SDC, Kimonos, and My First Attempt at Teaching Third Years

Before I put up a post on an average day at my JHS or ES, I figured I’d catch up on the now (besides I’m still working on it). Since I last updated, there have been a few things note-worthy to talk about. So let’s begin! First off, let’s tackle SDC because it’s BARELY clinging on in my head and I’m sure that all the points I wanted to talk about will vanish if I wait even one more day.

SDC stands for “Shizuoka Development Conference”. This is a two day, you guessed it, teaching conference for ALL the JET ALT’s in Shizuoka. It’s out in Asunaro or rather, the middle of nowhere. You may think I’m kidding, but holy crap that’s about as inaka (country) as you can get. The train didn’t even have a ticket collector or distributor. The amount of foreigners in this small town was overwhelming, I’m sure. The really cool thing was that I ran into my friend, E, a fellow Japanese major that I went to college with in Oregon! She actually found me; I was so spacy on the train, she walked up to me and it took me a few seconds to realize who she was and what she was doing in front of me. I can’t believe we happened to be on the same train heading out to Asunaro!

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Baaaack to SDC! They have some professors and teacher’s come in to present topics of interest, but the bulk of the presentations are done by the ALTs. Although, first year ALT’s didn’t have to present; we don’t have to do that until our second year. During the first day our schedule looked a little something like this (and it’s not completely accurate as I don’t have the schedule right in front of me while writing this):

Registration: first part of the morning; just had to grab my nametag and packet for the training.

Opening Ceremony: most of the Hama JETs sat in the last three rows of the auditorium; Hama SMASH!

Lesson Planning– this involved all the municipal ALTs in Hamamtsu, Shizuoka and Fujieda City. Basically gave us a scenario and had us pair up with someone in our table group to discuss how to plan and prepare for the lesson. I really enjoyed this!

Lunch: Om nom nom food! They had a lunch box available, but yay food allergies.

(For the workshops we were able to choose which ones we wanted to attend)

Workshop 1 (Introduction to Teaching in JHS and ES in Japan/How to Communicate with your Teachers): This workshop was actually pretty informative. The two presenters had great ideas on how to find time to speak with our JTE’s about lesson or HRT (Homeroom Teacher for ES). I’ve actually struggled a lot with speaking to my ES HRT’s, but the ideas they gave me have been helping a lot!

Workshop 2 (Active Student Teaching): This workshop was originally supposed to be about having the students more engaged in the classroom; almost like having them run the class without realizing it. However, all I remember is the presenter trying to push their “passbook review sheets” on us. Feel like it could have been a great presentation had it actually been about the topic it was supposed to be about. I don’t mind hearing ideas that work for other ALTs, but that is not what I intended to spend a workshop listening to.

Workshop3 (Bringing the Textbook to Life): Now this one… was misleading. I thought this was more about how to make the textbook more interesting with games or pronunciation exercises or things of that sort. No… it was about using drama; like, acting. I really spaced out during this one because wasn’t interested in the topic at aaaaaaall.

And that was the end of day one! Onwards to day two!

Teaching Bazaar: This is where most of the ALTs presented. There are various booths and tables with activities, teaching topics and the like. The majority of the things I liked I actually heard from other Hama JETs. We just rock that much apparently lol.

Workshop 4 (Using Visual Media in the Classroom): Probably the BEST workshop I attended by far. It was actually done by two Hama ALTs, J and D. I ended up giving a few of their ideas a go, like using Apple TV and an iPad in the classroom. It’s a HIT in my ES! Kamijima especially! The kids are more eager than ever to participate because they get to touch the fancy iPad. I’ve had kids who were the kind of student that shied away from any form of contact with me to becoming the student on the edge of their seat screaming “HAI!” (yes) at me with their hand raised so they could answer the question on the iPad.

Team Teaching Strategies: The same as day one, done with all the municipal ALT’s. Basically discussing ways Team Teaching can work and something else that seemed important at the time but actually failing to remember most of this workshop. I think there was some role playing in it as well, but I didn’t get much from that portion.

Problem Solving: Minus the role playing, this one was the same as well, but we discussed dealing with problems in the workplace which all seemed to be based off of miscommunication (moral of the story kids: TALK TO YOUR TEACHERS).

Closing Ceremony: Just like the opening one except you know… closing.

And cue mad rush to the one platform out of the middle of nowhere. There was only one train that left between 4 and 5 and none of us wanted to wait until 5:30 for the next one. But that was the end of my first SDC! Overall, I pulled some pretty good ideas from it that I’m using in my classroom teaching today.

And a feeeeew updates on my schools!

