Thursday, December 21, 2006

Teacher for a Day

This Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I went to teach classes at Seikadai Elementary School. Since elementary school children in Japan haven’t formally begun to learn English it is luckily not my job to go and teach English. Rather I go to the school and give classes in Japanese with the title of “International Understanding.” Basically I introduce myself and talk about my country and my own experience growing up in America. I also told the kids about the similarities and differences between Japanese and American elementary schools. Rather than trying to teach the kids English I think it is great for me as a foreigner to just talk to them in their language and let them know that foreign people aren't that much different and to let them see a different perspective.

The first day I went around to all four of the 6th grade classes at Seikadai Elementary. This proved the toughest as I was reminded that 6th graders are right at the cusp of becoming teenagers and therefore are worrying about self-image and being cool. The kids didn’t seem too excited that I was there and even less interested in what I had to say. Or at least this is the attitude they portrayed. I am hoping that they actually liked it but just didn’t want their classmates to think so. Usually when I do this sort of thing I give my self introduction and then let the audience ask questions to fill up some time. When I asked them if they had any questions the whole room was silent and I was just thinking, “Oh boy, this is going to be a long day.”

Then on Tuesday I went around to all the 3rd grade classrooms. The third graders were so cute and so full of questions and excitement. I was so happy that they were so excited about me being there and what I had to say. I played all sorts of games with them including; Simon Says, Heads Up 7-Up, and a game where a group of kids get in a circle and randomly join hands so that they are all knotted up and then see if they can undo the knot by squirming around. One of the classes was so happy that after I finished all the kids wanted me to give them my autograph! I was totally shocked but happy to do it for them.

Then I went back on Wednesday to see the same 3rd graders for the second time. They were even more excited to see me again and had thought of a million random questions for me the second time around. Some of the kids even gave me origami presents that they had made.

The cutest thing about Japanese elementary is that at lunch time they bring up a big pot of what ever that days lunch is and a few of the kids put on hairnets, masks, aprons, and gloves and serve all the other kids lunch. Plus all the kids have their own individual lunch kits that they bring from home with includes a cloth placemat, plastic chopsticks and toothbrush. All the kids sit down in their class and eat lunch together with the teacher, since I was a guest teacher I got to eat lunch with the kids who all fought over who got to sit next to me. Then after lunch a song comes on over the loudspeaker singing in a jingle about how great it is to brush your teeth after a meal.

The whole experience was so much fun and the kids were so cute and so funny. I really do have an odd job were I get to do all sorts of things from hanging out with kids, senior citizens, translating and who knows what else!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Recently my supervisor came back from her honeymoon in Europe. Her husband is quite a good photographer and took some beautiful pictures of Germany and Switzerland. I liked some of the photos so much I asked her if I could post some of them here for all to see. While sitting at my desk at work sometimes I dream of taking trips to places like this!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Hanging with the Seniors

Everyday this week I have been going to the Kashinokien Senior Citizens Day Service Center to talk and hang out with the silver members of Seika’s population. At first I was kind of nervous and unsure of what I should talk about or how I would be received. I had planned a few games and activities to do with the elderly folks just in case me talking bored them. But after the first day I ended up scrapping the games and just talking with them and telling them stories about my life.

I suppose that not many of the older folks have really had a chance to talk with a foreigner or have more than a basic interaction with one. I was happy and relieved that they all seemed pleased with my visit and where interested in what I had to say. I also got a lot of tough questions from some of the feisty ones. I was asked questions like; what I like and don’t like about Japan, why do I think they need to teach English in Japanese elementary schools, and why America seems to have more national pride than Japan? I was kind of caught off guard by a lot of these questions and had to improve appropriate yet polite responses.

The other thing that I like is that all the ladies all swoon over me and tell me how handsome and manly I am! I get a little ego boost every time I go from getting so many compliments and smiles. I know that it has been interesting for me to get some perspective on what older Japanese folks who have been around for a long time are thinking about the modern world. I just hope that the folks at the center appreciate my visits and get something out of them too.