|Coverage Dates: Sunday March 25th - Sunday April 8th|
Entry: New Evolution - Episode 1
It's the start of a new season!! The 6th season, to be exact, but I'm gonna take a cue from Pokemon and go with naming my seasons, as opposed to just numbering them, because... that's what Japan does.
Since the last entry I submitted, a whole lot of stuff has happened, which is surprising considering that we haven't even had a single full day of school in the two weeks since. Well, not "school" school, at least. I did went to the jidoukan supervision thing, which during Spring Vacation, turns into an all-day thing. The first week was official duty for me (yeah, they made me work during a time when most ALTs get a free break, but I was probably going to be dropping by most days anyway, so no big deal). It was perfect anyway because it would be the last few days in which I would get to spent with my 3rd-graders before they "graduated" from the program.
Well, with the ones who showed up during this time, at any rate. A lot of them had other arrangements which allowed them to spend their vacation with their families or whatnot. But at least all 21 of them showed up on Friday for the official final day ceremony... figures, though, my favoritest of them all was out sick. Karin-chan had been there all week, but she started to feel sick on Thursday, so she and her sister went home early that day. Her sister came back for Friday, but Karin did not.
Oh well, at least they were there for the "fun day" we had on Monday. The jidoukan staff hired a group of entertainers (or maybe they were volunteers doing some kind of "community service" (the good kind, not the court-ordered kind, haha)) to come in a play some organized games with the kids. The 45-50 kids we had that day were split into 3 groups. I somehow got put in charge of the group that was made up of all girls (and one boy). I guess the teachers all assumed that the girls will listen to me without issue (which they did, haha, they're so sweet), so it was no trouble leaving them to me.
The first game was some kind of oversized "Karuta" game. It's a traditional card-search game where each card has a picture of some haiku or poem or saying marked with a hirigana symbol. The players race each other to find the card that is announced.
After that it was off to make miniature hovercrafts using plastic bags and decorated squares of cardboard. All the girls were screaming for my attention during this. I had hovercrafts being shot at me from all directions, haha.
There was another activity that involved making towers out of papercups, and then something going on in the next room that I didn't get to see. The group was pretty adament about being there for just one hour and not a second longer. Geez... so much for being fun and whimsical. Maybe they were there by court-order, haha.
The rest of the week was the usual funny nonsense. Of my group of 1st-grade girls who cling to me, only Mone-chan and Ako-chan were there every day. Ibuki-chan also was hanging out with us, which I guess was out of necessity since none of the other girls from her class were attending this week. I remember one day they made cellphones out of paper and used them to call my real cellphone just to tell me that they had become ghosts!!!!
My screams of terrorifed surprise made them giggle with madness. What macabre sense of humors they all have.
After the first week, I was given the weekend, followed by bonus days off on Monday and Tuesday (it was the jidoukan's official break), to have has my mini-vacation. I used the time to visit Tokyo for no reason other than to just enjoy 3 days of city-life. I'll talk more about that later.
The New Contract BeginsWednesday was my first day of officially working directly for the village. There was actually a small ceremony for it in the office, haha. The Education Director presented me with an official employment certificate good until March 31st of 2013. I also got to meet the man who will serve as the ALT coordinator for this year. He seems cool and laid-back... despite the tall lanky office-dronishness of his appearance.
I also had the... lovely... pleasure... of working with the new (well, technically old, since she was here 12 years ago) English education advisor. She's like a Japanese version of Ellen Degeneres, which is terrible because I actually LIKE Ellen. She's one of those new-age spiritual kooky nuts who goes at her own flow... which is wonderful for getting along with... when she is in the mood to actually work.
On Wednesday, she was in the mood to work. Or... well... collect and sort materials.
On Thursday, the day she was supposed to sit down with me to train me on how to USE the materials... she apparently didn't feel like working. In fact, she didn't even show up at all. I had to be at school for the opening ceremonies and meeting the new teachers, so I didn't have time to work with her then. So now I'm really really hoping that Monday and Tuesday I don't have any lessons scheduled because as of this weekend right now, I have no lesson plans.
On Friday, when I sat down with the 5th and 6th-grade homeroom teachers, they were surprised, shocked, and stressed to find out that they were the ones in charge of teaching English this year. They begged me to take the lead role, but I told them that the Board of Education was very adament in their decision that the HRTs were in charge this year.
I've written numerous times on why I hate the Japanese system of teaching English, so I won't go off on a tangent this time. Look, I understand WHY they want the homeroom teachers to be the ones to take the lead, and it's mainly because ALTs are technically only hired to be assistants, plus they are only meant to be here for a short term, so the system they want needs to be designed for longevity. However, I think whenever an ALT volunteers on their own to take things to a higher level, the government shouldn't stand in their way. It puts a cap on creativity and really limits what English can be learned and used in the classroom settings.
