Wow, that was dangerous. I almost made a joke about chemical bonding. Sorry about that.
So recently, I’ve had a bit of trouble with one of my JTEs. And it’s times like this that it’s important for me to remember why I’m here.
I mean, yeah, I’m an “assistant teacher,” but I don’t actually teach. Actually, an ALT’s real function—
—real function is to just be a living Introduction to Foreigners. Like, I’m just supposed to be their exposure to someone who isn’t Japanese.
…Kind of silly.
But while I’m having trouble with coworkers, it’s good to remember that I’m here for the kids, not the teachers.
So I’m just focusing on my relationship with the kids.
And here’s what I’ve got so far.
A Quick Note: This entry involves a lot of my students, but to protect their privacy, I’ve used letters from their names instead of their actual names.
Sometimes the students help me
As you may recall, for graduation presents, I gave all of the third years some paper cranes at the end of our cooking lesson. However, some of the third years weren’t in that class. Specifically, two of the third years are in the special education classes, so they don’t go to English class at all. I hardly ever see them, but they are super friendly when I do. I talk to the girl sometimes, but I had never actually talked to the boy.
I found the two of them standing around in front of the teacher’s room one morning, and I realized I hadn’t given them paper cranes! So I said, “Wait here!” and I ran into the teacher’s room to grab the cranes. I told them that they were graduation presents—“Omedetou!” (“Congratulations!”)
They looked very happy. It was awesome.
I mentioned before that I had a bit of trouble with one of my JTEs. That day, she was very stressed out, and as I was standing there with the two third years, she walked up and pulled me into the reception office.
She was very upset, and the boy, A, apparently was worried that I was in trouble because of the paper cranes. He stepped into the reception office and tried to explain to her.
(I’m not sure of the exact translation, so here’s the conversation, paraphrased.)
A: “Sensei, Megan gave us these paper cranes as graduation presents, and she gave them to all of the third years…”
JTE: “Oh, no, that’s fine! This is about something different. It’s okay.”
And then she shooed him out, and we continued our… conversation.
I thought it was so sweet that he was worried about me and that he tried to stick up for me! He really put his neck out there, challenging a teacher when she was clearly upset. It was SO SWEET.
And sometimes the students try to teach me Japanese
For the last few weeks, whenever I eat with class 1-2 (that’s first year, group 2), I end up sitting at a certain table. I think one of the desks is empty, or else that student is absent a lot.
H, one of the speech contest students, sits at this table, so I get to sit with him. Yay! A boy we’ll call T also sits at that group of tables. He isn’t very good at English—or else, he doesn’t want to try very hard. But he is a very funny kid, and he likes to talk to me (in Japanese).
So one day, he made H ask me questions in English and then translate for him. He asked what I liked about Japanese culture, and I couldn’t think of anything in the moment except taiko, so I said that.
H said told me that T does taiko, and T got pretty excited, so he started to try to talk to me himself.
Well, mostly he just tried to teach me Japanese.
A few weeks ago, he almost dropped his milk carton in his lap, but he caught it, saying, really quickly, “Yabai yo, yabai yo!” (“Oh shit, oh shit!”)
A beat, and then he turned to me and said, “Repeat after me: yabaiyoyabaiyo.”
Me: “Uhh… What?”
He made me repeat after him, and then he taught me another phrase. I think it was “Nanja koreya?” (“What the hell is that?”)
It was like a tongue twister, it was so hard to say. But it was funny. Finally, I got fed up.
Me: “Okay, English time. Repeat after me: Antidisestablishmentarianism.”
T: “…Nandatte?” (“What did she say?”)
Last week, after our little taiko-bonding, lunch started, and he tried to teach me “yabaiyoyabaiyo” and some other Japanese phrases again. Their homeroom teacher sat down at the group of tables with us and started to talk to me, and T was like, “Hey, we’re having a conversation here! Go away!” XD
After “yabaiyo,” he taught me “Sonna no kankene,” which is REALLY slang-y for “That has nothing to do with it!”
When I told Kim what he taught me, she cracked up, because it’s so slang-y. Haha! This kid…
On another day a few weeks ago, I was eating with some of the second years. N was bothering another boy, E, by calling him “Ei-chan” over and over again.
N: “Ei-chan. Ei-chan. Ei-chan.”
E: “Urusei.” (“Shut up.”)
N: “Ei-chan. Ei-chan.”
Finally, I came to E‘s defense.
Me: “Hey, N, if he’s Ei-chan, then are you Nao-chan?”
N: “No, no no. Nao-tan.”
…Because apparently, “chan” wasn’t cute enough.
“Chan” is an endearing honorific that is mostly used for cute things—children, animals, etc. And “tan” is just a really childish, cutesy way of saying “chan.”
So now N is Nao-tan. XD I’ve only called him that twice. It’s… really cutesy. Not something I’d use regularly anyway, and one time I did use it, it slipped out accidentally, and he looked kind of embarrassed. Oops.
