Drove to Shodoshima high school today, well, I tried to. I allowed an hour for a 30 minute journey and used almost all of that hour asking for directions and refusing to believe I was not where I thought I was. So the stereotype about men is true. Pah.
I made it with five minutes to spare and managed to find my way to the staff room where I just walked in until I found the desk they'd allocated me, (my memory is shit remember, thankfully I didn't sit at the principle's desk by mistake). I am still not sure which is the principle and who the other english teachers. My ability to remember names, especially when they're in a language I'm not fluent in, is next to none.
So I made the staff room, I recognise about two people, after introducing myself in Japanese (with a lot of erms and one apology for saying the wrong word order/making up shizzle), I settled down to prepare for my lesson, then found out that it was assembly time, well really it was more like "this way, come." I nodded and smiled of course. I was introduced to the school, sitting on the stage with about 6 other new teachers before the curtains went up, that was surprisingly sweat-inducing, especially in the palm and bottom region (okay I lie, my bum didn't sweat, but it's creative licencing okay?). This is going to be one lengthy blog, so the school has a lot of announcements, or did have this morning anyway and it had sort of a club fair, where a few members of each society/club would come up and explain/advertise their clubs. A lot of them I guessed (as the words are the same in english, Badminton, (which I may join) and Sumo (not so likely to join),) but some were completely alien to me and it felt a little like a guessing game, one I wasn't very good at. The archery was impressive, that's for sure. There's a name for it... I thought it was a type of martial art (well maybe it is, but not the kind I thought it was before hand). Okay, so I hovered near two other new teachers, which I managed to ask whether they were "atarashi" (new) as well and they nodded and then I asked their names (can't remember either :( ) and then I managed to ask what they taught, one was a nurse and the other a chemistry teacher. Their miming of the nurse made me think she was someone who punched people in the stomach/a midwife at first. At first they seemed horrified that I was standing near them (all the while wearing slippers of course) but they engaged and though they spoke very little english (which was a bit disconcerting as I wondered how much the kids would know at that point) they were friendly and tried and I butchered their language trying to reply!
The Archery club launched arrows with bows bigger than the kids into targets (the first one made me jump, god darn it and I knew it was coming). The comedy club (I assume, everyone definitely laughed) made jokes. The badminton, tennis and lots others didn't do a huge amount, merely carried their equipment, thank god, as that was my only visual aid.
After several hours standing (some of the teachers sat, but could I? Who knows, I didn't want to make any terrible impressions so I did my best not to yawn, one of the new guys did constantly, I want to speak to him, just to talk to another new and not look like a dirty gaijin coming onto women) and about a million bows and clapping, lots of clapping and lots of jokes that went over my head (think kilometres above, not centimetres), it became clear things were over (yes, no one directly told me), I just stumbled/fumbled around a bit, trying to figure out where to go and what to do and one of the english teachers eventually took pity on me and told me I could go back to the staff room now (which btw is essentially an office, with a LOT of paperwork throughout it, sprawled and stacked). I also had an awkward moment (one of 33,002,103) where I didn't know what to do with the slippers they'd given me. The students were wearing just socks and I had exited in the mass of students, not with any similarly-slippered teachers. Found someone (for all I know, and in fact I kind of think it was, the headmaster/principle) to take them off me and went back to the teacher's room. Sat at my desk alone and in practical silence, I did talk to Fujihara, the guy next to me a lot and asked his name twice and did my best to memorise it, his son's my age and working in Tokyo. I told him about going to Angel Road and he asked with who and I said alone and he looked a bit surprised and said next time I should take my... he strains for the word (I think boyfriend, boyfriend, boyfriend,) but he says girl. Woman. Love. Well love could be male.
My first lesson came around quite quickly. Ai was the Japanese teacher of English in the class with me. She was nice, her english good. She led me to the classroom after the strange chiming which seems to go on for quite a long time and gives the place an oddly harry potter like nature, and I was nervous, but the classroom was small (22 students) and I'd already asked her not to introduce me, in order for my game about guessing my name later to work a bit. Gosh I'm hungry, may have to pause this ramble... nahh. The students were lovely, they were hesitant and shy but some of them came out of their shells pretty quickly and they did seem to like the alphabet and number relay when it was their turn, but they got a bit bored when not, may have to tweak that one, make it a little more competitive, also, definitely need a stopwatch as timing anything without it is rubbish, especially without a wrist watch! So yea, I asked everyone's names and managed to mangle most of them in reciting, which amused the students. They did laugh at a few things, including me! which I guess is good. I enjoyed it, but I ran out of time before I'd finished all the questions and there was definitely a bit of boredom here and there from the front rows and some chatting and the JTE spoke a bit more than I was expecting, but she was helpful and I'm glad she was there. The students liked Pikachu and Harry Potter coming up and I think they laughed at a few of my gags, about my mum being the queen of england and they were all surprised that I wasn't from England (I bet the introduction in the gym said I was, but I was too nervous about bowing and doing that right to hear it at the time, so we'll never know) Oh crap is that a mosquitto.
The rest of the day was spent idly flicking through books. I made notes on what I need to do to improve for the next class and discussed it with my JTE, also managed to photocopy the worksheet several hundred times, which is always nice, as it cost about 1000 yen photocopying it last night, frantically in Takamatsu, before the last ferry left. Gosh wasn't that a fun evening. Okay my stomach's growling and I think there may be a chance that I can have free Bento boxes at school as the viceprinciple (or was it Fujihara?! they kind of look similar) said everything on the table was free and I could help myself, but he grabbed a biscuit from a tin, the next person grabbed a Bento Box. Boy do I hope they're inclusive in the free, I don't think there's enough for everyone though so I assume it's a once a week take it, who knows. I'll ask someone next time.
Oh and I got pink chalk all over me in the lesson, boy that stuff gets everywhere.
So apart from the fact that I didn't know when it was cleaning time or lunch time or anytime at all and felt a little like a lost sheep, while everyone else left me to it, it was fun and I'm just going to have to throw myself into the fray again and engage with as many of the other teachers as possible, oh and buy a damn stop watch! Should have gotten one this evening if I'd thought about it. Time to change out of my suit and post this damn essay. Oh yes, if you've read this much, you're awesome/a stalker :) xx
PS I neglected to mention the toilets. (I had to ask where they were, they don't seem big on information here). They were squatting ones, oh lordie. I'm not sure if I'll use them or not... I'll try. It's nicely alien.
P.P.S I also neglected to mention the inspection of each and every student's hair and uniform, from appropriate lengths of skirts to having the right hair cut. I liked it, for its difference, but also its thoroughness. I wasn't expecting it, but it was interesting.