Elementary School

It has gotten markedly easier for my elementary pupils to win stickers as of today.

I have an introduction to The United Kingdom (which is really four countries: pause for gasps and cries of `honto?`) which I have now done for over four hundred pupils; only five hundred more to go, this is taking so long because two of the three elementary schools I go to do not really want to teach English and so keep finding ways of getting out of me coming on Thursday afternoons. Even if I did go to those schools for the whole three hours that they have to put up with me I’m fairly sure that, since I teach each class individually it would take me until December to finish giving my introductions. As it is it’ll be February.

In anycase. During my introduction I tell the pupils that they already know famous people from the United Kingdom. Any class under 4th years (9 years old and below) will immeadiately turn to each other and start saying ‘whats she on about?’, ‘I think sensei`s gone mad’, ‘I don’t know anyone English’ (classes above this age will all start shrieking `BECKHAM!!!!!!!!` at the top of their lungs). In any case I’ll coax them into mentioning Beckham (‘Maybe a famous football player’….’Huh? American football?`…`No in the UK we call soccer football`…’A famous soccer player?’) and Harry Potter (‘A famous English book’….’We can’t read English’…’No but you’ve read the translation’….’A book? You mean hon?’…’Yes hon, you might have seen the movie too’…’There are three movies and five books’)

Then I say `And you know a group of musicians from England too`. At which any group of Japanese children above the age of 7 are so well trained by their parents/ grandparents that they all scream on cue: BEATLES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If they’re a little young some prodding usually gets it out of them; this prodding tend to be the class teacher bursting into song. And of course my name being what it is I have to grin and bare it. In the case of first years I generally ask if sensei knows (and the sensei is usually bursting to tell me….and all about their first ever Beatles experience; about three of my teachers have been to concerts/saw one of the fab four once and one even has Johns autograph! Well it excited me.

However one of them really made my day. And this descended into every class today getting more stickers than they ever have before.
I said `And you know a group of musicians from England too` and this class, who were really quiet and had actually got into the habit of putting up their hands (more I think from sheer shyness than anything else) didn’t shout out so I pointed to the enthusiastic little lad at the back.

He said ‘Queen’.
It took me so much by surprise that I spent three seconds thinnking ‘huh he thinks I was asking about the monarchy?’ and then he says ‘With Feddy Merucury’ and I could have kissed him! As it was my reaction was so enthusiastic he looked scared til I gave him about three stickers.

Apparently Queen songs are being used in a popular anime soundtrack at the moment.
The word got around after class though and so every class ended up having stickers. I am beginning to wonder if my expectations have lowered too drastically. You get taught doing teacher training to always go in with high (realistic) expectations to give the class something to work towards. Everyone who’s formerlly been a teacher that I’ve spoken to on the JET scheme, expecially those who’ve come from American High Schools seems to think that Japanese children don’t perform up to par especially in terms of behaviour but also in terms of achievement as well.

I can’t believe that my schools are that out of touch with the rest of Japan but the kids behaviour seems great to me and the academic performances are brilliant witrh one of two exceptions. Mostly I’m impressed with the sheer responsibility of the kids, my theories about ‘give them responsibility and they’ll act responsible’ seem to be born out in Japan. I’m worried that when people say ‘what you think your kids are great’ and I say ‘yes’ what I’m actually saying is ‘yes’ *thinks* ‘no ones threatened me with physical violence yet’.

I’m going to expect great things of my third years (fifteen years old) tommorrow. And I’m going to expect them to be polite all the way through class instead of being amazed when they are…I wonder if I can expect more?

4 thoughts on “Elementary School

  1. Actually in Japan from kids below the age of ten yes it is. In England it’s realatively surprising that a kid below the age of ten knows Queen too. But in Japan, its not their first language, despite English being cool and though they might later start listening to American Pop (oh you’d love the amount of Avril Lavigne fans in the chugakko!) at that age they still listen to mostly what their parents are into at the moment. I’m in rural Japan and Queen isn’t played on the radio, George Michael yes but Freddy seems to be missing out. Now theres any number of Queen selections at the karaoke places so someones listening but not these kids.
    They’re just that little bit young for Queen and to be honest musically Japan seems to be a very fashion concious society. Queen is old therefore not too many people listen to it or even bother to remember it. (Plus you get that same damn annoying response from Japanese people in their late teens/ early twenties as you do from Brits: What? Oh you mean that song from Waynes world/ Oh the football song?

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