Plus I really really hate the cirriculum that is being pushed by the Ministry of Education. It's a huge emphasis on short phrases and "communication," none of which are necessary at such a young age. Building vocabulary and learning to pick out the keyword of sentences should be the basis of English education for children. But no one in the office wants to listen to me, despite the homeroom teachers proclaiming to them what a perfect system I have to offer.
Japanese conformity at it's finest. We're all going to learn the same thing, the same way, and that's that. Hell, they told me that games and stickers are even to be pushed to the side. Way to take all the fun out of life. English is now just another thing to be learned, and not enjoyed.
Well, I did tell the teachers that if they want, we can still do the "sticker chance!!!" vocabulary activities as a 10-minute exercise at the start of each class. When I said that to them, they were so happy, haha. One even applauded... like... literally.
I should also mention at least one saving grace in this mess is that apparently the 1st-grade and 2nd-grade classes will start off with the same lessons, as will the 3rd-grade and 4th-grade classes... meaning I technically only need to teach 4 different lessons each week.
Introducing the New StaffES-1 had a major shake-up this year when it came to teachers transferring out. And not only that, but with 12 classes being reduced down to 10, a lot of shuffling was made. Amoung the changes:
- the 1st-grade class is reduced to one group of 29 students... mostly boys. Their teacher is a new one to us, but she's a lot older so hopefully she has some awesome veteran tricks to use to keep the peace. Good luck to her!!!
- the 2nd-grade classes will stay exactly the same. Same students in each of the two classes, same teachers in command of each. Should be a smooth transition.
- the 3rd-grade classes are being combined!!! It's not such a bad thing, though, since I taught them together as one group often last year, and they behaved quite well despite the large size. I know one of the teachers is on maternity leave this year, but I wonder if they would have combined the classes regardless of that.
- the 4th-grade classes will stay the same as far as students go, but the teachers changed slightly. 4-1 will still have the same teacher they had last year (which earned a hilarious groan from some of the kids during the assignment announcement ceremony, haha), but the 4-2 students will get last year's 4-2 teacher.
- the 5th-grade classes will have the most major changes. This school system changes the student rosters around every two years, so this year, the classes will stir around. Last year's 5-1 teacher will stay at her level, while 5-2 will get one of the new teachers... another "veteran" teacher.
- the 6th-grade classes will stay the same, but the teachers are changing for them. Last year's 6-2 teacher (the only male teacher in this school) now becomes the 6-1 teacher. 6-2, however, gets the new, young, cute female teacher!!! And this is good for me because 5-2 was my "attendant" class last year, which is what I call the class I am unofficially the co-teacher of. Of course, I'm so busy that I rarely got to do anything extra with them.
We did have some support-staff changes (like a new school.. nutritionist? Srsly, why does every school in Japan need a nutrionist??), but the biggest move was the changing of our principal. The last guy was friendly, but very very recluse. He spent all day in his office, only saying "good morning" to me, and nothing else. This new guy is totally friendly, and best of all... he can speak English!! Or, well, enough English, haha. He seemed pretty excited about talking to me numerous times throughout the day. I hope he's not getting his hopes up about all the wonderful conversations we'll be having, because I don't think he realizes how busy I am going to be over the next few months.
And speaking of which...
All Those ExtrasSo we did have an ALT/English-education meeting with the BOE officials last week. A few things popped up...
1) the evening eikaiwa classes will be starting soon. Oh goody, now I get to work at night, too!! Wonderful..... Sigh, oh well, at least it will be a chance to work specifically with the students who WANT to speak English.
2) the village will hold a Speech Contest soon. Ugh, seriously? An English speech contest for elementary students? They can't even remember how to count to 20, how the hell is this going to work? And yes, practice is every day, after school.
3) overnight field trip to British Hills for the 6th-graders. Last year's trip was fun, but not so much fun that I wanted to do it twice. Oh well, hopefully it won't rain this time.
4) the summer trip to Australia.
... wait... what was that? We're going to ... Australia? And I'm invited, too????
A W E S O M E ! ! ! ! !! ! ! !! ! ! ! ! !
I was getting more and more pissed off as the list of responsibilites kept growing, but hearing that a trip to Australia with the junior high school students (technically not my students, but this year's 1st-year students were my 6th-graders last year, so that will be cool) would be included in my job duties made me so happy. I'm assuming it's all-expenses paid... no?
But wait, Australia is full of creepy crawlies and insects the size of baseballs. And we're going during August... oh... but August for them is actually winter, so I'll be safe, right? Right? O___O;;;;
For the record (and so my Australian readers can torment me), we'll be staying in a small community about 400kms West of Sydney, which according to this map above, is in the "fire" territory. Cool.
