didn't hear anymore crying for the rest of the day!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

1st Grade Hell Cats

Today I had to teach at a school that is really tiny and was told to teach the 2nd grade and 1st grade classes.  Each class has less than 15 students with 1 class per grade level.  I love teaching at this school and enjoy every day.  Normally I teach 5th and 6th grade kids here but this week they wanted me to try to teach the younger kids.  I didn't have much time to prepare as I am rarely at the school and usually my materials are geared toward the older students.  But I always have some backup lessons ready to fall back to in case of situations like these.

So I teach the 2nd grade class first today and everything went smoothly.  The kids listened well, we sang songs, practiced flash cards and had a really fun time.  Another ICT teacher videoed my lesson for some reason.  I really thought the class went well.  Kids left in high spirits and so did I.

Then I went to the 2nd period class with the 1st graders.  Oh man oh man oh man.  These kids were little hell cats.  It's like someone shot sugar straight into their circulatory systems.  They were jacked up and roaring to go.  Kids couldn't sit down, couldn't listen, etc.. They were standing on chairs, jumping around, acting silly to the point that I couldn't teach.

So I stopped class for about 5 minutes and gave them a stern talk about following rules, listening, not standing on chairs and so on.  The kids listened but I could tell I wasn't getting it through so I pitted them against another school I teach at.  Those 1st graders at the other school are well-behaved, proper and good children.  The moment I told the hell cats that the other school was better, they quickly straightened up, listened, and followed all rules with vigor.

Sometimes you just have use a little psychology and competition to make kids toe the line.  These hell cats turned into kittens in no time and our lesson turned out fun, exciting and great.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Volunteering at an Orphanage

On Sunday I visited an orphanage with about 12 other foreigners.  This orphanage houses kids who have been removed by court order due to abuse, neglect, violence, or other mitigating circumstances.  We visited for 2 hours in the afternoon and admittedly I was a little nervous about being at the orphanage.  I had never volunteered at an orphanage before so I had no idea what to expect.  I was worried the kids might be timid, shy and anti-social.  I was worried they would have visible scars and be afraid to talk with us.  Boy was I wrong.

From the moment we walked in to the moment we left, kids swarmed us with hugs, punches, horse play, and a barrage of jokes.  They really were some of the warmest sweetest kids I've encountered in Japan.  They took to us like a duck to water despite having only met them that day.  I was really taken aback because most Japanese kids are really shy and quiet especially in public and around strangers.  But these kids were amazing and they kept us moving and grooving the entire time.

We were there as a sort of emissary to teach English as well as brighten up their day.  We played lots of games, read story books, colored, and just horsed around with the kids for the full two hours.  It was piping hot in the room we visited despite having an air-conditioner  that was blasting us with cold air.  But in all honesty it was the funniest time I have had with kids since being in Japan.  I look forward to the next time we visit them at the orphanage.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Toilet Invasion

Yesterday I was sitting all by my lonesome working on a steamy hot number two.  I seldom use school toilets because teachers share these with kids.  But at this school luckily there is a teacher only toilet that we can use.  Once in a while a special education student will use it as well.  Why I say this now becomes relevant later in the story.

So I am sitting on the porcelain throne working up a deuce when suddenly I hear yelling.  I am wondering what's going on but I was in my element at the time and pretty secure behind the locked door of the men's toilet.  Suddenly, a female staff member busts in the toilet yelling a student's name.  I remained silent because I thought this person was off their rocker.

It was the school nurse, and she is known in this school to be a bit mental.  She is extremely obsessive-compulsive, quite erratic and has fought in our teacher's room with varying staff and administration.  I steer clear of her as much as I can but she had me trapped.  She was frantically searching for the special education student and her target was my toilet stall. 

She lunged at the toilet door hand so ferociously that the locking mechanism jumped out of the slot and the door swung open.   There I sat, pants down around the ankles, in eternal bliss after squeezing out a hot one, with her gawking at me.  I stared back at her and squeaked out in Japanese "I'm in the middle of toileting."  She recoiled, bowed deeply and said, "Sorry, Sorry.  So sorry.  すみません.  So sorry.  Sorry."  Then as quickly as she entered she was gone.  It really was the craziest thing that has ever happened to me at school.   From now on I think I will take my deuces at home, I don't want to risk another invasion.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Hockey = Hooker: A Spelling Mistake

At the beginning of the school year in April one of my classroom Japanese teacher's of English requested students to make posters about me.   She made 3 class periods devoted to doing the exercise.  First we brainstormed in teams.  With 40 kids, she broke them into 10 groups, 4 students in each with a total of 10 posters per class.  We have 4 classes so that's 40 posters we made in 3 weeks' worth of lessons.  On the second day of the activity students took turns asking me lots of questions.  What my favorites were, my hobbies, full name, age, work/life experiences etc...  We finished it up with some fantastic posters with my face drawn on all of them and information about me.  Some kids are extremely talented.

So I put up the posters, all 40 of them after the JTE checked them and I spot checked them.  Everything looked great and we filled a hallway full of "Big Booger" posters!  Kids, faculty, and even a few parents liked the idea.  The Vice Principal even put up images on the school homepage!  It was amazing.

