Sunday, March 5, 2000: "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner"

I bought a new VCR today. I would have bought the $100 one, but I wanted a brand compatible with my camcorder so I had to fork out another $50. Seiko came over and we watched The Birdcage and she cooked me dinner. It was really good. In the traditional Japanese way, she wouldn't let me help her at all, I was just supposed to amuse myself however I could. It was really hard for me! Seeing her in my kitchen cooking dinner by herself, for me!?! Ugh. I mean, it was a really nice gesture, but I had a hard time with it.

Monday, March 06, 2000

Today was a rough day; I had five classes. That's about as many as some of the non-homeroom teachers, but most teachers are not in the entertainment business like ALTs are. We expend a lot more energy than most teachers do while teaching, so five classes in one day is a hefty load. One of the classes was Masuoka's class. The little wench from last week. After about ten minutes of mentally preparing myself for every possibility, I left the teachers' room with Inoue-sensei. I was going up the stairs to go to her class I saw her coming down. I saw the open defiance in her eyes, but she avoided looking at me as she passed me. Inoue-sensei turned to me and said, "Hmm. I don't think she come back." Well, hey! That's just fine with me, you know what I'm saying? So, class went surprisingly well. Kato was very quiet, avoided looking at me as well. No defiance, just embarrassment, I suppose. I hope that changes by the next time I come to this school.. she had a good smile. Another of Masuoka's friends was writing a note in class and I asked her a couple times to put it away and write it later. She looked like she had to keep it out for some reason. She was trying to push me and I think that Masuoka might have even put her up to it. I tried to be as nice and non-confrontational as I could about it, but when her third strike came, I came to her desk and said in a playful voice, "I'm soooo sorry, but I have to take this away now. I'm soooorrrry!" I couldn't understand what it said (of course), but she didn't get very far in the letter, only about two lines, like she was afraid to write during class despite the fact that she was trying to push me. It didn't have my name written anywhere so that's good. Anyway, so the real surprise came when I was walking up and down the aisles and she asked me (politely) with her hand outstretched if she could have her note back.. in English! She's not a good student and using English is like a real appeal for these kids. She said, "Please.. note.. me." I asked her if she was going to put it in her desk and she said yes, so I gave it back to her and she did. This could be important because I could tell that that girl didn't really want to piss me off or she'd have been as defiant as Masuoka.

Tuesday, March 7, 2000

In one class I was walking up and down the aisles and I came across a boy with that "bad-boy" look. Pierced ear, dyed hair (as much as they'll allow at that school), and loose pants. And.. on his desk.. he had a "Hello Kitty" pencil bag in a nice flaming-pink color with the unmistakable head of Kitty-chan stitched on the side. I paused, picked it up and examined it. It was indeed a Hello Kitty pencil bag. It's so bizarre how boys and even adults can like "cute" things like this and not be poked fun at. (Is that sentence ok?? Losing my English ,here.)

Later I worked on some CGI; Meanings of Life and Favorites, now appearing on The Writers' Block page.

Wednesday, March 8, 2000

During my free period I decided to redo the "My Job" section of my page. I'm going to outline a typical student's day and use a few pics from the judo and kendo clubs as well as some shots that were taken in class during the year.

Had a couple more third grade classes today. We played the betting game and they had a great time. There's a couple students in the last class I had today who gave me a note they wrote. They're good students, I always recognize them, but wasn't sure of their names. Strange thing about this job is that most of the time you're never really sure to whom you mean something to.

Everyone's getting ready for graduation. Snapped a few shots as they cleaned up everything. They cleaned the windows on all floors (first, second, and third), shoveled the muck out of the drains and even scrubbed the doors clean. I mean it, they cleaned everything!! I saw some students sweeping the dirt!! I swear!! (I'll have a picture of this up soon.) They were using tiny, regular sized, and witch-brooms to do the cleaning outside. Tongs for the garbage. There was graduation practice in the gym, songs and marching. They're all smiles now, they think it's a game, but they'll be sobbing in a couple days. There's graduation practice for two more hours tomorrow.

