Thursday, September 07, 2006

cards for the Blue Team

cards for the Blue Team
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So I've had lots of time on my hands at school this week. They've had virtually no classes since Monday and are letting the kids prepare for Sports Day on Friday everyday this week. They work so hard on it all, and it rained today, so I really hope it's nice on Friday and we don't have to postpone until Saturday.

With my time today I made the nifty cards you see here. I've been assigned to the Blue Team - so I got some blue construction paper, used pictures from a Marvel Comics page-a-day calendar I have and some Spongebob stationary I have, and made each student in the 3-2 San Nen Sei class (the blue team main class) a "Ganbatte" card.

I bought two bags of Kit Kats (which come in bags of 17 bars??) last night, so i was able to give each kid a card and a Kit Kat after school today and told them to do their best on Friday.

It was funny today - i was practicing the "Catch the Ball" game I'm doing and one of my JTEs asked me what I was gonna wear while throwing the ball. I said, "Well, I'll be wearing all Blue since I'm on the Blue Team this year." She said in the best indirect manner of the Japanese that it would be good if I could change clothes for the game since all the teams are involved and I'm not a member of the Blue Team while I'm doing the game. OOOKKKK - makes sense actually, but it's just something that I would never have thought about.

The other cool thing that happened today was I had a great impromptu chat with 4 of my san nen sei girls after lunch.

I was sitting on the wall by the dirt field watching my blue team go thru their dance routine, and Hiromi and Hiromi (yes -two girls named Hiromi) from the Green team came over and sat with me. We watched together for a while and started to chat about this and that. I had just seen Hiromi's older sister, Atsumi (who was my student when I first arrived in 2004), in a local eatery on Monday night, so we talked about that, and i asked the other Hiromi if she was "retired" from the Gymnastics club yet. We talked a little about last year's sports day and I asked them who was going to win this year and of course they said the Green Team. I asked them if they were a little sad since this is their last Sports Day as Jr High students and they both said yes, but also excited. I told Hiromi that this was my last Sports Day too, since I'll leave in July next year, and even though she won't even be a student at Taisha Chu next September, she looked visibly upset. I was a little touched that she was concerned and we chatted about whether I'll return to America or stay in Japan. A few other girls had drifited over, including Risa and Mizuki. So we chatted a little more before they had to go off and practice some more.

None of that probably seems that interesting to you, but I got home tonight and was looking at my pictures from the day (I've already taken like 100 pics and it's not even the real event yet) and I realized how cool it is that I can chat with the kids like that now.

You have to understand that two years ago, when I was a brand new ALT, the kids certainly wouldn't have been at ease speaking to me and I simply didn't have the Japanese language skills to hold anything approaching a conversation. You see, the entire chat I just described took place almost entirely in Japanese. I know, I know - I'm supposed to be here to promote learning English - but the simple fact is that most Jr High kids can't speak at all beyond a few set phrases and some very simple greetings.
So I've worked these past two years to get better at speaking Japanese simply so days like today can take place. It's incredibly satisying to actually be able to connect with the kids - and I'm still not even close to where I'd like to be speaking wise.

I look at pictures from two years ago, and the kids were just as genki and cute, but they are by and large just faces I briefly knew. I look at pictures of my kids now and I see beyond the face - i know that kid's name and his or her personality and so much more about them as people now.

So the simple act of sitting on a wall and chatting with a bunch of rural 14-year-olds was the highlight of my day.

I can't wait for Friday. Go BLUE TEAM!!



Patrick said...

Hello Jason,

I just read your story, and it gives me hope as an new ALT. I have one year of Japanese, but still it is a challenge to communicate with the kids.

Thank you for motivating me to study harder.


Jason H. said...

Hey Patrick -

Thanx for checking out my blog.

Yeah - it can be tough at first to try and talk with the kids. I too had "studied" Japanese for one year in college before I arrived, but I hadn't applied myself as much as I should have given the whirlwind of events surrounding my graduation and move to Japan, and I regret that now.

Even tho we are imersed in the language, you still have to study - you won't learn and advance simply thru osmosis. A good motivator for me was taking the JLPT test last year - i took level 3, which is a hard test but very doable.

Good luck with your studies - i'm sure, like me, you'll reap the rewards when you can talk to your kids and be better understood by your co-workers.


Skulla Petra Lunga said...

Go Blue Team! What a great way to spend your down time, J. The kids really look up to you.

BTW, Are you still coming back to SD for XMAS? I want to harass you in person.


jen said...

Hi Jason-

I love Sports Day! Last year I was at my small school during the prep time so it wasn't as exciting, but this year I'm at my big main school and it's awesome! This will be my last one as well and it's a little sad, the kids are so great. I like the cheer/dance/song part the best because it's all stuff that they've created themselves and it really seems to bring them together as a team. :)

I was technically put in the White Team since there are enough teachers to go around. I was thinking about what to wear too, but since that typhoon is coming this weekend (maybe), I'll probably have to just wear a jacket over it anyway! Dilemma solved!

Take care and see you at the Friendship House party,