So I know I’ve talked about being a ROCKSTAR here in Japan before. But on Monday I actually got asked for my autograph by the elementary school kids – some of them demanded it twice after one girl said “Big! Big” – the other kids had gotten a smaller one and felt … cheated? So they came back.

In other news, it seems like some of my teachers don’t really know what to do with an assistant. I mean, part of the problem is the way my week is set up – I have one school on Monday and Tuesday, and in order to prepare for the week I have to ask them what they’ll be doing the previous week. To give me something to do, they need to be thinking way in advance. It’s not like university – they don’t have a rigorous syllabus that they stick to absolutely, with the understanding that kids will study and learn on their own. Sometimes, classes fall behind. Sometimes, things come up during the week. For example, this week all classes are 45 minutes instead of 50, because they’re preparing for a big sports contest this weekend and they’re letting the kids out of school half an hour early to practice more. The teachers don’t really know what they’ll be doing next week, so they have a tendency to say “Oh, well, don’t prepare any games or worksheets or fun activities (because we might not use them, or might be behind and have to work hard to catch up, or we might have done that lesson the day before) just help me.”

In terms of being easy, this is great. I mean, I don’t have to make stuff or come up with cool things the kids would like. In terms of being interesting, this sucks hardcore. I spend most of my time stands there in the front corner, trying not to obstruct anybody’s view of the board, and sometimes come forward to act as Human Tape Recorder. I rehearse new vocab – but I can’t explain it in Japanese or anything, so the teacher does the explaining, I just say the words a lot. They have hideously, excruciatingly boring dialogues – I recite the dialogues. They parrot them back to me. Sometimes, we practice words they’re having trouble with.

Usually, this doesn’t take. They don’t have a “th” sound, so they turn it into an “s” sound – and so does the teacher, so my seeing them once a week and trying to change it is sort of like putting up pebbles to hold back a flood.

Some days, I stand there like a stump while the teacher explains things in Japanese – maybe they’re going over a grammar point, maybe they’re translating the aforementioned dialogue into Japanese, whatever – and try not to fall asleep standing up.

The other problem, of course, comes when they then want me to actually do something. Play a game, figure out an activity, whatever. Coming up with the game can be fun, making the stuff is fine, but then when I get to class, I’m out of practice actually explaining it. I had to do it for some first years last week, and I wasn’t thinking about it. So I handed out the worksheet and explained it a little and was basically like “Okay, go!” and the teacher sort of cleared her throat and said “Ah, maybe we could practice the words…” If I hadn’t actually been in front of the class, I’d have smacked myself in the forehead.

I’m not getting negative feedback or anything. The teachers seem to like me. But … I feel like I’m doing my job badly. Why am I even here if everything I do could be done by a machine?

In unrelated news, I showed the kids pictures today of people from home. Sam, tiny Japanese children have now seen you in your costume from Fiddler on the roof. (I’m sorry.) Megan, Talia – that picture of you in NYC on the ferry to the Statue of Liberty? You’re famous now! They know Maggie plays the banjo. They know Becky likes Falconridge, tie-dye, backwards baseball caps and very short hair. Doug and Dad, your theses have been witnessed clear across the ocean. And Stacy – god, I’m so sorry, my picture of you is truly wretched but it was the only one I had. (No, really, the picture I showed them is practically criminal, I need better pictures of you.)

I’m supposed to be filmed today in sixth period. By two people actually – once by my Friendly Japanese Housewife, on behalf of the company, so they can see how I’m doing without bothering to come out to Imizu. No pressure! (She … might not get here in time. The schedule is wonky today, and I honestly don’t know if they’ve told her. I mean, I asked, and my teacher said she couldn’t remember, but .. I’ve been with her the whole time since then, and I haven’t seen her make a call…. So, I might not get filmed for the company today. Or possibly only a few minutes worth.) The other camera people won’t be focusing on me – they’ll be watching a kid in the class, who is apparently going to Tokyo on some program or other this summer, I’m not really clear. So there might be clips of me, at some point, on Japanese television. Possibly of the reality-show variety. Just what I always wanted! On the other hand, the teacher hasn’t mentioned that since last week, it also might not be happening.

They’re sort of … relaxed, about telling me what I’m going to be doing. For example, last week we had the marathon. I found out about it that day. If I’d known in advance, I would have a) worn pants so I could stretch with the kids, as pencil skirts are not conducive to lunges and thus instead I just stood awkwardly, and b) worn flats, so that when I walked to the place we were running I didn’t have to do it in heels. Fortunately (?) it was rainy, so I didn’t have to worry about sunburn. On the other hand it was chilly, I could have used a scarf. (Toss-up, I guess.)

Mid-day update: my teacher asked me to plan a game with numbers, in addition to her game. So I did: a numbers memory game, where kids had to match the written word with the arabic numeral. They’ve known the numbers themselves for years, but the written part is new.

We’re not doing it. It ‘takes too much time’ so we’re cutting it entirely. Why does she need my help again?

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