When leaving Japan, especially if you have any built up relationships, you need to give people time to process things well in advance. Because I rotate to many different schools (usually cycling between 4 junior high schools for a week each) I have decided to tell them on the second to last cycle. For example, today I am at Oomaruchu, and I will go to this school all week. The next time I will cycle to this school will be early March, and that will be my final week for Oomauchu. I have been in the same BOE for four years and many of the kids have known me since elementary school, so it’s only fair of me to let them know as soon as I could. I’m sure most kids will be indifferent to it, but there are those who are very attached to me and I need to be fair to them most of all. At this moment I have told every school except Shomaruchu. I first start out by informing the head English teacher (i.e. My handler) and then I filter down to the other teachers. Most teachers have reacted with a kind of disbelief and a loss as to what they should say. My favorite one was when I told Ms. Eastridge yesterday. Those of you who read this blog before may remember that she really doesn’t like me very much (I still don’t know why) and when I told her she was positively giddy. So much so she was quite social as long as it revolved around me leaving. It made me laugh because it reminded me so much of what I did when my first college roommate from Boston quit University after his first year. We didn’t get along at all, and I was really happy to see him leave, but I attempted to be courteous about it. Same thing with Ms. Eastridge, so funny.
That being said I have been through almost one full rotation since I started back mid January. At Chibimaruchu, things are still pretty much running as normal. Mrs. Forrest is still getting steamrolled, but it looks like she has just accepted it. The special education kids at that school are sooooo amazing! They love studying English and they are very much into it, which would give anyone warm fuzzies. The school is close to a hospital, so they are responsible for teaching the long term kids there. Those are usually small, very mixed groups of k-12 in one class, but never numbering more than 5 students. The last time I went it was 3 young elementary school kids and one high school boy. The boy was such a kind kid, and was acting like their teacher and as a go between for me. Teaching with him as a student is really one of those “faith in humanity restored” type experiences.
At Nakamaruchu, things seem to be going well. Mr. Booker wasn’t disrespected by any of his students, and Ms, Ren was competently handling classroom management. She still has a tiny voice, so it takes a while for the kids to realize that she is speaking. At first I thought they were being disrespectful, but it was just they couldn’t hear her. I think a air-horn would improve her technique.
Like I said before, I am at Oomaruchu this week. Yesterday, I found out that the Board of Education is coming to the school along with it being an open school event for parents. I was lucky I found out yesterday at all. Last couple times this happened I was informed a few minutes before class. There have been times when no one told me and random people would walk into class. The normal class uniform for teachers tends to be running outfits and things that look appropriate in New Jersey minus the gold chains. When the BOE comes, suddenly everyone is in a full suit. It’s easy for them because they have lockers and can change in a moments notice. For me, I have to know in advance so I can at least bring a tie. I don’t go so far as to wear a track suit. What I usually wear is a short sleeved, open collared shirt (sometimes a polo), slacks and for winter, some kind of fleece pullover. So for 5th period today, I will likely have an audience. I really hate it, not because they are there, but because it throws the kids off. It’s lunch time now… A noose…ahem… Necktie has been placed around my neck and I am ready to go…
(Written the next day) the observation was all off 3 minutes if even that. 12 people piled in, watched and then went to the next class… That was it. I think I got a little insight into Ms. Eastridge though. She was extremely strict to her class that day, and it may or may not have been nerves. It dawned on me that our teaching styles may be polar opposites. My goal when I teach is to make the kids speak because of intrinsic reasons. I want them to communicate with me because they genuinely want to say something. To do this requires a good relationship with the kids, flexibility, humor, and a willingness to engage in spurious play with the kids. The opposite of this is a strict regimen of discipline, process, and rote learning. I don’t think the latter is a bad technique. Children require rules and need to know when they have crossed a bridge too far. Teachers who are stuck in the disciplinarian route sometimes lose themselves in it, and become dependent on the power and authority in that particular power structure. They often see a loose power structure as a threat to their citadel and can sometimes go on the offensive because of that perceived threat. I am going to work on that presumption for the time being. Honestly though… I am probably just overly focused on that situation and probably talking out of my ass.
One more interesting side note about Oomaruchu is Mr. Blossom. He was out for a few months because of stress. He was doing so well I thought, but the work got to him. By the work I mean administrative things and not necessarily the students. He is back now, but not doing anything. Technically he is still on leave, but he is literally just showing up anyways. He is talking to the ALT a lot while he sits around. He honestly told me that he was just making sure that everyone knew that he could still speak English. Regardless, I like the guy and I hope he gets back on the horse successfully.
Fall down twice, stand up three times.