Pen Pals at Kamijima: I brought this idea up to my father who is a special needs teacher at an ES in Alaska and he had a couple classes interested in exchanging letters with an ES class from Japan. So I brought it up to my head teacher at Kamijima and she in turn brought it up to her boss and they want to do it! It will be with the fifth year classes and we’re turning it into a semester long project for them. The head teacher was really excited to hear about how we would go about doing it. We might even include photos of the students and the school in the letters! I hope the students are as embracing to the idea as the teachers are.

Embarrassing School Moment #6: Literally running to class after being told you were being expected at a class you initially thought was cancelled. That’s right, it finally happened; I was legitimately late for a class. But! In my defense, the way my schedule had been written out made it seem like it was cancelled. Thankfully it was caught early on and I was able to rush through prep (so happy it was only a bingo lesson) and ran to the classroom (third floor, mind you). I felt terrible! But my JTE was pretty understanding about it. Can’t let that happen again!

Had an Authentic Kimono Fitting and Tour around Hamamatsu: This one… I was skeptical about; mainly the kimono fitting. Now, it’s no secret that I’m uncomfortable with my weight and image; it’s a constant battle, believe me, but I’ve ALWAYS wanted to wear an authentic kimono. Like, a legit, need help putting all the pieces on, kimono. When this opportunity came up, I wanted to give it a shot! But… I was hesitant after saying yes because I know that I do not fit within the Japanese standard norm of sizes. I’m waaaaaay outside of it. I was hoping, however, that kimono’s would be different. And it was a real kimono store so they had to cater to all body shapes right?

Wrong-o (sorry, I’ve been watching How the Grinch Stole Christmas like once a day for the past week).

I went to the kimono shop and was brought to the back room to get dressed and fitted. Now… I don’t think that the shop owners or the ladies who helped me knew that I could speak Japanese. Their comments made it pretty obvious that they were going to have a hard time fitting me. First, the issue was my feet. Yes, I have large feet. I’m an Indian, we have large feet. So of course, my feet wouldn’t fit in the “tabi” (basically they’re socks with more of a shape). After FINALLY finding a pair that fit me, they moved on to the under garments. Well, those wouldn’t wrap around me all the way. So I had to have two underskirts wrapped around me. We managed to make it to the under robe when they realized that the kimono’s they had picked out for me weren’t going to fit me. Which SUCKS because I really liked both of the ones they had picked (dark blue with golden and bronze leaves or black and silver with pink and white flower petals). I’m really short, so the combination of that and my body figure just went against me like no one’s business during this endeavor. So after 20 minutes of listening to them discuss how they were going to dress me, they both left the room to hunt for a kimono.

I broke down.

I started crying a bit because I was really embarrassed that this was such a difficult thing to do when it really shouldn’t have been. I tried to compose myself when they came back, but I think they could tell I had been crying, but I brushed it off as something being stuck in my eye. Don’t know if they believed me, but they dropped it.

They found me a silk kimono (all the others were cotton) in a light gold color that seemed to fit okay. Not perfect, but it worked. I had to be really careful though because if I took too large of strides, it was obvious that it didn’t fit right. Now, I forgot how kimono’s can be like the eastern version of a corset. When they started putting the beginning layers of the “obi” (sash around the middle) on, holy crap. The ladies didn’t even warn me when they were going to tighten the straps; she only placed a hand on my shoulder and for a split second I thought “Oh crap, I forgot about this part” and YANK. That lady was tiny, but boy did she know how to tighten an obi. I got a pat on the shoulder as an apology though.

I didn’t mention this earlier, but all the kimono’s they had picked out earlier were in sets; like the obi and kimono went with each other. However, being a special case, they were basically working from scratch. They were having fun apparently because once I had the straps on my obi on, they spent another 10 minutes deciding on the under fabric for the obi (decided on red) and then decided to let me wear a really special pink obi. From my understanding, it’s special because it’s rare and old. Most obi’s just have floral, linear or block designs; this one was a full blown picture. The back of it had one too! It was so pretty! They topped it off with a gold rope around the front and I was finished. I wished I had put more into my hair because I did love how I looked.

After meeting up with the rest of the group (it was really just me and the ALT who was heading the tour, J, along with the students of her school who were in charge of it) we visited a few shops and a shrine. I had NO idea there was a shrine just down the street from me. Also, walking up and down stairs in a kimono is HARD. REALLY, REALLY HARD.

We did some purikura as well, which was a little hard with six of us trying to cram into a purikura booth to take decent photo. I accidentally left my glasses on, so I feel it looks a little weird. I had put in my email address to get the downloadable pictures because a couple came out really well, but for some reason my email didn’t register or I didn’t do it right because I never got an email about them. Which sucks!

