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Easy To Say March 5, 2008

Posted by Mitch in General.

It’s almost the end of term and things are starting to draw to a close. At elementary school, I’ve bid farewell to the 6th graders as they go on to bigger and better things. That said, a hell of a lot of them are going to end up as my 1st graders at Junior High so it wasn’t like it was a tearful event.

This Saturday I’ve got to be in school by 8am, all suited and booted and ready to say goodbye to the 3rd graders at Junior High as they really are leaving – they’re off to Senior High and so I probably won’t see them again. Unfortunately, I’ve not spent as much time with them as I’d have liked, but I still chatted with them when I could. It’s not going to be emotional by any stretch of the imagination, but it’ll still be nice to give them a good send off. That said, I’m in Japan. The aforementioned ‘nice send off’ will be riddled with speeches, presentations, speeches and tradition. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing: I’ll get to catch up on my sleep…

When I was standing in front of my 2nd graders at elementary school the other day, I realised just how much potential one of these kids has. I have two 2nd grade classes at this one school and they’re both by far the most absorbent classes I see. They remember things that we covered from months ago and they’re still able to use it with very little outside help. Some of them do speak in painful katakana English, but that’s forgivable, seeing as I write in katakana on the board, them not being able to read Roman letters just yet. But not only do they pay attention in class and do everything I tell them to; they speak to me outside of the class. I was walking around the playground the other day and this little boy was just standing around and when he saw me, he came over and said “How are you?” When I responded and reflected the question back to him, he was able to say (with more fluency than students 5 years older than him) that he too was good. It’s little things like this that make the job rewarding. I decided against teaching my kids inane things such as “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” or the sounds animals make, just because of what one of the elementary school teachers said to me. “I want my kids to be able to speak English.” Being able to speak English isn’t knowing that your elbow is called your elbow and not your foot. Being able to speak English is being able to communicate with people to find out about them or to tell them about you. At least that’s what it is here. So I like to think of myself as giving the kids the basics in communicating. They can do it in Japanese (although recent studies are showing that a lot of kids here are awfully stunted in their Japanese abilities) and they’re getting the foundation blocks of another language that doesn’t seem to be seriously challenged at the moment as the World Language.

So all in all, I’m having a really good stint at this malarkey. I’m still not about to sign away the rest of my life as a teacher but, compared to that day I wrote the blog about the aimless 1st graders at Junior High, I’m loving it. Japan is brightening up as Spring approaches and to be honest, I’m ready to shuck off my winter clothes, lose my winter weight and start to prepare to come home. I had a dream the other day that I got back to England and regretted coming back as there was so much that I hadn’t done whilst in Japan. But thinking about it, what’s left to do that I haven’t already done?

  • See the Sakura (cherry blossoms) – well, I might be in Malaysia whilst they’re in bloom, but hopefully they’ll still be around by the time I get back.
  • Go to Okinawa – when my Mum and Dad come to visit in July, we’ll be heading down there to spend a couple of days on the beach.
  • Go to Tokyo again – I’m going in May.
  • Go to the North of Japan – I’m going in June.
  • See a live, cultural event – I’m going to see some yabusame (archery on horseback) when I get back from Malaysia.

And that’s pretty much it. Most of the things I wanted to do when I first arrived have been done and so, hopefully, I can return to the fatherland with no regrets.

Anyway – I’m going to sign off and carry on reading. Am working my way through Steinbeck’s East of Eden at the moment. I will, no doubt, give you my opinions on it later. I can tell you already that it’s in a totally different league to Marian Keyes and *shudder* Cecelia Ahern.

Till next time!



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