Thursday, September 23, 2010

We don`t need no education.

My school
(1)Jump out of the little blue Honda, (2) swap outdoor flip flops for indoor shoes, (3) feel a special bond with Surfer-Sensei (so named for his impressive collection of billabong shirts) who also shuns socks in the fiery blaze that is Japanese summer, (4) run up the stairs to the staff room, (5) greet any students I meet with a `good morning`, every now and then substitute with `what up ladies`, get a response of ferocious giggling, (6) Open the door with a loud `Ohayo gozaimasu` (good morning), (7) get back a few mumbles of Ohayo or gozaimasu, (8) sit at desk, (9) stand up and bow when the bell rings for the start of morning meeting, (10) understand nothing said at morning meeting, (11) Start the day.

My coordinates on the map of education has me sitting between Math-Sensei who always expresses great amusement when I proudly tell him the new Japanese words I had learned the previous night while watching TV, as they are almost always words used exclusively by men, and my favorite English teacher. I value Life-saver-sensei more than world of warcraft gold and do not know what I would do without her. Not only does she teach me Japanese, like the kanji for beef so I don`t order liver by mistake but also imparts some slices of sage advice on me, like the fact that cotton tofu is better for frying and silk tofu is best eaten plain. She is also an invaluable teammate while playing Japan`s national sport of bureaucracy.

Silken on the left (Kinugoshi), Cotten on the right (Momen)

Every Tuesday and Thursday we are graced with the presence of snack-time-sensei who instituted the practice of 3-lunch-Tuesday followed closely by 3-lunch-Thursday (We literally eat 3 lunches that day). We all put out our bento (lunch boxes) at the same time and Snack-time-sensei adds whatever food she had cooked that day. It is a hit and miss game that has had me enjoying noodles wrapped in flatbread to planning an escape strategy for octopus on a stick. As snack-time-sensei is also the art teacher, I have been drawn twice and even Roland has been thrown under the paintbrush one afternoon after school. Snack-time-sensei kept muttering about how Japanese men just don`t strike a perfect profile without such a good nose.

Free Japanese pears (Nashi) from a kind teacher
Rooibos tea that I brought for the teachers (one of them made the sign to explain to the other teachers)

There is a fair amount of prep work that goes into entertaining 15 classes a week for an hour at a time. My five English teachers all have different styles and requirements that range from very specific, like `today Furiida Sensei let`s listen to a song and fill in the blanks, please find a suitable song and create a few activities, to `today Furiida Sensei lets have fun. I teach 1st, 2nd and 3rd year senior high school kids ranging from sugary sweet girls to sleepy third years and a few rowdy little characters who are not aware of the fact that I am used to South African kids and so their best efforts come across as chatty with a sprinkle of bad English jokes. My two favorite little chancers call themselves Antonio and King Bob. I have six 1st year classes and all of them are super genki (lively). They all fall head over heels for the games we play and scramble to get the right answers so that they can obtain the holy grail of rewards I employ in my arsenal of motivation: the passport stamp. Collect enough stamps and you are on your way to prize town on a train filled with World cup merchandise and beaded key chains.

My student`s passports
Most classes are a joy and I just have to ask and participation flows like Sake (rice wine) but there is one class that is all boys, except for one poor girl, who also happens to be 3rd years, the most overworked, shy, to-cool-for-school and sleepy year of all. Here I have to really jump up and down and make sure that the lessons do not require any questions directed to the class in general, for all that will greet me if I were to ask anything at all would be that proverbial cricket who usually chirps to let you know just how silent it all just became. Lucky for me this is far from the norm and most of my time is spent pretending to be Cleopatra, playing word bingo, destroying enemy team`s castles or drawing pictures of vocabulary words at the speed of me eating a bag of nick naks.

Before you know it, the clock strikes 4:15 and its home time again. (1) Pack up bag filled with little white boards bought at 100 yen store, prestic and SA flags designed to be placed on the castles I draw for a game of the same name, (2) Stay a little longer than required since it is rude to leave early, although I sincerely doubt my five minute effort is even scratching the surface of diplomacy, (3) Stand at the door and say `otsukaresama deshita` (thank you for the hard work), (4) Swap in and outdoor shoes, (5) get into the little blue Honda, (6) wave at Grumpy-but-loves-crackers-sensei, (7) Start the next mini adventure.


  1. LOL!!! Please give my heartfelt thanks to Antonio and King Bob for making me chuckle for a good 5 minutes!!!I think I must have read that sentence about 5 times. It was so funny:) Love your bribing skills too:) Be careful, you might just run out of key rings and beaded necklaces. hehe

    I can't wait to hear you speak Japanese. You're going to be so jouzuna by the time I see you again:)Your sleepy 3rd year class reminds me of Gokusen (J-drama).

    I'm so happy that you are having so much fun:)The work sounds really interesting. I love that you get to play games with them and stuff. hehe) And please take photos of Surfer Sensei. He sounds waaay awesome dude:)

  2. I second the notion for Antonio and King Bob. They sound like they could be stiff competition for King Julian and his majordomo (of Madagascar fame) ;)