Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Small joys

Lately there's been a lot of stuff going on and it's been taking a lot of energy just to get through the day. I feel like I'm getting by on fumes.

But this week I've had some reminders of why I need to really cherish all of my remaining time at schools:

On Monday I went to a junior high school (that isn't my base school) and taught the third years. To get back to the teachers' room, I passed by the second year classrooms and got a number of cheerful "Hello's". And in the midst of the "hellos," I heard one boy saying "Poo. Poo." At first I didn't realize that he was talking to me, but then I heard him say (in Japanese) to some friends, "Do you know what "poo" means in Japanese?"

And I realized it was a student I had taught when he was in the fourth grade of elementary school!! At that time, he asked me how to say "unko" in English and I told him without even thinking. After that he didn't even say "hello" to me, but always just said "poo" whenever I saw him. The ALT who visited that elementary school fairly regularly the following year (my second year in Towada) told me that the student continued the tradition with him.

So back to Monday.

When I realized what he was saying and who he was, I turned around (there were a bunch of boys so I couldn't pick him out) and called out (in Japanese): "You still remember that?!" The guys all laughed and I continued on to the teachers' room. Then at the end of the day the same boy passed me and again he greeted me with "Poo! Poo!" rather than the standard "hello."

I should probably feel guilty for teaching him the word, but, well, I find it pretty funny and almost touching that he still remembers something that I unthinkingly taught him so long ago. ^_^

(I've got to admit that even after that experience, I still--even up to now--tell students almost whatever word they ask me to teach them in English. I've taught "diarrhea" and "pawn shop" among many other words.Obviously I don't teach them anything completely inappropriate, however.)

Then another nice moment came today, when a former student of mine and sister of a current student at Kirita came into the school to wait for her mother to finish having a discussion with one of the teachers. Since I was free, I hung out with her in the multi-purpose room and helped her with her (high school) English homework.

It wasn't anything special--mostly I was just reading out the textbook sentences that she needed to write in her notebook--but it was really great to be able to spend time with a former student.

Oh, and I guess another "small joy"--although not school related--is that the July JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) results finally arrived today and somehow I managed to pass the N2. (The test has five levels, with N5 being the lowest level and N1 being the highest. So N2 is the second most difficult level.)

Actually, I'm not all that happy about it because I truly believe it was pure fluke that I passed. (Just look at my scores!) I didn't study at all for the test and I had signed up for it with the idea that by spectacularly failing this time around I would become motivated to study properly for the December test.

(And when I say I didn't study, I mean it quite literally. Not counting stuff like reading manga and watching dramas/movies in Japanese, I'd say I probably spent maybe 5-10 hours--and that's a generous estimate--specifically studying for the test from the time I registered til the day I wrote it. I've probably spent more time studying Japanese in the past week or two than I did before the test!)

So I really didn't actually deserve to pass. All the result tells me is that I'm a pretty decent guesser. Well, that and my listening is fine--that was the only section that I had confidence in, and I aced that part.

And it actually leaves me with a dilemma since I had never even considered that I would actually pass and so I bought the test application form planning on taking the N2 again in December. But since I did manage to pass, I now need to decide whether I will attempt the N1 or if I'll just try to sell my form to someone else.

Given that I barely passed the N2 (20/60 for the Vocabulary/Grammar section!), it would really be a waste of money to try the N1, particularly given that I'm going to be super busy until about the beginning of November and won't have time to do the hardcore studying that would be required if I seriously wanted to pass.

And given that my contract will end (and I'll have to go back to Canada) at the beginning of August, I don't think that failing the N1 in December would particularly motivate me to try to pass it in July because I know that I'll be way to busy with my departure preparations around that time.

But it seems like kind of a waste to not at least give it a shot while I'm still in Japan. Plus writing the test is a great excuse for taking a road trip to Morioka with everyone. (And since December is so busy, I don't think I'd go on the road trip if I wasn't writing the test.)

So yeah, I don't really know what I want to do. And I still don't actually feel particularly happy about passing the test since it wasn't something I accomplished by my own efforts/skill but simply through dumb luck/fluke. If it wouldn't be a waste of money, I'd almost like to write the test again (even though I've already passed once).