The Battle of the Cuteness Rages OnApologies all around. I know you come here not so much to hear about how awesome I be (that's just an added bonus), but rather to hear stories about incredible adorablenes. If it's true that cuteness increases as age decreases, then the next few weeks are gonna be overload, as a new group of 1st-graders has come to join the GTX world. Who in their right mind wouldn't be overjoyed by that???
Oh, last year's 1st-graders, that's who. It's been such a long time since I've done two consecutive years in a school that I had forgotten about how turmoltuous a year-change can be for a school. For one thing, the entire average age of the entire school drops by one. For another thing, as mentioned, the school gains a fresh new group of youngsters who have no idea what the hell is going on around them or what the rules are. It is cute for those of us observing, but for those who formerly held the ranks of "cutest in the school," it ain't so adorable.
On Wednesday, I spent most of the day organizing and shuffling teaching materials around the Board of Education office. When 3pm came, the woman working with me decided suddenly that she had had enough of all this "work" nonsense and just decided she was done for the day. Good news for me, of course, because now I can go to the jidoukan and finally see what the new roster is like over there.
I walked into the main activity room where I was immediately rushed by cutest of cutest students, who were giving off this sense of "oh god, we've been surrounded little children all day and they're driving us insane!!!!". Though it may also just have been a showing off their proper claim to me in front of their new underlings to let them know that I'm not glued to "1st-graders" but rather to them, no matter what their level is.
Of course, this didn't last long at all. Wasn't more than 3 minutes before I was being bombarded by new students (who knew me from the kindergarten anyway) wanting to play. This was not cool in the eyes of the now 2nd-graders. This sentiment grew even more when it came time for unicycle training. I had been telling the girls for the last month or two that they would need to hurry up and get their balancing down pat because once the new ichinensei came in, they would need more help than them. Apparently they thought I would be helping them forever, but nope, the harsh reality that needier, grabbier, screechier students would soon be standing in their way hit them like... like... well... a needy, grabby, screechy child.
Well, they can at least get their revenge in dodgeball, haha.
With the English advisor being a no-show on Thursday (srsly, wtf?), I just cut out stupid little paper props the new syllabus requires. I got through it faster than I thought I would. I cut half a year's worth of material in about two hours. I was sitting in the lobby of the library as I was doing this, giving the chance of a few of my now 6th-graders to come up and spy on me. When I told them that this coming year would be in the hands of the homeroom teachers and that we would be doing more textbook learning and less games, they were not happy at all.
I know, girls. Me, too. Me, too.
With the rest of the day open, I dismissed myself from office boringness to go to the jidoukan once again. The only story I took note of was one of my new 1st-grade girls showed me a blank piece of paper and told me that it was "unko" (poop). This lead to a lot of poop jokes (because I'm as mature as a 6 year-old) which were easily overheard by one of my more English-saavy 2nd-graders. She interjected a quick "everybody poops!!!!" into our conversation. hahaha, I taught her that about 6 months ago. So proud that she remembered it... and used it in appropriate inappropriate context, haha.
Friday was the first official day of the new schoolyear. I was assigned to ES-1 where I met all those aforementioned new teachers. Despite this being my 6th contract season, today was actually the first time I have attended an elementary school entrance ceremony. It was sooooo adorable seeing all the new 1st-graders wearing suits-and-ties and super adorable dresses. The ceremony itself was a little bland... amazing that the kids could sit quietly for as long as they did (though one girl did stand up and randomly darted out of the room... no idea where she went, haha).
I did stay at school long enough into the afternoon to get a decent amount of work done, though that was mainly printing out new progress charts, making sure I got all the teachers' names right, making new namecards for the new 1st-graders, and having quick sit-downs with the higher-level teachers. I made a break for the jidoukan around 2:30pm. I was hoping the new principal was still gonna be there so he would understand that this is what I tend to do, but he was long gone. Oh well.
The most important thing worth noting about the jidoukan is that not only did we get a new group of 1st-graders, but also a few other students were randomly added in, particularly Yuuri-chan, who is a girl in the now 3rd-grade class at ES-2. She is a bit of an outsider in her class, but she absolutely loves me, so this could be interesting. Actually, it's a good chance for her to try to build a better relationship with the "cool" girls in her class who are always picking on her.
Oh, that reminds me. In the week I spent every day with the jidoukan students, the tsundere girls who always aggratave me were being less and less obnoxious. They were asking me tons of questions about my name, which AKB48 girls I liked, Okayama... and more interestingly, they wanted to play with my phone... or rather, the camera. I didn't check it until later that night, but those four girls took about 23 photos of the most random things you could find around a school... all blurry, of course. -_____-
Now that they are the "leaders" of the after-school program, here's hoping that they will grow up a little and stop being such little terrors. I learned from the "Sayonara" Party I had with the teachers at ES-2 early in the vacation that their new homeroom teacher was going to be the former 6th-grade teacher. This is actually what I had hoped would happen, because I think she will be a lot tougher on them and not let them get away with the craziness they were dishing out to their poor 2nd-grade HRT.
