Culture Notes

I feel like this week is off to a good start. Yesterday I taught three classes, with my favourite JTE (who is really good fun! He lets me do a lot in the classroom and enjoys when the student’s are laughing and joking with me, unlike my other JTE who is more strict and by the book). All three classes were morning classes, and the grade 2’s of the Junior High. They are my favourite because they know just enough English that we can communicate, but they aren’t the oldest students, so they aren’t too cool to talk to the new teacher (me). They even told the JTE after class they thought I was cool and a lot of fun! So I was happy. I had kids playing “rock, paper, scissors” to see who would get to talk to me first after class! After lunch I was watching the dance club – I have been sitting in on their practices for something to do, they are really good and fun to watch, and the dance teacher said, “okay, we are done, bow to your teacher”, so half of the kids turned to bow to the dance teacher, which is what they usually do, and the other half turned to the back of the room, to me, and yelled “Rachel-sensei!” and bowed to me. I thought that was so funny! The dance teacher is super nice, and he said he likes having me come to the club, because the students get really excited to show off their dance, so they dance better! After school was done, and I was watching the kids practice for Sports Day, one of the girls from the dance club came up to me and asked if I would let her teach me the dance so that I could dance with them! They perform on Sports Day for the parents and want me to participate!

Today I had two lessons. Both are with the more strict JTE (although the other JTE helps out in the 3rd year class too, meaning there are 3 of us teachers to all the students!). She is still nice, but there is a little less room for improvisation in her classroom. After the first class though, she asked me to come up with an activity for teaching “do” and “don’t” (i.e. Talk, Don’t Talk – was the example she gave), which I am excited for, because this means I actually have to DO something! So I have made up a bunch of different worksheets as an activity in which the students have to say “do __” or “don’t do __” depending on their worksheet, and find partners whose instructions match. A bingo-type inspired game, but the kids will also learn vocab, like, “don’t cry” (written underneath an image of someone crying, but with an X through it), and “watch TV” written underneath an image of someone watching TV. Anyway, hopefully it goes over well and the students enjoy it.

After lunch I went and met the girl who asked me to join dance club, and she taught me some of the dance! Since I had been watching them these last fews days I could pick it up pretty quick, and in terms of language I feel working with the kids helps my Japanese and their English equally, as we both struggle in each others native languages. Its a lot of fun and a ton of the kids, upon seeing us practicing, came to join in and some just to watch. Eventually we had built up quite the audience. I am glad the kids are getting comfortable enough with me to include me in this stuff, because it definitely makes the day much more fun! A lot of the other teachers just hang out in the staff room, happy for the break, but since I have less work, I’d much prefer hanging out with the kids during breaks! I can tell a lot of them are becoming much less shy, and are approaching me more often, so that’s good!

I also will probably stay late after school today again too, to watch practice for Sports Day and perhaps learn my new dance with the dance club. It’s funny that I am always the last to get to school and the first to leave (out of all the teachers AND students!). Technically my working hours are from 8am-3:45pm but I always get to school at 7:50 and stay until 4:30, and like I said, I am always last to arrive and first to go. The dedication everyone has to school here is unique to Japan. School activities are required for most students, and most teachers run their own club (baseball, dance, tea ceremony, etc etc etc), which run after school for several hours. Students socialize during these club activities, instead of in Canada where kids go home right after school and then linger around the mall, play video games, or do whatever else (probably getting into trouble). I suspect this is why kids have such different attitudes here. They are kept so busy with clubs and activities (which they enjoy!) that they don’t have time to come up with ideas on bad things to do (like vandalize, steal, or whatever else, out of boredom). Kids here are, for the most part, very different than kids at home. I often see teenagers giving up their seats on the train to the older or younger passengers. Young kids (as in barely able to walk kids) are sent to the supermarket alone, 1000 yen bill in hand, to pick up an ingredient for supper, or to send a letter in the post office. I see this regularly, and each time it astonishes me because you wouldn’t see that at home. That small child would have that bill taken from him, by an older child. I have never seen anyone give up their seat to anyone on the subway in Toronto. These small things I see daily always make me happy and are another reminder of why I love Japan.


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