So… I had a feeling this would happen. The first couple months of this blog would be filled with posts and everything would be dandy… and then things would slow down. And I would forget I have a blog.
I forgot I had a blog.
But! At least I remembered before it was like… January or something. Since things have indeed slowed down since I first arrived, it’s hard for me to find things to write about. But! We did have something go on a bit ago so I will jot that down.
In Japan, junior high school and high schools have something they call a “culture festival”. Personally, I knew what this was when my teacher’s told me about it. However, the version I was expecting was different. The cultural festivals for JHS and HS are different and I wasn’t aware of that until another ALT told me so. For JHS, the cultural festival takes place in the form of a singing competition. Each class, as well as year, practice for months on a song to perform to the school, PTA, and parents. Judges are brought in from outside schools (like a high school or university). The brass band will also play; while the judges are deciding on the winners, the teacher’s arrange for a special performance for the students to watch.
Now, the version I was expecting is geared more towards high school. Some people might be familiar with it, but basically the school throws an actual festival at the school and invite the public to join. There’s usually games, performances and all sorts of stuff. Students put months of work into these.
A part of me is sad that I won’t be able to see one of these, but I did enjoy the JHS cultural festival. So, let’s get down to it.
Hokubu’s Cultural Festival took place at ACT City Hall this year; according to my teachers, they usually go somewhere else. Shamefully, I haven’t been to ACT Hall since I’ve been here even though it’s a huge part of Hamamatsu. And I don’t just mean that figuratively; that place huge, it’s hard to miss. I live very close to ACT City Hall, but my school asked me to ride the bus over with them. the 3-2 and 3-3 group invited me to ride with them an since I don’t teach third years, I thought it would be a nice chance to spend some time with them. The third years at Hokubu are all very friendly to me and tend to be the loudest students when I arrive in the morning, when I’m walking down the hall or when I’m leaving at the end of the day. When I walk past their portion of the hallway to the first year side, students will literally run to the door just to say good morning or hello to me. I love it >.<
So, I rode the bus with them. I wasn’t told I didn’t have to dress up and you think I would have learned by now to do the opposite of what they say, buuuuut yeah no. Luckily, I have a locker at work now so I was able to change into the blazer I keep at Hokubu for instances like these. The staff were all so busy I was actually forgotten at one point and a teacher had to come back and get me to bring me to the bus. The students thought it was hilarious. The trip itself was quick; Hokubu is only about 15 minutes by bus to my apartment so maybe 20 all the way to ACT City. I followed everyone in and sat with my tantosha’s HR class, 3-3.
I often forget how much Japanese culture is based around formality and ceremony. I have never been to such a formal singing competition O_O not that there’s anything wrong with that! It just seems to always catch me off guard. You may recall a blog from September or so when I was talking about my speech student. He didn’t win or place at the speech contest, but was asked to perform his speech at the Culture Festival. I spent weeks helping him get down difficult words; I have to say that I was very proud of him for doing it in front of his peers and teachers. He nailed it! (Still bitter he didn’t at least place in September as his pronunciation is as clear as a native speaker -_-)
Afterwards, the singing portion began. It started with a song sung by the entire first year class (all of them my students) and then they split up into their home room classes and sang again. Something that I also noticed that is different from America is that the students are the ones who will play the piano for the song and conduct the song. I didn’t realize this until placements were being announced, but that was being judged too! There’s no rambunctious cheering either; only clapping. There isn’t really much to report on this except that these students sounded AMAZING O_O like holy crap these kids are good.
Before the lunch break and second half of the festival, the brass band played. That brought me back! Though with how well these students played, I almost forgot they were only in junior high school. Though the band director did enjoy talking to me afterwards about how I played clarinet and saxophone in JHS. He even invited me to join their practices when my clarinet is fixed!
I was invited to eat lunch with the 3-2 class, but I had to decline because I needed to stop by the BoE to pay for rent. Usually, I would do this on our monthly meetings, but that day happened to be the meeting and since I had a cultural festival (two others did as well), we were given an alternate meeting the following week. However, we still had to pay rent; one ALT had no hope of paying it during her lunch break so I offered to do it for her. The brass band ended late but they were still going to start the festival back up at 1:00. I literally had to RUN to the BoE, pay the rent and run back. There was no lunch that day…
The third years went after lunch and then we had what they called “Special Stage” I honestly had NO idea what this was. None of the teachers were able to explain it either. So I just went with it. But as explained earlier on, a teacher (sometimes more) will arrange to have a special guest performance for the students to enjoy. One of the first year teachers did it this year and they brought in a group called CUBE. This group does tricks an acrobatic stunts revolving around soccer. They were really good! They even called some of the students up to join some of their stunts.
Afterwards, the placements were announced. They take these kind of things really seriously here! The teams who didn’t win, at least in the third year classes, broke out in tears; I can kind of understand though. It’s their last year doing this and they probably wanted to go out on a high note. The class I was sitting with, 3-3, didn’t win overall, but their conductor won for his category. I believe 3-1 won both piano and overall.
