Friday, March 27, 2009

Tying up loose ends

DSC00010 My time at my originally assigned schools has officially come to a fulfilling close. Looking back at the nearly two years I’ve spent working as an ALT, a glorified English communications teacher, I’ve noticed I’ve gained a lot from my experiences. I also found out I was more appreciated and wanted there than I really knew.
I was requested to attend my main junior high school’s farewell ceremony and even gave a speech in Japanese to the student body and staff. I was pretty surprised I spent three minutes speaking straight Japanese with a little English mixed in for jokes. I was given about three bouquets one of which was still potted, so I put them in my little yard. I also received a DVD made by the students, and a few more farewell cards. I kind of didn’t want to go to the farewell assembly but I am glad that I did after I realized how much I was really appreciated.
DSC00003I learned a lot from attending the final days of school and the farewell parties that followed. For one, I was pulled aside by most of the teachers, even ones I didn’t talk with much and told how happy they were to have me there. What really made me happy was how the main English teacher that I’ve been working with since the beginning complimented me on how in all his 20 years of working as an English teacher, I was the best he’s worked with and he really didn’t want me to go.
I was really touched by all of this and was also pretty sad when I realized this was the probably the last time I’d interact with any of them. At the end of the farewell party, I was given another bouquet of flowers and 5000 yen in cash. Not only did I receive cash, my whole night of dinner and drinking was paid compliments of the permanent staff. I guess it’s all fair since, I chipped in last year for the same thing last year.
DSC00011 I think the reason why I worked so well with them was that I didn’t hold myself so high or expect too much out of my position. I knew what to expect from the students I worked with, and didn’t rock the boat by trying to change their school or worlds. I am sure it also didn’t hurt to be able to communicate with them in their language. If anything I’m sure it lightened the tension between us and they were more willing to accept me as one of their own.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to use my language asset to my advantage once again with my new schools. I still really don’t know anything about where I’ll be going besides the general area where I’ll be working. It’s kind of unsettling but I’m sure I’ll find more out within the next few days at the latest.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My last day at Ashiyasu elementary school

DSC07516Almost one year ago I was scared, nervous, and annoyed about adding my new schools in Ashiyasu. I was especially scared and worried about teaching at an elementary school since all my experience up to that point had been at the junior high school level. I wish my past self could see me today, I am sure he would have been relieved to see me standing confident and tall over all my little students at the elementary school.
Starting at Ashiyasu elementary school was a little slow because I had to relearn student names, faces, and how they all worked in class… kind of just like any school. I ended up falling in love with the school, staff, and students, in a non literal sense. I just had a really good time there and got a lot of help from the friendly teachers there and the easy going students. I’m sure the school’s extremely small size helped a lot too.
DSC00010 I had a lot of pictures taken of me on the last day that I wish I could share on my blog but I feel its inappropriate to post pictures of my students without their permission so they’ll just sit in my large external hard drive until I decide to print some of them and file the others for permanent storage.
I will miss both my schools in Ashiyasu and I’m sure they’ll miss me just as well, maybe even more. Now I really have to focus on the next set of schools I’m being assigned to. Hopefully I’ll get comfortable teaching a lot faster than I did at Ashiyasu.
I wonder if this will be my last year before I change careers for something a little more lucrative. Or maybe my new schools may entice me to stay aboard for at least one more year. I hope this next school year is just as enjoyable as the 08-09 one has been. Here's to the future!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I finally got real snow.

DSC00026  It finally happened. A real snow day! I have been anticipating this day all winter long and I finally got it at the least expected time. March tends to be a little late for snow around my parts but this year was an exception. All the variables to make snow lined up perfectly. It was at or below 5 degrees Celsius, precipitation was high, and it had been cloudy or raining for the past week which helped keep the ground temperature down.
DSC00024It snowed all day without stopping but snow only piled up on things like roofs, cars, and trees. The rest of the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground. I was hoping for a heavier snow that stuck to every thing but rain washed it all away in the morning. I was kind of saddened by the lack of snow that I expected to greet me in the morning, but at least my car was covered with it when I left for work.
 DSC00010 In other news, I had my last 3rd grade junior high lesson at Ashiyasu. The students at Ashiyasu are pretty cool and kind and the 3rd graders were no exception. At the end of class my most favorite 3rd grade student pulled me aside and handed me an envelope full of short messages from her class.
So I ended up getting two things from graduating classes. Now I just have to figure out what I should do with them. I may have to start a physical scrapbook or album to hold all this stuff I’m collecting.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A little something from the graduating students.

V6Q6WM~1 It’s very close to the end of the Japanese school year and I just had my last junior high 3rd grade classes for this year. Last year I really didn’t connect with the 3rd grade students because I started teaching around their second half of the school year. But this year was different because this year’s 3rd graders are last year’s 2nd graders. These were the students I connected with the best and for the most part our relationship didn’t change much over the past year.
My 3rd graders probably liked me so much because I was able to balance studying with practical fun things and open discussion if time allowed for it. They could see I wasn’t bothered by their periodic lack of energy or enthusiasm and appreciated that I didn’t push English onto them as forcefully as other past ALTs may have done to them.
DSC00001So as a token of their appreciation one of my best 3rd grade classes handed me a large cardboard card with personal messages on it from each class member. I was pretty happy to receive it because only homeroom teachers and very special teachers only get these things. I didn’t get one last year but I am very happy to have received one on my last year of teaching at the junior high school level. Of course the other 3rd grade classes probably liked me too but I probably didn’t connect to them as well due to not being able to visit them as much as 3-1’s class.
It will be sad to see my students go, but I’m leaving the school too so its not all that bad I suppose. I think the worst part will be cracking the bad news to my 1st and 2nd graders. I’ve had even more time to bond with those grades and I’m sure it will disappoint a handful of them. Plus, its always a shock to change teachers, especially the English one since everybody has different backgrounds, strengths, and personalities. Hopefully I set a good atmosphere for the next teacher to take my place.
DSC00001 And in other news, I got tired of looking at my green fake leather sofa so Yuko helped me buy a sofa cover online. It ended up being a little irregular in fit but it works fine and makes my place look even better than before. I keep saying I’m finished making home improvements or buying stuff but I couldn’t pass up a sweet online deal for a double coil spring mattress. I can finally toss out my worn out foam folding mattresses and sleep on a proper bed! Although I will put it up in my loft, its still better than what I’ve been sleeping on for the past year or so. Pictures will be posted once it arrives, hopefully by this weekend.