September 22, 2000
now I'm feeling: content
now I'm listening to: Nanase Aikawa
Aikawa --Sekai wa kono te no naka ni
I have an obsession...
girls being scolded by the vice-principal. I heard loud
sniffles from a couple; the second girl on the left
is wiping away a tear or two.
Kiyoko and Hitomi
of the Day: The
Japan FAQ. This
link tells you why prices are so damn high in Japan.
The answers might startle you.
was right last week when I was
wondering if I was pushing the kids too hard to have their
Hitomi is the worst off. She doesn't take criticism too
well at all. Kiyoko takes it very well. She'll listen closely
to a word I say a few times, say it herself, then say, "Ah!"
Then I see it click. One of Hitomi's problems, even though
she has better natural pronunciation, is that she doesn't
have as good an ear as Kiyoko so when I say a word in contrast
to hers, she can't hear how it's different. She gets sullen
and her head goes slowly downward. If a human being could
be "unplugged" from it's power source, that's
exactly what Hitomi looks like. Her eyes are open, but she's
not hearing me anymore. She doesn't respond to my requests
to repeat the word and I give up. Move on to something else.
session I try to give both of them confidence and and encouragement.
And while they are still struggling to get some of the basics
down, their mastery of the specifics is improving all the
time. They're miles from where they were before summer.
But sometimes I feel terrible that I always have things
for Hitomi to work on. I can tell she's trying, but she
thinks that, eventually, her pronunciation should be perfect
and I shouldn't have anything else to say about it, but
that day hasn't come yet, nor will it come for quite a while.
Her pronunciation is good, but not perfect.
last class today I was hoping to be really good because
it's my last day here. The last class of the last day determines
what thoughts you leave that school with so I was hoping
for a dynamite class to avoid leaving Isao JHS with a bitter
taste in my mouth. We were playing the 'hot potato' game.
In this particular lesson, I'm teaching the kids how to
order simple things at fast food restaurants in the West.
So, I hand out a simple dialog, we practice the new words,
the dialog itself, then get rolling. I put on some tunes
and they pass around two plastic hamburgers. The poor souls
who have the burgers when the music stops have to say the
everything was cool until the low man on the totem pole
of the class got stuck with the burger. I felt an overwhelming
sense of dread coming over him, but it wasn't just from
speaking out in public; it was from something else. I found
out what that feeling of dread was when most of the class
laughed when they discovered that he would have to say the
A couple of students poked fun at a few of his words (even
though they were pronounced pretty well) and I had to
shush them a number of times, each time encouraging the
boy to continue. When he finally finished and sat down he
put his head in his hands and the ringleader said, "Look!
He's going to cry!" and sure enough, he did.
I grabbed the ringleader by the front of his shirt and dragged
(well, more like tugged, really, but 'dragged' sounds
so much more dramatic, doesn't it?) his sorry, bullying
ass outside of the room, along with the teacher who barely
speaks English, and we proceeded to lecture him. Then we
went back into the room and I wanted the incident to be
over with, but the boy was still crying and the mood for
the game was shattered. The teacher lectured the class for
10 minutes and after that I ended the class early and left.
After the class, she called three boys into the teachers'
room and she and one other teacher lectured them for over
a half an hour. It turns out that that particular boy cries
fairly regularly, but it's no wonder if his classmates are
tormenting him constantly.
being my last day at this school before moving on to Seiwa
JHS, was our last practice together. Instead of giving them
the standard pronunciation practice, I gave them some tips
about the contest, what to expect, and some basics in speaking.
One run through with each dialog and that was about it.
We were done.
they have been taking to thanking me with a prepared line
of thanks at the end of our practices that goes like this,
"Thank you so much for helping us with our English".
They say this together, of course. At the end of this practice,
Mrs. Washi, (who has been helping me translate to the
students this practice, but with whom I've been ticked off
with this month because she has hardly helped me at all
coach the students. But then again all the teachers at this
school are really indifferent to the English Recitation
Contest... kind of pisses me off actually) told me that
they wanted to speak to me alone after the practice so I
figured they wanted to say their line of thanks again, but
were a bit embarrased to say it in front of Mrs. Washi.
Hey, that's cool.
'thank you' this time was much longer and they said something
about patience and it being such a long time and stuff like
that. It was nice. I just said it was no problem and it
was my pleasure and Kiyoko had brough a camera (against
regulation, but what the hell do I care, right?) so
we took a few pictures, a few "cheezu"s here and
there, and then I went over to pick up the microphone equipment.
I looked back, Kiyoko had her small towel (that every
Japanese person carries to mop themselves during the really
hot months) up to her face. I thought she was just wiping
off her forehead so I wound up the cord to the microphone
speaker and picked it up. But as I turned to head out the
door Kiyoko took the towel away from her face and her eyes
were red and moist.
mean, students have cried before when I've left their schools
to move on with the rotation, and during graduations of
course when I've said goodbye for the last time, but this
time I was going to see her again real soon, next week.
I couldn't believe that these little practices meant so
much to her. I was a real fixture in her life, even if it
was just a few months it was pretty regular. It made me
feel great and terrible at the same time.
sat her down, put my hand on her shoulder and told her that
she would do fine. That I enjoyed our practices and I told
her how proud I was of her. She nodded her head in understanding
even though I knew she didn't understand my words exactly
. Tears trickled down her cheeks on the way to the teachers'
room to put away the microphone equipment. Both the principal
and vice-principal were there when we came into the teachers'
room. They saw her crying and didn't understand. Of course,
by now Hitomi's eyes were also glazed over and tearing up.
I put the stuff away and told them that they would both
do very well in the contest and how I'm so proud of them
for the progress they'd made. And even if they didn't win
that trip to North America it wouldn't matter in my eyes
because I know how hard they've worked and how much they've
improved. They stepped out of the teachers' room, Kiyoko
still sniffling and crying, said goodbye and left.