I finished off my week at the jidoukan by busying the kids with a marble ramp I made for them out of Legos. What? Legos can be made into things which can be played with OTHER things??? A whole new world has just been opened up to these kids!!
Tokyo Adventure #... 7? 8? (I've lost count)This was the first time I went to Tokyo with absolutely nothing on my itinerary. I just wanted to go live in a city for 3 days. I wanted to shop, walk around, ride the trains, and eat at restaurants with ease*. I've pretty much done and seen everything that really need to be seen... except for visiting a maid cafe, but that had to be postponed because my friend who was supposed to hang with me got sick right at the end of the week.
* Ueno has a Hard Rock Cafe, Shibuya has a TGIF Fridays and an Outback Steakhouse
So I mainly just did what I usually do... walked around Akihabara, rode the trains, swung by Odaiba, went to Tokyo Tower, and just ate and ate. Akiba was a bit of mess this time around. Terrible Saturday weather aside, one of the major buildings right on the ekimae (station front) has been torn down and is undergoing reconstruction. Inside that shop used to be my favorite store in the whole district, this second-hand TCG shop called "Card Kingdom." I didn't even notice that they had just relocated across the street until the end of Sunday (I was their last customer of the weekend... and then they were closed all day on Monday!!!). Oh well, didn't stop me from still dropping about $75 on cards this trip. What? It's my only vice here, haha.
I was also disappointed in this week's array of "art shows/events." Usually the Anime Center at UDX Crossfield has art shows, but looks like they only do their major ones during Golden Week in May. In fact, this year's will be a sequel to what they showed last year, the Eshi 100 Event. Dang it.
Even Art Jueness, a great gallery right on the main road, was just doing an "encore" showing of the same guy I had seen the year before.
Over the course of 3 days, I managed to visit prety much every shop in Akihabara. My observation is this season's biggest battle is between Puella Magi Madoka Magica and K-On!. As someone who has seen both, I can say that K-On! wins objectively for quantity (2 tv seasons, 4 volumes of 4-koma collections, and 1 movie), though Madoka wins subjectively for quality (better story, better art, better character design, more in-depth character personalities, and gasp!! BETTER MUSIC!!!). K-On! doesn't hold a candle to Madoka, and yet, in the sheer volume of things, they are even. Boooooo!!
Oh well, I did get to drop by the new AKB48 Official Shop/Cafe. It was so crowded that there was a line just to get in. But then again, the shop itself was actually quite miniscule. I did have a chance to ask the clerk if she could identify the AKB girl in the photo I had in my wallet... this pic I show all my students when they ask me who my girlfriend is, haha. None of us can tell which girl she is, though. I thought it was Mayu Watanabe, but the clerks thought it was Miho Miyazaki. hmmmm...
Aside from a small shop and a rather large cafe, the place also had a thing called the "AKB Theater." It was set up like a tiny concert venue with tables, but it is used mainly as a movie theater... with a bitchin' sound system. Well, for $30, I wasn't sure what I was getting. Too expensive for a movie, too cheap for an actual live performance. It was kinda in the middle, I suppose you could say. It was a movie, but with the sound system set up like a live show, it was as close to a live performance as we could get. Well, at least the cute attendants wearing AKB-ish uniforms were real. There was also a free buffet involved.
So while I was a little disappointed that I didn't get to meet any actual AKB48 members, the universe made it up to me. On Sunday, I was wandering around Odaiba when I randomly decided to stop inside the MegaWebb Toyota museum thingy they have right in the center. I walked in just in time to catch a live promotion mini-concert performance by some other cute-girl mega-group... this one with a maid theme to it, haha. Afilia Saga East is apparently their name.
The concert was super adorable, but as expected, no photos were allowed. I did buy whatever CD they were promoting, which earned me a free meet-and-greet ticket to go up on stage and have a quite 1-minute conversation with each of them, but I was feeling kinda virusy-contagiousy from whatever I caught on the busride down. Being the nice guy that I am, I decided not to make an entire group of kawaii Japanese 20-somethings sick.
Karma, you owe me!!!!
Now if you don't mind, I'm just gonna take a stroll through Ueno Park...
Okay... well, this kinda makes up for it. Damn, Japan, even your cats are adorable!!! Next time make it a cute girl stuck in a tree, then we'll be square. :D
Until next time... see you!!
P.S. I started watching Accelerated World since that's what Akiba was pushing the most. It's pretty good, based on the 1st episode.