And that’s really it in terms of “big school events”. Here’s a few snippets of things that have been going on as well:
-Halloween at ES: Yes, Halloween was a big deal, at least for the elementary school I was at the weekend before. It was on a Thursday, but all the classes I had that day brought costumes in to wear during my class. I had originally planned on showing those classes a Halloween video, but for some reason, my computer refused to work on their TV unless it was a powerpoint. So last minute we had to change gear and do Halloween drawings. The students didn’t seem to mind; I managed to get lots of pictures, but I’m not entirely sure if I’m allowed to post them? I’m going to lean towards probably not. I wish I could because I got a picture with my favorite student in the fifth year classes. I’m only in his class maybe twice a month, but he follows me everywhere! I mentioned to him and the teacher my first time in his class that he reminded me of my brother when he was that age. He doesn’t look like my brother, but his personality is practically identical. Ever since that day, he has unfailingly called me “onee-chan” (big sister) outside of class and follows me all over the place, even if I’m not teaching fifth years the day I’m there. I’m sad I won’t have him in JHS. He attends Kamijima so he’ll most likely go to Hikuma.
-Halloween in Tokyo: That’s right, I went to Tokyo (again) for Halloween! Kim and I managed to snag tickets to one of Liraizo’s Halloween lives and our friend Ann joined us! I’ll spare the details for now since I promised I would separate my live/instore posts with other things I do. But! We spent Halloween in Tokyo and it was splendid.
Embarrassing School Moment #5: Going all the way to school and making it to the staff room before being told by your JTE that you have something on your face. In my haste to leave work, I snarffed down a chocolate croissant and flew out of my apartment; in that effect, I managed to have chocolate on my face and NO ONE SAID A WORD until I went up to speak with my JTE about our class. I had even spoken to my Kyoto and kocho-sensei and they didn’t say a word -_-
Granted Third Year Classes: This one I’m super excited about! I’ve been asking to help out in the third year classes since… late September; mainly because I think they would benefit from being able to expand their English with me and also because I can provide them with a small educational yet fun break from the onslaught of stress that comes with trying to make it into a good high school. Plus, about half of the third years I see all ask me when I’m going to visit their class; I always feel bad when I have to tell them I won’t be visiting because the school hasn’t said I could.
That changed yesterday! Two students, who I recognized as third year boys, came into the teacher’s room and stopped at my desk. I thought this was weird because… no student ever comes to me unless I’ve told them to (for like a prize or something). The only times students acknowledge me in the teacher’s room is by saying ‘hello’ or ‘see you’ as they pass me, IF they pass me. So the fact that I had two students at my desk was surprising to say in the least. We had a very interesting conversation. First off, some background information: I always have my planner out; I have two pictures on the outside and three on the inside. The ones on the outside are of me and my best friend Rae and then on the backside it’s my two dogs. On the inside, I have three cheki (mini Polaroids), all of which are me and some VK band. This conversation was spoken entirely in English:
Me: Hi! How are you?
Student1: I’m good!
Student2: I’m happy! And you?
Me: I’m good, thank you. Can I help you?
Student1: Eeeeeeh *pauses* What do you like?
Me: What do I like? I like music. What do you like
Student1: Oh oh me too!
Me: *turns to second student* What do you like?
Student2: I like games.
Student1: *points to planner* Who this girl?
Me: That’s my best friend, Rae. She lives in America.
Student2: She’s very cute! Boyfriend?
Me: She’s married.
Me: Yes, married.
Student1: She’s cute!
Me: I’ll tell her that.
Student2: You’re cute too!
Me: *trying not to laugh* Thank you.
Me: It’s a secret!
Student2: *points to planner* May I open? (I think that word got around I had pictures inside of it; a few of my second year classes have seen them).
Student2: *opens planner and shows other student* Which is boyfriend? *shows cheki* (One is of me and Taka from Uchusentai:noiz; second one is of me and Shun from Duel Jewel and third is me and the entirety of Liraizo and Reign)
Me:…. They’re ALL my boyfriend.
Me: *nodding* yes.
Both: *turn to JTE sitting behind me* Sensei! *points to planner* Really? Joke right?
JTE: *shakes head* No joke; really.
Both: …WHAT? *turns to Kyoto-sensei* Kyoto-sensei!!!! Really? Joke? Joke right? Joke!”
Kyoto-sensei: *shakes head* No joke.
Me: *dying in a fit of laughter* Joke! Joke! I’m joking!
Kyoto-sensei and JTE: *also trying not to die of laughter*
Student1: Oh…Joke! Okay! Well, see you!
Student2: See you!
(Students leave only to come back in seconds later)
Student1: Please come visit 3-1 after testing!
Student2 Please come visit 3-2 after testing!
Me: Okay! I will talk with your English teacher. Who is your English teacher?
Both: (instert JTE name)
Me: Okay! I hope to see you soon!
Both: See you!
And that was how I found out I had been asked to teach some third year classes. I love the fact my JTE and Kyoto-sensei were in on my joke.
I went to speak with their teacher and I’m very happy about being able to help out in her classes! It adds a little more work on my schedule, but I really don’t mind! A lot of ideas I have and have been hearing from other ALTs are geared more towards third years; I’m excited to try them out now! I actually get to do my intro again in a couple weeks for them (didn’t think I’d have to until April with the new first years). It’ll feel weird doing it again after so long!
Other than that, not much else to report on! I meant to do a couple JET posts regarding the application, but I kinda missed that >.< I’ll try to do one in January for the interview stage since I’m aiming for this blog to be helpful to future JET’s as well. Also, been thinking about doing a post about what a typical day at an elementary school and junior high school looks like. Will try to have one of those up soon! Also have another Instore/Live post that will spouting soon. Waited way too long since the last one haha. In other news… It’s November! What the what!