A few of our favorite things
One second year boy, M, is like the BEST KID EVER (I say that about a lot of my students…), because he really tries to talk to me in English. He goes out of his way to do so. It’s really sweet. Sometimes in English class, we do activities where the students have to walk around and ask each other questions, like “Do you play piano?” During these activities, M will always find me, ask me the assigned questions, and then ask some other random question in English. It’s SO AWESOME. I also bond with him over Fullmetal Alchemist, because it’s our favorite anime.
II. More anime
Sometime ago, I sat at a different table in the 1-2 class, and I got to sit next to R, who is a great kid, but he gets bullied a lot. No one else at his table is really social towards me, so I just talked to him. He got really excited when I said that I was watching Blue Exorcist, a new anime. I had trouble saying the name in Japanese—Ao no Ekusoshisuto—so he helped me sound it out.
And then after lunch, during recess, I went to the gym to see what everyone was playing. All of the first years were playing basketball or volleyball, but R was playing handball alone against the wall. I went over to join him, and we played handball together. He seemed happy to have someone to play with.
Okay, so I don’t like Twilight, but these kids do. Whatever, they’re like thirteen.
So one day, I was in a second year class for lunch, and L turned to me and asked, “Do you know Twilight?”
Me: “Yes. Do you like Twilight?”
Me: (laughs) “I don’t. But that’s okay.”
She told me that she likes Edward better, and I made a face. Then I turned to Y, a girl who was sitting across from me.
Me: “How about you? Do you like Twilight?”
Y: “No! No!”
IV. Goofing off when we should be working
During cleaning time one day, the students I clean the English classroom with started to arm wrestle. It was pretty funny, and finally, N turned to me and said, “Let’s try!”
They all looked really excited, but I was a little nervous about arm-wrestling a student. I mean… WHAT IF I LOST?
Turns out, that wasn’t a concern. N is a leftie, so he easily beat my left hand, but I easily beat his right. He said I was strong though. OH YEAH.
The best part, though, was as they were leaving the classroom at the end of cleaning time. He turned around and said, “Thank you.”
Insert lyrics from that Vitamin C song here
The day had come—the third years were graduating from middle school. It was March 13th, a Wednesday. When I arrived at school in my slightly-more-formal clothes (I’m so bad at formal wear…), I saw Ito-sensei and Shimada-sensei in kimono. They were gorgeous! I wish I had taken a picture.
The students had rehearsed for the graduation ceremony every day for the last two weeks, so when it finally came time, it went smoothly. It was very formal—as everything in Japan seems to be—and everyone was very serious. I mean, graduation ceremonies in the U.S. are formal, too, but no one even cheered at the end. But maybe I’m just used to seeing goofy hats being thrown into the air.
And at the end of the ceremony, everyone clapped, from the first student to the last, and even that was very planned and formal. Someone might as well have been holding up a sign that said, “APPLAUSE.”
After the ceremony, all of the students went to their homerooms for some final remarks from their teachers, and then the whole school gathered in the front of the school to see the third years off.
As they were walking out of the school, I was tempted to yell, “YOU’RE FREE NOW! FREE AT LAST!”
The second and first year students had some presents for the third years, mostly for third years that were in their clubs. It was really sweet—the table tennis club had signed paddles, the basketball team had brand new basketballs, the girls all made cookies and chocolates… One second year boy even gave a present to a third year girl he apparently has a crush on. He was so embarrassed, and then everyone made him get in the picture with her club. Aww…
A lot of students were crying. I didn’t get very close to the third year class, though, so I felt kind of outside of it all. I liked them, but I feel like I didn’t talk to them much. Too bad, because they are interesting kids. So I just stood to the side and watched the students say good-bye.
That is, until Y and Ak found me. (Ak because there has already been an A in this entry.)
“Megan, Megan!” they said, suddenly rushing at me LIKE A COUPLE OF SHARKS.
Just kidding, they looked really excited and not at all like they were going to eat me. They both held out some packages in bright wrapping paper.
O: They remembered! It was my birthday the day before. They knew because E, another third year girl, discovered that we have the same birthday, and a few weeks ago in the hall, the girls asked me, “What character do you like?” I didn’t know what they meant, but I told them Spongebob.
“Thank you!” I was pleasantly surprised. They handed me my birthday presents and then also handed over some presents they made for their graduation. Double presents!
“Aww, I’m gonna miss you guys,” I said. “You were great.”
And they were. I stopped to talk to them in the hallway a lot between classes and at lunch, and they both tried really hard to answer and ask questions. They’re awesome girls.
They wanted to take a picture with me, so they had one of their mothers take the picture. And then I gave them each a hug. :)
After that, I felt like maybe I did have some sort of relationship with them after all, and I started to feel sad. I wandered around to find R, because she was another student that I would miss. When I found her, she was crying on Komatsu-sensei. D: Aww…
They started to round up the third years onto a bus—I don’t know where they were going, but probably someplace magical—and then A walked up to me suddenly. He was very shy, but he handed me a present and said thank you in Japanese. His mother nudged him and told him to use English. Haha!
I was touched. I hadn’t ever really talked to him, except that day when I gave him his paper crane.
These kids, man…
So last week was a really great week with my students. I finally feel like I’m doing an okay job. Not a great job, but okay.
After all, they’re the reason I’m here.
And now for my favorite math joke this week:
|D It’s so bad…