I’ve decided, my biology is fucked. Thats all there is to it. It is not usual female body behaviour to be bleeding again, this soon after my last period…on the other hand it does seem to have stopped hurting (and thank fuck we don’t have the floods of last time).
The sakura is still beautiful at school but looks like I won’t be getting my desired photo this year; Fuji-san looms over our sports field and I had hoped to picture her framed by blossoms, as soon as the sakura came out Fuji vanished, needless to say!
There was a lovely situation after lunch when I cycled over to Saijo to drop off some paperwork (I’m trying to organise a school link scheme though whether they’ll bite or not I don’t know) and the second and third years noticed me (7 and 8 year olds).
First Show-off-boy charges up and loudly accosts me;
‘How are you?’
‘I’m good thankyou, and you?’
‘I’m fine thankyou.’
At which point he swaggers off, practically strutting in front of the mothers waiting at the gate.
Unfortunately he is totally and completely upstaged by a very, very tiny girl who has to have been to juku (cram school);
‘Do you like fish?’
‘(does double take, this kid is TINY) Um…yes, I like fish. Do you like fish?’
‘No. I do not like fish. I like a horsey.’
If only I knew whether she was talking about her favourite animal or food…
Of course the watching mothers were amazed and whispered and chattered amongst themselves, alas my Karaoke Queens weren’t present otherwise I’d have stayed to chat. They were at the morning meeting though and Squeak asked me to come to another onsen with them…this time it looks like massages, seaweed wraps and the like are included in the weekend….ooooh can’t wait! The new english teacher at Saijo speaks better english than the new teacher at the middle school. I had my first lesson with him today and he speaks the best English in the staffroom but once we get into the classroom….he’s not as bad as the Impressionist was in terms of missing out random words but he does skip his ‘to’ ‘at’ and ‘in’s.
Looks like I was right in saying last year to my supervisor that I thought Showa Town needs 2 ALTs (at least and if you ask me come 2008 we’ll need three minimum). At first it seemed like I would be doing 27 lessons as opposed to last school years 23 but it turns out that Saijo elementary had scheduled some of my lessons during Mondays when I’m supposed to be at the chugakko (middle school) so it looks as though I’m only teaching 24 and given that two of these elementary schools do everything in their power to get out of teaching English I’m going to hazard that I shall really only be teaching 20 lessons most weeks. Which is a beauty of a situation to be in because it leaves me with enough time to actually plan out the lessons!
In terms of teaching I find myself better placed to be able to teach than I was in England. Its not that the kids are particularly more wonderful, though they are generally better behaved (the Jedi was totally distraught earlier that two kids had spoken during class when they were supposed to be listening to me) but the fact that I have time to actively plan and evaluate lessons instead of desperately trying to run from one lesson to another makes a huge difference. There is also the difference in engagement, I think partly this is down to subject and partly culture. In England I was teaching a doss subject, here I’m teaching a subject that most people regard as increasingly important. However being involved with some of the art lessons as well as the afterschool art club has meant that I’ve noticed that there doesn’t seem to be a concept of a doss subject so much here.The school culture means that the kids acknowledge their responsibilities for their own education, something I found sorely lacking in England and blamed (rightly or wrongly) for a lot of the lackadaisical attitude to education. The kids in the lower sets at Our Lady’s totally disagreed with me on that one.
The schools give the kids much more ownership of both their own education and school experience, the kids have the leeway to decorate their own form room, they have to clean the school everyday as there are no caretakers, they plan out a lot of the official school celebrations without very much teacher interference. However, they only get to choose one afterschool club to belong to and it seems to be the norm at this school at least that if you join brass band in the first year you’ll be in it during 2nd and 3rd year as well. For all the responsibilities and rights there seem to be less options for the children. Speaking as someone who grew up in the back of beyond in England I was involved with a lot of afterschool activities because there wasn’t that much else to do except hang around the church or village hall…which was as exciting as it sounds. However the extent to which these kids are always at school really bothers me. They never leave! During holidays…they go to school! Not because there are lessons but to join in club activities…and it’s always the same club…
Now maybe I’m wrong but I believe in having a wide social circle, I’m not sure why but the idea of kids only having one set of friends kind of bothers me. The idea of anyone having only one set of friends bothers me to be honest. I’m well aware of the need for a best friend, or even a bestest friend, but to only have the set of friends that are in basketball club with you troubles me. There isn’t much else to do when your a kid in Japan apart from activities that your school runs. There is a distinct lack (at least in the suburbs) of youth groups, clubs, etc.etc. My nearest girl scout group appears to be in Tokyo and there seems to be the perception that only poorer or ‘socially disadvantaged’ children need such things.
Well sorry, but you’re not telling me that kids are going to find everything they need either in the school environment or the home…and everytime I’ve seen kids hanging out at the park near my house, at the mall or the cinema they are with their friends from ‘tennis club’, ‘ping-pong club’ etc.etc. Now I’m certain that they must have other friends….probably but at my school at least there seem to be some really hard line cliques and it bothers me. Yeah this is the age for cliques to form, 11-14 after they’ve determined to an outwardly definable extent who they and their friends are and before they’ve worked out that cliques are silly, but the fact that there only seems to be an option of school clubs or nothing…really really bothers me.
There are a minority of kids who don’t get involved in school clubs. Can’t say I blame them really, when I look at what I was involved with at school; theatre productions, creative writing, art club….only art club meets regularly at this school. I don’t see those kids at the mall or the cinema or wherever with their friends. Some of them I’m not sure they have any…yeah I don’t see them all, I live in a particular part of Showa, some of them live in Kofu but it does make me wonder. What happens to the kids who fall through the cracks? School isn’t the nicest of environments, pointless rules, uniform, constantly grouped together with 30 other kids…so when you don’t want to attend school 24/7 in Japan where do you go?
It’s the same in England if you don’t like organised activities and you don’t live in a town or city with facilities. At least here the train runs regularly and they can get to the cinema and shops. I guess I just don’t like to see limited options for the kids when I’m used to their being a choice even in the back of beyond.