Homesick with students (Late internet post 2)

Homesickness is really exacerbated by lack of internet…

This week started rough and ended ok, shortly after being really rough. In my experience, as Susannah, my emotions tend to build up until a breaking point, I have a meltdown of sorts, and then I feel great. That happened this week with my homesickness.

My job is exhausting. I teach different levels of english to different levels/ages of students. Many of the levels are determined based on age, not skill level. the justification behind this is to make sure that the textbook content is interesting to the student, regardless of level of understanding. I get that, really I do, but I think even there I have found many failures. Take for example the lesson where my Japanese equivalent to 8th graders was meant to learn the song, “Hush Little Baby” in order to learn about rhyming. I made up a new lesson so I only had to briefly make them sit through that, instead of having it be the main focus of the lesson… This sort of thing has already happened a few times since I started this job…

My day starts around 12, because in Japan it is very important to get to work before work starts. Usually at least 20 minutes, or else you would be considered verging on late. At 1, I usually have a class with very young kids, ranging from 2 – 5 years old. This isn’t a problem most of the time, since the 2 year olds have their own class. I had a 2 year old make up a class with 5 year olds, and that was… interesting.

My 2 year old kept saying in Japanese how fast Sensei was going and how early I was with all the activities compared to when it is just her normal class. Also, one thing 2 year olds can’t do that 5 year olds can is share. When it came time to the yummy activity, in which the kids get to sort “yummy” and “yucky” foods, the 5 year olds were not happy about how the 2 year old compulsively will take a strawberry, onion, and lettuce for herself. Kids seem to really love prying things out of each others’ hands… I’ve been trying to teach putting out your hand, pointing to it, and saying, “Please.”

The younger kids are fun, and easy to amuse. If I run out of activities, I have taken to just having them run back and forth with certain gestures and movements that I assigned to short English phrases, such as, “One-legged octopus.” They also love to literally crawl all over me.

The main reason that my job is exhausting is not just the preschoolers; it’s because I only have 1 class of preschoolers a day. I then, sometimes right after, will have an adult class, then a 1st/2nd grade class, then a 4th/5th/6th grade class, and so on. I teach from age 2 to age 69 in a matter of hours, which is awkward when sensei is sweating bullets from all of the one-legged octopus races and she now has to sit down and be civilized.

Overall I like my students and they seem to be responding well to me. I’ve enjoyed learning how to make each age group open up and feel at ease. One thing I have found pure joy in is starting off my Junior high lessons normally, where we go over language and I make sure that they get the trend. Once that is clear, and their eyes glaze over, I throw in some random vocabulary to catch them up. One example of this is when I was teaching the use of should/shouldn’t to a group of students that was dead set on hating me because I was new.

Me: “Should you brush your teeth?”

S1: “Yes, I should brush my teeth.”

Me: “Should you eat breakfast?”

S2: “Yes, I should eat breakfast.”

Me: “Should you eat babies?”

S3: “Y– EH?! Eh?! NANI?! (WHAT?!)”

Me: “Should you eat babies? Ya know? Waaa waaa! Chomp!”

S3: “N-no! Shouldn’t–”

Me: “I shouldn’t…”

S3: “I shouldn’t eat babies!”

Me: “Good! Good job!”

I love the initial surprise they have and then watching them slowly smile with every new level of oddity. For that example class, I asked them whether they should fight yakuza, eat spiders, and eat Australia, among other things. Whenever I saw them throughout the week, I would always ask them if they should eat babies and they would get a sly smile before they responded. One of my students (whom is 12 years old) is so used to these questions because for two weeks straight he has been the only one in the class. We tend to only ask each other crazier and crazier questions and then supply random funny answers. It’s even better because he is very quiet and maybe a bit shy as well.

My 8th grade class (of which I sadly only have one) is really fun because they get it and role with it. When we were learning “Funny ‘If’ statements” I set up a basketball game with sentence starters like, “If I had ¥100,000,000,000 I would…” or “If I built a house without wood or metal, I would use…” and every basket  made, the student had to complete that sentence. The house one was great because I ended up having houses made from chocolate, cookies, plastic, and leaves, with two houses made out of bones and people.

***

This whole post morphed from my homesickness to talking about my students, which is maybe a good thing. I guess many of my classes help me forget about my own current ennui at being in a new place with little communication with the world I knew before and few things to do outside of work and shopping. But soon that will change. We even received a package in the mail with some of the hardware for our new upcoming internet!

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