Thursday, March 9, 2000: The Test

Had my last two classes at this school. Short day today, two classes, then two hours of practice then everyone went home. I had a class today that had one of Masuoka's close friends in it. The teacher warned me before hand, so I went in prepared; I wasn't going to let this girl tick me off. It wasn't hard to see which one she was, the only girl in the class wearing lipstick, and about halfway into class she started opening and closing the lid on her pen case, loudly. I tried to ignore it, but she was trying to provoke me and she was being persistent. I asked her to please be quiet, she stopped, then started again two minutes later. I walked by her desk and patted my hand on hers and playfully said, "Please don't do that, sweetie!" She was really surprised and didn't mess with her pen case for the rest of the class. The teacher and I were calling on people to read sentences aloud as part of the activity we were doing and I arranged it so that I'd be by her desk when it was my turn to call on a student. She seemed surprised that I'd call on her, and she had some trouble with the sentence, but I helped her out and when she was done I said, "Excellent. Very good", and I was surprised to see that she looked pleased with herself. I know Masuoka told her to try to provoke me, and the fewer students (especially friends of hers) who hate me, the better. And maybe now people in the other classes will think that Masuoka deserved what she got and I'm not the jerk she said I was. Who knows? They're teenagers, after all. I just dislike making enemies.

Friday, March 10, 2000: Graduation

All good things must come to an end, the old saying goes. Is that really true? Do all good things have to end? This graduating group is the last good crop of kids at Seiwa JHS. The 2nd graders aren't so hot and the many of the first graders are lunatics. The golden days of Seiwa JHS are coming to a close it seems.

***Riding to school on a bicycle in a suit is difficult.

For some reason, graduation is held in the morning on a weekday. I'd have thought they'd make it on a weekend when more parents could come. Who knows? I think I saw only one or two fathers in the audience. A few kimonos (kimonos aren't that common anymore, they're just too expensive).

I was surprised to see that a handful of teachers sat down immediately when it came time for the national anthem. It is a form of protest (What?? Protest in Japan?!?) against the actions of Japan in WWII. Many people closely associate the national song and Japan's flag with imperial Japan and would like to see both of them changed. Also many of them would like reparations made towards the nations attacked by Japan during the war.

The ceremony was a couple hours long. Scanning the graduating students I saw a few of them I'd never seen before (you don't actually have to go to school to graduate and some of them just don't go at all). A number of speeches, songs sung by the third graders and the first and second graders. There's an exchange of a symbolic present (an empty, gift-wrapped box) from the first grade class representative and the second grade rep to the third grade rep. More speeches. Principal, vice-principal, some nameless big-wig from the Board of Education and reps from each of the grades.

First and second grade reps: Thank you 3rd graders for being such good role-models and helping us become better people from your leadership.

Third grade rep: And thank you first and second graders for letting us torment you and your teachers in the name of adolescent fun.

Graduations are a little unusual here. Each student's name is called, after which they stand up and say "Hai!" They even call out the names of the students who aren't even there. Then, one student from each class goes up on stage and accepts the diplomas on behalf of the entire class.

About a third of the way through the ceremony I heard the first sniffles. About two thirds of the way through the handkerchiefs were out and by the end you could hear them. I walked to the back of the gym to be there as they walked out and to applaud them. Ah... it'd break your heart. These kids have been in the same classroom with the same kids all year long (they don't switch classes like American JHS kids do) and some of them for three years, now are separated. This is their whole world and it's been their whole life for three years. We've all been through that, but it's something to see it from this end. And feeling that each of these kids has their own life and now has to face their future (JHS students in Japan don't have to go to high school), I could almost feel it shifting. Strange feeling. Some students were doing pretty good, others were already bawling. One student whose name is Kana, was only sniffling until she looked at me clapping by the door, then she broke and let out a great sob.

After the procession out of the gym, all the students go to their homeroom classes for their homeroom teacher's goodbye speech. After that, all the parents and teachers formed an arched lined path leading to the gate. The third graders walk down that path for the last time and the teachers and parents congratulate them and wish them well. It was really sad. I am sorry to see so many good kids go. It was really depressing. The procession was almost finished. The last class had left, but one lone student was walking the path. Actually shuffling. It was little Akina. (Came by my desk a lot last year for a lunchtime chat. I'll miss her especially.) Her palms to her eyes, she couldn't even see the path and she could hardly carry her bookbag. It got quite a few chuckles from the parents and teachers and more applause. I stayed a little longer to say goodbye to some of my favorite students and meet a few parents and after about one hour, 200 photographs, 100 handshakes and a few hugs later it was time. The third graders were so reluctant to leave that a teacher had to get on a megaphone and herd them out of the gate.

It was really depressing to see them all go. Sometimes at lunch or at breaks I wish I had a free moment when the kids don't crowd around my desk, but now I'm going to miss some of those kids who did and probably even wish for one more chat with them!

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