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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Saints In Hell

So...  I have to go into the junior high school from Hell this week—Kaneda Kita Chu Gakko (Kaneda North Junior High School).

It's Tuesday, September 10, 1991 here in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan. I've been here for 13-1/2 months and have pretty much enjoyed my time here.

I'm up at 6:45AM and feel blah. Really tired. Probably because it's raining and it's the worst-behaved school of the seven I visit and perform assistant English teacher duties as part of the Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme, aka JET.

I get a ride to the school from Gungi-san. She's the school nurse and is about 55, very short and thin and very nice. The only knock is that she can't speak English - at all. Okay... that's not really a knock. The real knock against her is that she is a terrible driver.

Last year she was the nurse over at Sakuyama Chu Gakko (Sakuyama Junior High School), and she provided car rides for me then, too. You can read about that HERE - halfway down the story.

Anyhow... despite rolling stops and weaving around students on bicycles, Gunji-san likes to talk to me. It is pretty much all in Japanese, and I sort of understand her.   Sort of. But while I do understand her Japanese, I can't speak it, so I respond in English. Now both of us have no idea what the other is saying.

My two classes I have to team-teach today are with Akazawa-sensei (Mr. Akazawa, an English teacher). He looks pretty damn tired - and why not? He has to teach these buggers every day!

It's not his teaching methods... they are actually quite sound, but rather these students are complete a$$holes.

Not one student listens. They sleep or talk amongst themselves non-stop. In the 2-2 class (#2 Grade 8 class), there are 38 students... 14 don't even bother to open their note books; 15 don't write a single thing in the notebooks, while a mere 9 put down a few notes - not all the notes mind you - but a few. Still... 9 out of 38!!

Since the Sports Festival was rained out on Sunday (Really?, I played kyudo - Japanese archery - at a tournament all day!), the rest of the afternoon is devoted to finishing off the school sports event.

So... with nothing better to do, and curious to see, I watch.

First... over the school loudspeaker system they play—and I am not exaggerating—the same four songs over again and again and again—for four hours!!!!

One of the so-called Sports Festival events is called CONFUSION! Students have to run 30 meters to a set of hurdles, go under it, run 20 meters to a baseball bat lying on the ground. Leaning over, you place the bat on your forehead and spin around I think it's 10 times, to make yourself dizzy. That's not that hard, as most of these kids are already spun.

Now dizzier, the students stagger like I probably have on many a night out at the 4C bar over to a tray filled with flour where they have to snuffle around in it like a pig (hands behind their back) to pull a marshmallow from it with their mouth. I don't think that is very hygienic, ne (eh).  They then race another 20 meters to the finish line.

Even though I think these kids are idiots, this event is a riot!

Despite my enjoyment of that event, my highlight occurred when students from the nearby Ichinosawa Sho Gakko (Ichinosawa primary school) came by for a visit. These kids were unafraid of me - for some, I was their first live gaijin (foreigner), and played some catch with me with a baseball... but here's the freaky thing.... they talked to me in English!! And very well, too!

It wasn't perfect grammar or complex sentences, but it was clear and understandable simple English. They asked me questions, and I responded in simple English - which they understood, and when they didn't I used simple Japanese... but again... they didn't just listen to my Japanese chatter... they actually wanted me to teach them how to say my Japanese comments in English!

This is what it means to be a teacher of English here in Japan! These little pipsqueaks from Grades 1-6 showed me that there is hope here for the teachers of Kaneda Kita

Unless, of course, the students come here and somehow get the life and intelligence sucked out of them... I mean, many of the kids at Kaneda Kita graduated from Ichinosawa a single year ago!

I would take credit for the primary school kids talking English - but I can't!  I have met them a couple of times before - and they really were nice and friendly... but whomever has been teaching them English deserves a very deep bow and a great big bottle of Scotch... unless it's a female teacher, in which case I really need a cup of o-cha (green tea).

Yeah... sexism was rampant in 1991 Japan. My buddy Mike In Tokyo Rogers says in his blog that the women seem to have more power. Click HERE for a read.

I stick around the school playing and talking with the Ichinosawa students until they are forced away from me to go and watch the Sports Events. I still stick around because, well, Gunji-san is the school nurse. She has to stay in case any student needs her help after unexpectedly snorting too much flour.

So...  I'm standing around trying to look menacing and cool so that the Kaneda Kita students don't gang-up  and beat the crap out of me, when a tall and very beautiful female student comes up to me, hugs me for just slightly too long and then while still holding on, looks up into my face and purrs: "I love An-do-ryu teacher."

You could have knocked me down with a marshmallow hit by an errant baseball bat!

Her English was flawless! And she's hot! Is she wearing eye-liner? No... those long lashes are her own!

Grinning inwardly and outwardly, I ask her what third year (Grade 9) class she is in.

She smiles and purrs: "One-four".

Holy crap! She's in Grade 7? She's 12 years old?! With a body like that?! Wow. That was scary. But still... wow! Or should I say "Yikes"? Still, it is my belief that there is plenty of hope for Kaneda Kita!

So... let's end it for today. I still have the evening to share - and it doesn't involve me moping around doing my puzzle dressed only in my underwear.

Somewhere mostly impressed by the day's events,
Andrew Joseph
Today's blog title is performed by: Judas Priest

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