Friday, October 15, 2004

Six Kids!!!

I just found out that one of my elementary schools (Shoogakkoo) in a mountain town called Usagi (about a 45 minute bus ride from here) has only 6 students! No, that's not a typo - the whole school only has 6 students and two teachers. So next Tuesday I'll set off at 7:30am, arrive about 8:15, walk to the school (or be greeted by the students at the bus stop, as has happened at my other shoogakkoo that requires a bus trip to reach) and then entertain 8 people for 4 hours with tales of my halcyon days in San Diego. They sent a fax with the lesson plan and didn't mention anywhere the small student body size - it was only as one of my Jr High JTEs was translating some of the kanji for me that she mentioned that the school only has 6 kids.

So they'll get a lot more one-on-one with Jeison-sensei than any of my other classes get. They mention in the fax that they want me to play an "American game" with them - not quite sure what I'll think of, but if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. Another ALT mentioned "Heads up, 7 Up" at a conference a few months back, but I can't remember how to play it. Anyone? Bueller? Heck, I had to sing B-I-N-G-O six times in the last two days and I can't remember the first verse in English, but I now know it in Japanese.

I get asked all kinds of fun questions after I do my jiko shookai (Self-introduction), but today I got a new one from a 1st grader. She wanted to know what size shirts I wear (maybe her way of asking how much I weigh?) and then asked what color pants are my favourite. At least that's what I could figure out between her and the 1st grade teacher, who spoke very little English.

Common questions:
How tall are you?
Are you married/do you have kids?
Do you have a girlfriend?
What is your favourite... (insert anything here, but most commonly food, movie, animal, color, sport, etc)
Do you like Japan?
Do you like Taisha?
Do you play a musical instrument?

One 5th grader asked me yesterday if I like Bush or Kerry, which was rather insightful considering his age. One 2nd grader asked me onetime if I had a "lover" - not quite sure how to anwswer that one except to simply say "no".

Yesterday I got to hand out fake money my predecessor had made using a one dollar bill and pokemon characters instead of Washington's face. Then we went over different types of food and how to say it in English. But I had to guess based on drawings done by each class of third graders. So I'm looking at some of these drawings and scratching my head and going - is that an orange, is that a peach, is it a tangerine? One of the kids had drawn what the third grade teacher assured me was "Soup stock" and another had drawn a "croquette." A dictionary was needed on some of the items. So then the kids all had to buy items from Jason-sensei's store, bringing up their money and saying "I want fish." It was too hard to explain the need for an article like a, an or the, so I got sentences like "I want pencil." Not the best, but not too bad. Some of the kids are painfully shy, especially with my big mug in their face saying in a loud voice, "Hi - what do you want?" which sounds abrupt and almost rude to an English speaker, but if I said "What would you like?" they got all thrown off. I let them keep the fake money, so there were smiles all around at the end.

At the end of the classes I'm often mobbed by 20 to 30 very small Japanese children who love to rub my hairy arms or push on my well padded belly or try to jump up by grabbing my shoulders just out of reach. What fun. :) But I actually have a great time overall at Shoogakkoo becuase the kids are all so "genki" which means energetic and excited. The 6th graders (roku-nensei) are more sedate, perhaps anticipating their transfer to the much more serious environs of Jr High just months away, but they still sang BINGO with me and asked questions and were generally a good group as well.

This is another instance where if you had asked me one year ago, when I didn't even know what the JET programme was, if I thought I'd be in Japan at this time the next year teaching 7-year-olds how to say "radish" and "persimmon" I would've looked at you like you had just eaten too much wasabi. Just goes to show that you never know where life is gonna take you, and how much fun you'll have when you arrive.

I'm off now to practice kendo, and later tonight I'm invited to a party for the new Kendo teacher and a farewell to the transferring Kendo teacher. The party costs 7000¥ (or about $70), but that's a topic for another entry.

Be good. And eat your fruits and vegetables. ;)



Anonymous said...

The international Rules of Heads up 7-up:

7 kids line up in front of the class
The remaining kids at thier desks put their heads down with their thumbs up
Of the front seven, any combination of ,kids walk around and quietly press down the thumbs of the kids at their desk
After returning to the front of the class the kids try to guess who pressed their thumb down.
If they guess correct then they take the place of the child at the front of the class, if they guess incorrect then they have to bow there heads again in shame!!!!!

Jason H. said...

Thank you anonymous person - I think I can adapt that and have the kids ask questions in English to make it applicable to my setting.