My first impression of my new Jr. high school are very mixed. The bike ride out was a lot more difficult than I remembered it being, but that probably was because it was raining and I was semi petrified about
starting over again at a Jr. high. When I arrived at the school, the vice principle and another teacher were there at the gate greeting students. They almost fainted when I greeted them in Japanese – which clearly means that my e-mail was never sent. I was escorted to my desk and then found out that there were no classes because students were doing their health checks and still had orientation. I was so glad that I biked 30+ minutes in the rain just to sit for 8 hours. So, I spent the entire morning bonding with Heisig and drawing Disney characters in scraps of paper. Midmorning, my new head English teacher, who is a very nice man, gave me my weekly schedule (OMG!) and explained that I would be eating lunch with students. This totally freaked me about because I have never had lunch with Jr. high school kids and, given my track record, was not going to be a pleasant experience.
I decided, 3 hours into my sitting fest that I should get out of the teachers’ room and walk around a little. It was then that I quickly noticed an attendance board listing the classes….all 5 of them: one 3rd year class, two 2nd year classes, and two first year classes. There are a total of 12 teachers and I am pretty sure that there are more school subjects per grade combined than there are teachers. I have the feeling that the teacher who introduced himself as “an English teacher” is probably “the English teacher.” The previous ALT’s schedules were still in the desk, and it looks like they only went to the school once a week as opposed to the two times a week I am there now.
Things started looking up after lunch. When it came time for lunch, 5 students came to get me –all of them boys. Despite being 3rd years, the way they were acting (aka in fits of giggles) reminded me of
elementary school students. Eating lunch was actually kind of fun as the kids I sat with talked with me a lot and actually tried to use English when asking questions. I was very impressed.
I was also concerned about the fact that I was not formally introduced to the teachers or the principle. The three office people are really nice and friendly. One of the women, who has a daughter my age, actually lives in my neighborhood. The teachers are also very nice, but I got the feeling that everyone is used to just co-existing with the ALT and not a “let’s get to know you” basis. Hopefully I can talk more with the
teachers so that they know I am not just there to be a tape player or “rent-a-ALT,” but I would actually like to be integrated into their school.
When I went back to the teachers’ room and did some more studying, the principle came in and formally introduced himself to me. He had been busy all day with trips to different places and a lot of other projects. I was happy that he took the time to talk with me and I gave him a bag of skittles to share with the teachers. He then asked me what my working time should consist of and I told him that I was
usually 8:15 – 4:00. He looked at the school’s schedule and said, “well, classes start at 8:45, so let’s aim for 8:30 to make sure you don’t miss first period. Technically, you should then leave at 4:15, but all student related activities are done at 4:00…so we can just ignore that.”
I love him already.
I spent my last hour talking with the office workers because they insisted I come and sit with them and drink hot tea instead of sitting in the teachers’ room. We talked about a bunch of things and then they asked me my feelings about Jr. high. I told them that I had not had much luck with Jr. high because things did not fit or match up well – whether it was students or teachers. One of the office workers
explained this new school the best: the environment is much more elementary school like.
And it is totally true. The way the principle talks and he always ends a conversation with a laugh is very similar to my elementary schools. The teacher and student interaction is also much more lighthearted and personal than the previous school. The kids are still in the “Oh my God we have a young female ALT!” phase, but I don’t see any problems at the moment.
Today was an elementary school day and I could not have had any more of a natural high. Not only were the teachers excited to see me, the students were SUPER excited to see me. My favorite handicapped student came running into the teachers’ room and sat on my lap for a few minutes first thing in the morning. We did not crack the bindings on the students new 英語ノート, but instead we did a “Katherine Quiz” where I asked students questions about me from my self-introduction they had heard in full two years ago and a shortened version last year. The current 5th graders had not heard my self-introduction since they were 3rd graders, but they still remembered a lot of details including my middle name and name of my hamster. After, we spent the rest of the time doing some prep for the coming semester which was pretty much making name tags for all the kids so I can actually call them by name. The kids got a real kick out of me walking around the room and calling them “Mr. Keisuke” or “Miss Kana.” If today is any indication of how the year is going to go, then it is going to be awesome…again.