But I was walking down the hallway and carefully looking at the posters when I came up on one.  My jaw dropped... I couldn't believe it.  Under the category of favorites, was HOOKER!!!!!  I was stunned.  I quickly ran down to the supply room, got a pen and crossed that out.   The student had meant to write hockey but actually spelled hooker!  So in essence it was saying my favorite thing was hookers!  That taught me to be extra cautious and pay close attention in the future for things like this.  This goes without saying but I am stating it for the record I don't like hookers.  I like hockey.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Friday the 13th, Enkai Edition

Throughout the year, almost all teachers participate in after school events and parties.  In Japan these are typically called "enkai" 宴会.  They are typically held at nice restaurants with great food, all-you-can-drink beer, and some sort of planned activities for the evening.  Following the "enkai" is the second, third and sometimes fourth after party.  Each after party is usually held at a bar, pub, or karaoke.  The "enkai" is a great way for teachers to air out the dirty laundry, reduce stress, socialize, complain, enjoy and just exhale and let themselves enjoy the night.

This past Friday, I had an enkai at a beer garden.  A beer garden being an all-you-can-drink place usually on the top of a roof of some high-rise building with usually cheap but plentiful food.  This time we had Chinese food that was quite good and the beer flowed faster than Niagara Falls.  I drank quite a bit and even pre-gamed with a can of beer before the party.  Needless-to-say I was quite stress free by the end of the party.  I really enjoy "enkai" events and look forward to them every time.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ask A Friend

One of my colleagues came up with a great idea to get a group of native English teachers together to answer questions from our school's junior high school students.  We basically made question boxes and had kids write down questions and then pop them in the box.  After we gather the questions we then sort them and ask via a message board we set up to allow for question answering.

The kids thus far have asked some great questions from my group as well as the other groups that I am involved with.  Questions range from "What is the meaning of life?", "Do you like ugly people?"  "Of the three, dogs, cats and fish, which do you like best?"  to all sorts of other questions.  About 20 natives are participating and it's going rather well.

After answering, each teacher in their respective schools puts up an answer poster in the school.  Kids really enjoy it and often read the replies from the native teachers.  Many kids get excited when they see that one of their answers was selected.  I am quite happy to have gotten this idea from a collaboration with a colleague and value it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

I Like Sex

You do not know how many times over the course of 15 years I have heard the phrases "I like sex," "Do you like penis?", "Do you eat vaginas?" and almost every time it's typically a boy between the ages of 10 and 15 and they come to you and expect you to react in an explosive way.  I typically just laugh or ignore that silliness and the lack of response usually nullifies future behavior.  But I have heard the gambit of sex talk from kids.

Take last week for example when I was at an elementary school.  I visit this school once every other week and have a pretty good relationship with the kids.  In the toilet I was approached by two boys and one comes up to me and just say "Penis".  Then he says, "Do you have a penis?"  I had just taught them the phrase "Do you have ~~?"  And "How many ~ do you have?"  So I was thrilled he was using the phrases correctly.  This time I pretended to misunderstand his English and replied "No I'm sorry I don't have any pretzels."  To this both boys laughed and ran off thinking I didn't have a penis.

But I have had kids ask me if I like vaginas, how many girlfriends I have done it with, do I like boobies (they say opai in Japanese) or if I like anuses.  I have really heard all sorts of weird and strange stuff and I just chalk it up to kids being curious, hormone changes and the lack of proper sexual education in Japanese schools.  Sex is a taboo subject and by making it taboo you get kids that are directed to use those words.  Their regular teachers never talk to them about these subjects and kids often view the foreign teacher as a person they trust and can chit chat with due to the rarity of time that I get a chance to see them. 

They even often look up the words in a dictionary so they can come to me and ask me if I like it.  I had a kid the other day ask me do you like a clitoris... Part of me thinks it is great they are attempting to use English and look up words in a dictionary and use patterns of English that I have taught them but another part things it's totally inappropriate to use these words openly and in the way they do.  So I tend to applaud their use of English but ignore, or reprimand perverted conversation.  These are just some of the weird things you have to deal with as a foreign language teacher in Japan. 

Sports Day Training: A Teacher's Nightmare

Japanese kids and teachers really put an exorbitant amount of effort into preparing and training for Sports Day.  Sports Day is basically a day of track and field with some games and performances thrown in the mix to make it an all day event for parents to come and see.  Many members of the community, elders and city officials also usually show up for this event.  There is music, marching, class flags, a brass band, and many many sweaty and hot kids, parents and teachers moving around frantically to put on this all day long program.

Teachers take weeks to prepare for this day. For example this year my junior high Sports Day begins on June 6th but preparation for it began back in April.  Teachers, especially PE teachers and homeroom teachers are running at full pace two weeks before the even begins.  Training is every day for at least 2 hours for each grade level.  The final week kids and teachers do one full day practice, and then several rehearsals thereafter before the big day.  So by the time the full day event comes everyone is completely on board with the program. Kids are trained and drilled to step and march in time, to sit, walk, and move synchronously and to keep things flowing smoothly and fluidly.  It's on par with something you'd see out of the North Korean military!

It is an intense, exhausting time and typically the sun zaps away your energy, burns you to a crisp and leaves you feeling lethargic and out of commission.  The really fun thing is after the sports day, teachers usually gather for a beer drinking binge to throw away the stress.  I've done this for about 15 years and at first I thought it was a complete waste of time, but over time I realize it has merits for Japanese society and I think that is why many in Japan hold on to Sports Day as a cultural and ideological asset.  But man does it suck and make you exhausted!