Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Round Two Begins

My second round of elementary school visits started today. Last month I was a bit unsure of how elementary teaching would go. I wasn't scared but it was completely new territory. My intro lessons went fairly well. I felt bad for the younger students who had to sit through a batch of random pictures and maps. I don't know to what extent they found it interesting and that isn't so important. Rather it was the gritty details about myself that needed to be laid bare so the students could begin to get a better idea of who I am. With only visits once a month it can feel like I don't know the students and they don't know me.

Today was heaps of fun. Do to the liberty of my job I'm left to fend for myself and prepare everything. A complete positive in most aspects. After looking through what the previous ALT taught I decided to use the topic of commands. He had mentioned that he never got around to doing such a lesson so it seemed like a good starting point the students probably hadn't covered, if not for a long time. I also made use of my RA experience today to pull out an ice breaker game that would be appropriate for all students. If there is anything the RA job taught me it is that at campus housing employee get togethers (mandatory) that they love any kind of ice breaker. Seth McCoy please kill big booty though. Even if it wasn't you that introduced it, you may have, it should die a terrible death in the vain of being buried in sand up to the neck and being left for a few hours to take a nap. Then you never wake up because the weight of the sand has compressed the diaphragm and breathing is subdued. This is why I don't like the idea of being buried in sand. All I can say is that the kids loved my ice breaker game. For those who don't know fuzzy duck you make a circle of people. Then one person starts and you point either left or right. If right, you say fuzzy duck. If left, ducky fuzz. Anyone can go either direction at anytime. To mix things up you can always quack at someone across the circle to send the game away from yourself. It was pretty entertaining trying to get them to say fuzzy duck and ducky fuzz loudly and correctly. We played rather slow but they all got it and were laughing up a storm as their classmates messed up and made mistakes. There wasn't a class that didn't like the game. Some of the 3rd and 4th grade girls were like, "Blaine sensei come play with us!" They didn't want to stop. I can only imagine the carnage of fuzzy duck that lies in the wake of playing. Success of the game definitely noted.

I went on to teach them really easy commands in English now that their minds were activated and alive. For instance, look, touch, stand up, etc. They caught on very easily even when I didn't teach them specific particles like 'a, the, an' that go with some of the commands. After I felt they knew the commands fairly well I had them stand up and explained another game. Now the name Simon Says in English doesn't make much sense to me but never thought about it till now. So I renamed it to "Sensei Says" (Teacher Says) which I think works equally well. The students really got into the game. As you might know it's impossible for me to not tease. This is no doubt thanks to my father which I say is said in the most endearing way possible. Sometimes his teasing was scary like when he would turn the lights off and hide in a room somewhere. Those were extremely surreal experiences. I have these mental images but I don't even know if half of them are real. At any rate, Sensei Says was so fun because I got to trick the students over and over again. Even after many caught on to the game I could still get them sometimes just by making confident faces and carelessly giving commands. After each class played a few times they kept asking to do it again. I intended to give students a chance to be the sensei but that would have been challenging for students to do correctly. I love how happy all the students were. They kept saying it was interesting and fun. The elementary students by all means made my day. As I drove home I couldn't but help smile and laugh.

On a completely different note, if you read yesterday I have quite a few "projects" I would like to undertake. To add insult to injury I spent an hour last time reading about ohenro. This is a 88 temple pilgrimage through the island of Shikoku.

Walking to each temple can take anywhere from 40-54 days. Recently it has been a big tourist attraction. You can charter bus tours and yes, even helicopters to visit all the temples. To me that seems to defeat the purpose of the journey. I don't think I will ever have time while I'm here to walk the entire route unless I saved up a ton of days off. Even then I couldn't just up and leave for more than a month at school. In summer it would be possible. However, the heat would cook my hide before I get anywhere. I think I might try to walk the route one prefecture at a time, in a week's time. I would love to walk the entire thing at once though. What WOULD YOU really want, doing a 45 day walking pilgrimage or breaking the route up over different times? That feels like an excuse. I want to say I did ohenro and follow up that statement with ALL AT ONCE. And the person follows up with, "That's something special Blaine, now tell me how to say hello in Japanese."

That was supposed to be the end. I remembered something interesting though from today that I thought was worthwhile to include. The music teacher has been asking me how I am progressing with guitar. I basically tell her I'm pretty rough at playing chords fluidly but I'm getting there. She never learned guitar because she thought it was too hard. I'm sure the piano is that much easier... She really has a sinister plot brewing that she wants to sweep me into. There is culture festival next month. Pretty big deal like sports day. I skipped the one at Kansaigaidai and went to Tokyo which I never regretted. I figured there would always be 'culture days' again in my life. I shan't be disappointed next month. The music teacher oversees the culture club which I think is a clever name to disguise the fact it is more of a music club than anything. Then again I could be very wrong. They are learning a song for the culture festival. The music teacher, after some prodding about my guitar abilities, asked if I would play with them. I immediately gave her a dumbfounded "ehhhh?" to which she replied, "Don't worry you will be good enough by then." I hope she isn't placing too much confidence in me. Now before you flip out she actually only asked me to play two chords the whole time on the guitar as a filler instrument. Still, I told her I would think about it. Ultimately we all know I will do it. Why back out of such a great opportunity. I miss band at times and this is a perfect chance to relive my days on tuba. I should write a memoir about the tuba section. My first evening at marching band practice I was introduced to the game called "Gestapo". One of the tuba players told me it was quite simple. They chase their Jewish friend around street alleys and try to beat him up. The reality is that the friend was Jewish and they actually played the game. I never learned if they traded roles but I highly doubt it. The Jewish kid was proud of his role. On a cold winter night I will attempt to pen the tales I remember from those days. Here I come culture festival. Be ready for me. The plus side to all of this is that I get some great exposure to the students. If I can play two chords like a robot I might just come in below deity status at school. One of the cool third students even tells me about his print club stickers and what he did with his girlfriend on the weekend. They must like me a little right? Soon they all shall stroll on the precipice of the monolith that is I.

PS. I have taken Genesis 11 into account with this posting. Thanks.


Nancy said...

Tower of Babel? Explain please! You were born to be a teacher and writer! I'm glad you're using the gifts God gave you. Wish I could see you in action with those elem kids. love you!

Jayson said...

Blaine, I personally loved the joy you took from tricking your students repeatedly. It's important to enjoy the little things, right?

And to be honest, I'm facing a similar difficulty regarding the ohenro. Ever since I found out I was coming to Kochi, it's been at the top of my to-do-list, but also, simultaneously, somehow, at the back of my mind. It's sad, but I've had to just push it to the realm of the impossible.

The only way, as I see it, would be to do the pilgrimage after I've decided I'm not going to recontract with JET anymore, whenever that turns out to be...

Good luck with the guitar!

And the earthquake... hmm... I guess it was around 2 pm, approximately.

ted said...

I had intended to do the Henro in segments, but wound up doing it all, completely unexpectedly. It was a great way to say goodbye to Japan. We did it in a somewhat speedy 39 days, not attempting to go quickly, but since we were sleeping out, we'd inevitably tack on an additional couple km each evening in search of a good place to camp. When I finished, I knew I'd always think of the Henro as being one of the more important things I've done in life.

Also, it dawned on me that I've been to Gohaku, and slept in an abandoned elementary school there.
My friend Seiichi Yamamura heads the band Rustic Pans, and does workshops for the locals. Good fun, if you have the chance! I wrote about the visit here:


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