About Today

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Today was a mixed day. I was happy, frustrated, relieved, proud, stressed, anxious… and a bunch of others. The whole gamut.

I woke up with the sun at 4am, feeling pretty energetic. I probably owed that to the 8 hours of sleep I got Saturday night. I did random stuff, had breakfast, called my mom, got ready for work, made my lunch… Before I knew it, it was time to go to work.

My train to go to my school visit wasn’t until 10am, but I had to go into the office. They don’t let me just chill at home, so I went in before my school visit for a while, from about 8:15-9:20am. A little over an hour. My friends’ schools don’t require them to show their faces before or after their school visits, but my office is a little strict. I can ride my bike there now, so it isn’t that big of a deal to ride up to the office and then back to the station (my home is right near the station). It was, however, a bigger inconvenience when I had to trudge in the snow.

I felt a little overwhelmed returning to my busy office. I said my “Good Morning!” greeting as I walked in and no sooner did I set my backpack down did my supervisor turn to talk to me. I hadn’t even sat down! He gave me my new teaching schedule for the next year (until December). I think the total school visits came out to 88. Then he had to talk to me about the abolishment of the Japan Alien Registration System and how he was going to take care of my new resident card for me. And then he asked me to write my term goals (to be reviewed in June). All employees in my office are required to do a job evaluation/goal sheet that is reviewed with the big boss later on in the year. I think this is pretty normal for most jobs. My office takes it very seriously.

At around 9:20am I packed up my things and biked back to the train station. I got there early, so I chatted with friends on my phone for a while. Thank goodness for instant messaging apps. They make me feel like I have my friends in my pocket wherever I go.

After I arrived, I still had to walk a good 20 minutes up to the school. As I arrived, I saw my friend and her husband working on their garden and vegetable field next to their house. They are growing all of my favorite things! Later I want to come help them with the upkeep of the garden.

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I gave her a hug since we had not seen each other in a long time and she asked me to come over for tea after my school visit was over. I smiled as she called after me: “Do your best!”

I heard a “Hello!” from the crowd of students lined up in the activity field in front of the school. They were doing morning exercises and practice for the upcoming school sports festival. I had a meeting with the 6th grade teacher, who sounded not too happy at being chosen to teach 6th grade again. I guess she was hoping to have been assigned a different grade this year. It’s not like America where you are a ___th grade teacher and that’s what you do. Japanese elementary school teachers don’t really get to pick what grade they teach and it could change every year.

Then I had a meeting with the 5th grade teacher, which caused me to worry. On my dispatch sheet it had said that the school would prepare all the materials for the lessons. But it looked like the heads had not spoken to one another because the 5th grade teacher was like, “So do you have any picture cards?” It was then that she realized the mistake. She apologized, but I thought that I should have brought teaching materials just in case. Always be prepared. I kicked myself internally for not bringing things. So it was then that I thought she was disappointed in me and nervous about how the class was going to go. I felt stupid, wracking my brain. With 15 minutes left to spare before class, I got the idea for a game and ended up making some cards for an activity that saved the day. So the class I had been nervous for turned out a success.

I ate lunch in the office with the principal, vice principal, and misc other staff. It was then that I met the office’s new assistant, a recent high school graduate from Akita Prefecture. I forget his name, but he was insanely tall. One of the little girls called him Fuji-san, like the mountain. 188 cm/6’2”. And shy. And 18 years old. I was SO surprised. The vice principal reminded me that just last month he had been a high school student… Made me feel OLD. Anyways, this kid and I played basketball with a few of the kids in the gym during afternoon recess. That was pretty fun.

Then it was the 6th-grader class. It was my first time teaching with the new textbook and I am preliminarily saying that I don’t like it. The class was uninspired and the kids were bored. I should have prepared something extra. (Again, kicking myself.)

The class is made up of about 8 boys and exactly 2 girls. A lot of the boys could care less about English and it shows. They were also a little rude to the homeroom teacher.

This one kid kept on saying, “Huh? What do I say? What do I say? What are we doing? Huh? Wha?” whenever he was asked a question. Totally clueless and not caring. I realize I can’t make them care, but at least the kids can pretend to pay attention in class.

There was this one moment where I was coming around to each of the kids, one-by-one, and asking them when their birthday was in English. I was trying to help this kid with the correct pronunciation of his birthday and he refused to even try. He kept on saying his birthday in Japanese-ified English. It may as well have been Japanese that he was speaking because I knew that no native English speaker could have understood what he was saying. So the homeroom teacher asked him nicely to try to copy my accent. I tried to coach him on how to form his mouth to make the English sounds and he refused to even look at me. He kept on looking at the homeroom teacher and saying, “Can’t do it… It’s impossible… Huh? …What?… Can’t do it.” Finally the homeroom teacher just gave me a forced smile and told me to move on to the next student.

Of course I smiled through it all and didn’t let my frustration show. But I was disappointed and felt helpless. I felt ignored. Thanks a lot, kid.

The rest of the class was, as I said, uninspired. I realized that this is my fault too and I learned a lesson today: Always bring more fun activities and games. Even if the school tells you that they have prepared everything.

That was my last class, so I left the school and went back to my friends house, taking solace in her comforting house. She served us both tea and we talked. And talked. She offered me a bunch of yummy fruit and samples of some home-cooked dishes she had been cooking lately. I tried a few things I had never eaten before, like the actual wasabi plant. And these things called butterbur sprouts. I felt much better after staying there for a few hours. It was so cute how she went through her entire refrigerator and pantry, trying to think of food to send home with me. I never asked for anything, she just loves to give me stuff!

She and her husband were going shopping in Hirosaki anyways, so they offered to give me a ride back home. They are so nice. (The trains are really sporadic in this town, so a ride is always appreciated!) We’re going to have dinner again when I go back to that town next month to teach at the junior high school.

Now I’m back at home, thinking I should probably put some socks on because my feet are icicles. Maybe two pairs of socks. The weather was just about perfect today and I am so glad to have gotten some Vitamin D. I know it helps. Still trying to get back into the swing of things!

So that was my up and down day. No wonder I am tired.

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2 Comments to “About Today”

  1. Stacy,
    Seems like you learned a lot from this first day back teaching. Always be prepared and even over-prepared, eh? No, you can’t make the kids care but trying to make it more FUN for them would be a goal if I were you. You’re doing great. As always, you are very hard on yourself. Lighten up and have FUN with it all. It’s only another year or so and you will be on to another adventure!

  2. You will have days like tis no matter where you are teaching.Some kids
    will try to act up knowing you are new.The teacher should have been
    more supportive.Oh well keep smiling!!!!Love Nana

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