June 27, 2000
10:14 pm
Right now I'm feeling: Tired!

Right now I'm listening to: Every Little Thing

Every Little Thing: Switch

I don't think I've told anyone this, but ELT is the group which got me first really interested in J-Pop. You won't find any group which captures the spirit and tone of J-Pop better than ELT. They're one of my favorite bands here.

Shogakko Visit

Today was chaos. Pure chaos.

Lunch in the classroom

Dodge Ball

The elementary school teacher who studied English for four years at university, but forgot everything. My protector and would-be translator, Andi, is at the far right.

The "Animal Basket" Game
gets a little out of control!

  Quote of the Day:
"A child without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid center."
-- Homer Simpson


I've been dreading this day for two entire weeks. At the beginning of my stay at Takatsumi JHS, I was told that I would be visiting one elementary school today. The head English teacher told me that I would play "Fruit Basket", sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", and give a short self-introduction. In preparation for today's event, I studied last night. I searched on the web and found the verses of "Twinkle, Twinkle...". I came to the realization that I don't think I ever knew the lyrics to "Twinkle, Twinkle..". I must not have ever been a little boy because this nursery rhyme, which everyone knows at birth, is so utterly unfamiliar to me that it's not even funny. What do you guys think? Does this ring a bell?

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Then the traveler in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

So the idea was that I would sing it in English and they'd sing along in Japanese. Hmm. Well, I can think of better ways to teach them English. The theory behind this plan was that the kids would be simply entranced by my English that the bilingual duet would be an instant hit with everyone. I was supposed to be in there for one class period of 45 minutes, but there was a breakdown in communication somewhere along the line...

When I got to the shogakko and into the classroom they all stood up and sang me a song. How nice! I thought. So energetic, yet polite... then, I was mobbed. Mobbed, I say. What do I mean? I mean that I was literally thrown to the ground, twice, in a stampede of sweaty, small-bodied, (it was so freaking hot today) Japanese. An unpleasant experience at best, I nearly got injured falling on the corner of the teacher's desk. I was rescued by a darling little gal by the unlikely name (for a Japanese) of "Andi". She knew a smidgen of English and felt some kind of affinity for me, I suppose. (During class and lunchtime, the teacher sometimes asked her how to say a particular word in English.) She was able to keep many of the eager eight-year-olds at bay with sharp looks and words, pushes if need be. She led me around by the hand for practically the entire three hours I was there.

My self-introduction went amazingly well. I was able to answer all the questions they asked and they leaped out of their seats to answer my questions.

After the self-introduction, it was time to sing. I was prepared. I had my crimp sheet in my back pocket with all three verses of the song just in case. Turns out that I didn't need it. After we sang the first verse together, I in English, they in Japanese, the teacher thought it would be a wonderful idea for me to sing the entire song by myself. Hmph. I think not. By the end of the first verse most of them had lost interest, they just didn't know the words, or the meaning. They didn't get it. I blew past that and smoothed the teacher to prompt the students for questions, which, of course, they had no end of.


I don't remember my elementary school lunches being quite as nasty as the stuff I saw today.

There was a hot-dog-bun-bread-thing, milk in a pyramid-shaped, soft plastic container, soup, and some kind of fishy-mayonnaise roll-up thing. I asked the students what it was and they didn't know. Only a few of them liked it. I also don't remember the teachers at my elementary school eating the same lunch as the students... it just seemed wrong somehow.

Anyway, so a small group of students got dressed in the getup in the picture above, and start doling out the grub. They look like little surgeons, don't they?

I had suggested last week that it might be interesting for the students if I brought my own lunch. Y'know, so that they could see what a typical American lunch was like. I brought a sandwich, an apple, potato chips, and a Sprite. Yeah, baby. Good stuff, that.

After lunch I signed about 50 autographs. Andi discovered that there was a marked difference (mostly in terms of legibility) between my signature and printed name, so, of course, everyone had to have my printed name for posterity as well.

After the signing, we went outside for dodge ball. After dodge ball, we went inside to play a variation on a game called "Fruit Basket". For those who don't know the game, suffice to say it involves a lot of running, shouting, and general pandemonium.

After the game, they sang a song for me and that was about it. Andi gave me a paper snowflake that she made for me and the teacher (whose name I still don't know) escorted me to the principal's office where we chatted for an hour. I kind of just wanted to go home, I was all hot and sweaty and sticky (kids had been literlly hanging all over me for the past three hours) and I wanted to take a shower, but I stayed. The principal drove me to the train station and that was about it.

It was a good experience, but I know I'm not cut out for elementary school. The principal summed it up quite nicely. He said that in elementary school you use your physical energy and in JHS you use all your mental energy. I think I'm better at teaching JHS, but then again, I may be just more used to it. I'm not sure. People say that teachers at elementary school level have more of a chance to mold minds, and to a certain extent I think that's true, but I could still pick out the kids who would be troublemakers six years from now (those were the kids who had the tendancy to hang around by the door or wander out into the hallway while we were singing). The more formative years must be earlier than that... but I won't talk about my half-baked psychology theories, so I'll just say that shogakko is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there... or work there in a permanent fashion, rather.

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