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Monday, September 8, 2014

Delays Due To Relays

     The currently planned episode of the podcast is being postponed until all schedules lighten up.

Here's what's been going in the meantime:

The shirts will also have this slogan

     Of the peaks and valleys in a Japanese school system with respect to workload we're certainly at a peak. As of this writing, most schools are either preparing for their Undoukai (Sports Festival) or have had them last weekend. Mitsuko's was the latter and I'm still the former.

     Speaking of Mitsuko, she has since returned back home to Ebi and (as of the second semester) has started working once more. It's a bit sad that we have to live apart again. It was a good run while we had it - even if for horrible reasons, but hopefully work will keep us busy enough to avoid becoming too lonesome. She was elated to be back in action though and there was much rejoicing by everyone in her town - especially the students. There were no mistakes about being back to work as soon as she returned; speech contest practice started right away.
     While there are currently no classes for me, there's still much work to be done in the speech contest realm. Since about the end of July I've been more or less 'coaching' four of my students - three third years and a second year - alongside a JTE or two. Occasionally I'll be left alone to work with them and I quite like those sessions. I'm know I'm not good enough to communicate all of my ideas entirely in Japanese but there's also no need for that. Some of the best moments I've had working on the speech contest have come from the times when it was just the group of us - allowing for more breathing room and a less tense environment overall, which I believe to be essential for this kind of practice.
     I remember a recent time when I was practicing with a couple of students who I'll refer to as A and K here. K had been making great leaps in his pronunciation. I chose him in fact because he's quite good at mimicking me. Though he first did it in jest during class time I later told him what a useful skill it would be for learning a language. For practice on emphasis I had encouraged him to copy my pseudo karate chopping motions so he could remember how the cadence rose and fell. We joked about how he would scare people randomly speaking English and chopping away. Next up was A. I enjoy working with her because of how inquisitive she is. She'll be the first one to recognize that she misspoke and she'll always ask how she can improve her pronunciation. I try to avoid terms such as "right" and "wrong" when it comes to how one speaks so I always remind her (and the rest of them) that outside the world of speech contests pronunciation is really a bottom tier quality. During the course of our practice we were working on a rather difficult word to pronounce and I had thought up a new way for her to think about it. That clicked and she managed to say it perfectly. The look on her face after she had just blown her own mind was fantastic.

A picture from Isai Kindergarten looking out at the now defunct Isai Elementary
     If there's one thing that makes this job really worth it, it's the kids. They're just the best. I have the good fortune of seeing a lot of kids by way of elementary school and kindergartens, which does add to the workload but gives me a chance to have more fun as well. The downside is that outside of my junior high school, I have very scattered visits so I don't see each individual school as frequently as I probably should. My base school (junior high) is fun precisely because of how much contact I have with the students and how very unique and quirky they all are.
     Perhaps it was that way when I was a junior high school student as well but then again, I wasn't in the position to have everyone instantly know who I was, or like me for that matter. Even thinking about the teacher's perspective (back home) reaffirms that we never felt that way towards them, which isn't to say we didn't respect our teachers, it just didn't feel as automatic.
     I've heard from friends who teach/ have taught at high schools that they don't necessarily run into every student all the time, which is a shame. For people that do see (and frequently) all kids in the student body I feel as though one becomes nearly paternal in nature. It seems almost inescapable considering how much becoming a teacher feels like being sworn into a society which grants implicit trust and respect - something I don't take lightly as it seems easy to abuse. This serves to increase the value of my work all the more. Above all else, I just don't want to let my kids down.



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