Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friends, Burgers, Assumptions & Sneakiness

Apologies in advance, since this is going to be a rather lengthy post covering many different topics. The first one, as you can probably guess from the title, is friends.

When I went to the Kirita Matsuri on Monday, I realized that one of the things I really miss from home is having friends (living in the same city) I know I can call on the spur of the moment to see if they want to hang out. I invited the ALTs in Towada and Shichinohe to come to the Kirita festival with me, but they were all either busy or not interested. (Admittedly, I did a poor job of talking up the event to entice them to come.) Apart from the Kirita teachers I get along well with, I have made some Japanese friends, but I don't feel that I know any of them well enough to call/email them the day before or day of to ask them if they want to do something with me. I guess if Yukiko wasn't in Canada doing her working holiday, I would've been comfortable inviting her, but she is, so of course I couldn't.

Anyway, even though it was a bit lonely going on my own, I still really enjoyed the Kirita Matsuri. I saw a lot of my students there--performing as well as just attending. The Shimokirita students and teachers were especially happy to see me, I felt--which was nice. I thought they (the Shimokirita students) were only doing two performances--a dance by the girls and a unicycle routine--but they actually had four! Along with the two I knew about, they also had a dance by the guys (there weren't enough ES students, so four of my junior high students--alumni of Shimokirita--also performed!) and some sort of "genki" exercise/dance routine. (See pictures from the festival in my Facebook album.)

Apart from the fun stuff, there was also a very weird moment towards the end of my time at the festival. I was standing with the JHS ninensei girls when an older man approached us. At the festival there was this thing where you paid for a small piece of gum (like from old school sports card packs) with a design etched into it. Then you had to try to carve the design out using a push pin/thumb tack. (Harder than it sounds--all of my students broke the design at some point before they finished.) So anyway, this man tried to give us money (1000 yen) to all go and do this thing. Even though my students all refused and backed away, he was really persistent and spent at least 2-5 minutes trying to convince us to take the money.

It was extremely awkward, to say the least. At the time I really wished my Japanese was better. I mean, I was the adult there (and their teacher, to boot) but because I didn't know what to say, I couldn't help them at all! Plus, the guy thought I was a student as well. ^^;; (Actually, the brother of one of my students had already asked earlier, pointing to me: "Ano hito, nan nensei desuka?" - What grade is that person in?) But yeah, my students ultimately managed to convince the guy to give up and go away.

Weirdness aside, I had a good time. I definitely want to go again next year, but hopefully I'll be able to find someone to come with. =P

After I came home, I finished making my burger shop stuff, and I've got to say, I'm pretty proud of the finished products!

To match the ichinensei textbook menu, I made chicken burgers, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, "cola" and orange juice (large or small), and shakes (vanilla or chocolate). The students had a lot of fun with it on Tuesday, so it was worth all the work. ^_^

As chaotic as the hamburger shop activity was, it was definitely one of the highlights of an otherwise very long week. Tuesday I stopped by the office after I finished at Kirita (5pm) to pick up my lesson plans. Both the Friday and Monday plans required revisions, so first I had to figure out what I wanted to do and then I had to get Tomabechi-sensei to help me compose the faxes to the schools. (I had to write them in Japanese, since they were for elementary schools.)

(Apparently I wasn't very clear in my Chitose fax since Andy had to call me this morning to get a clarification, but that's something I'll get into in a little bit.)

And this was all on top of the prep I had to do for my jishu gakushu classes!

On Tuesday I also had dance practice. Then yesterday and today I stayed late at Kirita. Lately some of the sannensei students who have a bit of difficulty with English have been staying after jishu gakushu (they no longer have club activities since they're supposed to be studying for their high school exams) to get help with their English homework. Of course it's not something I have to do, but since I especially love the sannensei, I've been staying to help them (along with Tomabechi-sensei, naturally). As a result, I've been leaving school around 6:30pm.

Yesterday I had the Wednesday eikaiwa, and then today I went to the office to prepare lesson materials for my school visit tomorrow. (More on that later.)

So yeah, I've been super busy with work.

Unfortunately, even with all the prep work I do, there are still times when I screw up. When I saw the Chitose lesson plan, a little warning bell sounded in my head since it had the topic of "school subjects" for the rokunensei (sixth graders). I knew Aaron had done a school subjects lesson for one of the higher grades at Chitose last week, but because Chitose is generally a well-prepared school, I chose to assume they were re-using the lesson for a different grade. But when I talked to Aaron tonight, it sounded like they actually did give me the same lesson for the exact same classes. ^^;;

Luckily I found out tonight so I could plan to go in a little early to sort things out with the teacher and check the materials, but still, it was really something I should have looked into as soon as I got the lesson. I mean, I KNEW Aaron had taught the topic at the school last week. I should have called him to double check the details, rather than making assumptions. (You know the saying: "To assume makes an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'.")

Oh well, I also called Andy (to see if the teacher had realized the mistake when I asked them to make game cards) and he gave me some ideas as to what I could do if it turns out that I'm right and they accidentally gave me a repeat lesson plan.

Worse comes to worse, I can always use the game as a review and then just use the lesson I'm doing with the gonensei (fifth graders) with the rokunensei. I spent enough time preparing the materials, so I might as well get as much use out of them as possible.

As I mentioned earlier, I went into the office after school today to prepare the lesson materials for the gonensei (topic: seasons). Even though the computer at the office is super slow and it takes a long time to send big files to print, I think from now on I'm going to try to do more of my lesson prepping there instead of at home.

For one thing, it will save me money on printer ink, among other supplies. It's also a lot faster to make cards when I have the use of a paper cutter rather than having to use scissors! Besides, I think it's good for the people at the office to see how much of my personal time I spend on lesson planning. I mean, the teachers at Kirita know how hard I work because they see me preparing for and teaching classes (jishu gakushu) during the day and after my regular hours. But I don't really have office days during the second term, so people at the office only see me for the fifteen or so minutes I spend at the office, once a week, picking up lesson plans and doing paperwork, etc.

Though I'm not doing all this extra work for praise but for the sake of the students (and out of professional pride), I've got to admit there are times when I really wish I received more acknowledgment of my efforts from the office. I guess it's times like now, when I'm tired and stressed, that I feel that no one really knows or appreciates all the time and energy I spend on lesson planning. And I guess it's human nature to want acknowledgment for our efforts.

So yeah, going to the office to do my prep work is my sneaky way of ensuring that the office is aware of the work I'm doing for my school visits.

Anyway, like I said, I need to go a little earlier to my school tomorrow to make sure everything's ok for the lesson, so it's time for me to go to bed!