Friday, September 20, 2013

Diary of an ALT- Elementary School

7:15 - Woke up. Laid in bed for 15 minutes, checking Facebook and judging my friends for posting pictures of food and their pets. Ate Cheerios.

7:50 - Left the house for school.  Had to take off and put on my shoes 5 times as I kept forgetting items I needed for the day. Swore at the genkan. Swore to leave all my stuff in the genkan for the next day, just as I have sworn to do every day since arriving in Japan.

8:10 - Arrived at my beautiful shogakko as the rain was beginning to let off. Upon recognizing me, the first graders shouted my name and leaned out the door, calling out "Good Morning!" in Japanese. Moments later I receive a warm welcome from the staff room and my JTEs approach me to plan for the day's lessons.

8:25 - 9:30 - I found a can of coffee on my desk and decided to drink it so I could ride the caffeine and work through my Japanese textbook and workbook before the sleepies caught up with me. I surprised myself by staying focused most of the time.

"Uh... we gotta do it again. Why? Because he keeps doing 'The Monkey'"
9:30 - 10:20 - I had no classes and no plan, so I joined the first graders in the gym as they practiced their dance for the upcoming Sports Day. I amused myself by making faces at them whenever their dance brought them close enough to allow me to do so. They laughed and lost their focus, so I managed to disrupt the dance several times this way.

10:20 - 10:35 - During the 15 minutes morning break I was dragged back to the classroom by the first years. They formed a circle around me and began climbing me like a jungle gym, begging me to pick them up in twos and threes (at the same time). Eventually they managed to pull me down and off my feet again. We then spent the rest of the break discussing what to do but never actually doing anything.

10:40 - 11:25 - One of my JTEs was away on a business trip, so I had to teach the fifth grade class by myself for the first time. Initially I felt a few nervous pangs about it, but I settled into the groove and fortunately they didn't tear me apart like they could have. During the "chants" section of class where the kids sing along with a song from the computer, several young drama enthusiasts acted out parts of the song. I was delighted to see them drop into an imitation of Rodin's "The Thinker" while pretending to ponder whether or not they actually liked lemons.

11:30 - A fifth grade boy discovered I would carry him if he jumped on my back like an enraged hobbit. He wrapped his arms around my throat and his legs around my torso. Unfortunately he was tall enough that he kept kicking me in the testicles whenever he did the giddyup motion with his feet. I tolerated it as long as possible, but eventually I shrugged him off and went somewhere to be alone with my thoughts.

Kumi Taiso (at sports day)
11:40 - 12:30 - Got the chance to go outside and watch the kids perform kumi taiso (group gymnastics). They did a variety of impressive feats of balance, strength, and dexterity, but my attention was quickly snagged by a small child, out with some adults on what appeared to be a playdate, rolling around on the ground and shrieking at the top of his lungs. Myself and a few other teachers initially thought maybe he had been hurt, since he was sprawled across a parking space in a tangle of limbs. But his caretakers seemed dismissive and unworried so I guessed it was a regular occurrence. I glanced away, and when I looked back a little girl in a long dress waddled up to him and stared inquisitively. Something seemed strange about her dress, so I strained my eyes and saw that she had actually just dropped trou, and her pants were around her ankles. "Holy crap." I muttered, wiping my face with my hand.

12:30 - Lunch begins! Today I ate with the first graders. When I arrived, the kids began muscling each other and asserting their dominance in bids to get me to sit at their table. But I know not to play favorites, so I always throw up my hands and look at the homeroom teacher. She set me at a table with two boys and two girls, one of whom asked me to quiz her about English words. Throughout the meal, the kids kept yelling to me "Hey Spencer sensei! Do you want to play with us outside after lunch?". I agreed, so after lunch the kids gathered around me and sternly instructed me not to leave until they got back from putting the lunch gear back in the kitchen. When we had assembled, the party consisted of myself and a group of 6 girls. They pulled me upstairs and to my surprise, wanted me to read to them from books written in English. They pulled out "Where is Spot?", a book I had read to them as a class before. We formed a half circle and one of them sat on my knee to help turn the pages. They got tired after a bit of the English version, so I did my best to translate on the fly for them. When we finished the book, they took me by the hand and lead me to the staff room, where we picked up another book and repeated the activity in their classroom.

1:30 - We had a short bit of cleaning before we began relay practice. I picked up a broom and helped sweep one of the classrooms.

1:35 - In the gym, some of the kids had a practice relay. I sat on the floor next to a student who was not participating, and we took a few pictures of the runners. The relays at the elementary school are not as exciting as the middle school ones, but the kids still ran their hearts out, long black hair flowing out behind them as they ran (for the girls, anyway).

1:50 - Exhausted from lunch and playing with the kids, I decided to sit in the staffroom for a while and recoup. I drank a little water and began to read the news. Periodically I glanced up from the computer screen to look out the window. Outside, another class was practicing for sports day out on the school grounds. Behind them, lush healthy mountains rose, the lines on thier summits standing out sharply against the bright blue sky. Thick, white clouds drifted by, and the kids fanned themselves and grinned up whenever the shadows floated over. I couldn't help but feel a disconnect between what I was reading and what I was seeing. I stared outside and reflected on whether I was worried that the world is passing me by, or relieved to be hidden from it.

3:20 - I heard the tinkling of bells in the hallway. This meant that the younger kids were already leaving -- the bells on thier backpacks are supposed to be a deterrent for animals and a warning for traffic when they cross the road. It also has the added effect of making them look a little absurd in a cute way. I left the staffroom and waited for them to come out to put thier shoes on. I said goodbye to everyone as they passed and a few kids stopped and asked me to cram some projects in their backpacks so they won't have to carry them. Then we went through the routine where they ask if we can play together again the next day. I've been reminding them every time that I will be at a different school the next day, but they always ask me anyway. This lets me know that they're not telling me they want to play tomorrow, but that they had fun playing today. Because if they can't remember that I won't be here, then they wouldn't remember that we had agreed to play. They're like goldfish.

3:30 - I headed back into the staffroom to wait out the remaining 30 minutes. I stared outside and felt a lazy sleepiness pass over me. I thought about everything I had done during the day and felt satisfied. Despite all the punches and near-pantsings I had to endure, I also got to take care of and play with some really good kids. My mind slipped into thoughts about dinner, and I realized with a laugh that my life is boring. Sweet, sweet, perfect boredom, where my days pass like a dream with little stress, and the biggest decision I have to make is whether to throw rock, paper, or scissors, and what to eat for dinner.

1 comment:

  1. Always throw paper first. I just made your days a little easier.