Then we did something that wasn’t originally on the agenda; we went to the Annual Hamamatsu Piano Competition at ACT City. Our intent was to show off the kimonos there and speak with the foreign pianists, but it was taking FOREVER for the judges to announce the pianists that were moving on to the next round. We arrived around 7:00… we didn’t leave until about 8:00. I didn’t make it home until about 8:45 after taking off the kimono and walking home.

Even though it started out rough, it turned out good. I’m really glad I stuck through it and went.

Experiencing My First 3rd Year JHS Class: I’ve been hearing all sorts of stories from fellow ALTs about how crazy their 3rd years are and how they don’t care for English all that much except to pass it on their entrance examinations. So, I tried to go into my first 3rd year class with zero expectations; that way I wouldn’t be overly disappointed if they weren’t all that excited to have me in the class room. My only consolation is that both 3-1 and 3-2 had gone through the trouble to request classes with the ALT (me) and that they are always the first ones to greet me when I come to school every day. So that had to mean something, right?

Oh boy, I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into.

Two boys came to the staff room to bring me to class (first class you’re always escorted to class by the students) and F-sensei was also in the hallway waiting to walk with us. The boys asked me to slow down a bit and walk a little farther behind F-sensei; I did and all of a sudden one of the boys started asking me for advice on how to ask F-sensei out. Now… she’s married and has a kid, so this threw me off for a second. I just laughed it off and told him he shouldn’t try that, but he kept pushing. So I switched to “not being able to understand what he was saying”. That seemed to work!

I went into the class while F-sensei went to get a TV for my PowerPoint and all the kids literally applauded me when I walked in. Like, what the heck, I’m just an ALT, stop clapping. While we were setting up my PowerPoint, I was swarmed with girls wanting to talk to me and half of them were touching my hair (they aren’t allowed to have it down if the length surpasses their shoulder. As a teacher, I’m allowed to have mine down even though it reaches my mid-back). I let them do what they wanted, I didn’t mind really; the 5th graders at my ES will braid my hair during breaks so I’m quite used to students playing with my hair.

I went through my introduction and for the most part, it was really good. This particular class has a really high English level so I was able to use more advanced questions with them rather than what I used with my 1st and 2nd years earlier in the semester. Then I made it to the part that I was both dreading and looking forward to… the question session.

The majority of the questions were asked by the two boys who had initially invited me to their class a couple weeks ago. Here’s how it basically went down:

Me: Okay! Any questions?
Male Student 1: Do you have a boyfriend?
Me: It’s a secret!
Class: (laughter)
Same Student: How many boyfriends have you had?
Me: That’s also a secret!
Class: (more laughter)
Same Student: Will you be my girlfriend?
Me: -deadpan face- No.
Class: (laughs even harder, teacher included)
Male Student 2: Will you be MY girlfriend?
Me: -deadpan face- No.
Male Student 3: Will…-waves for MS1 for help; student runs over and whispers something- Oh! Will you be my girlfriend?
Me: -dramatic pause for effect with small tilt of the head- …No.
Class: (dying of laughter, teacher is barely able to sit in her chair at this point)

After that the girlfriend questions seemed to die off for the moment and the girls were able to ask some questions. I had a word find activity that could be done alone or in pairs and they had 15 minutes to finish it; if they did, they got a star on their paper and if they brought their paper to me after school, they could get a small prize. In my mind, the prize would be a pin of their choice from my “Alaska Box”. The boys got way too excited for this “prize” and asked if the prize was a kiss. Don’t know where that came from and I told them no, but they seemed to be pretty convinced it was a kiss. Huddled up in the corner of the classroom talking about it as I was walking around the class.

In all honesty though, I really do like this class. They’re kind of crazy, but it’s really just those two boys. I’m sure it will wear off eventually? I’m hoping anyways.

Embarrassing School Moment #7: Dislocating your toe at a concert and having to explain to every teacher and student who sees you limping across the school why your foot is bound. Yeah, so it happened… I hurt myself at a VK live; granted, I was expecting this to happen eventually. I’ve hurt myself before, but it was more like stubbed toes or a smack to the head by a fellow fan who was head banging. In those instances, it was never anyone’s fault; just an accident. This one was ALL on me. I forgot my live-specific shoes at home and figured the shoes I was wearing would work out just fine. Well… that didn’t work out right. At the live (Black Gene), I was taken by surprise when BFN did a second round of Fear Dance before the final gyakudive. I slipped out of my shoe and as I was trying to gain my balance while also trying to hop sideways, I rolled both my ankles. THEN to make it even better, the person next to me didn’t see that I had stopped moving and kept going and landed on my right foot. At first, I thought it was broken, but later found out it was only dislocated; it still hurt though! I’ll go into more details on what happened after that since this is not a VK specific post. ANYWAY. For the past two days I’ve been having to explain to my teachers why my foot is bound and I’m limping. I have to keep it bound for the week to prevent the toe from dislocated again. It’s not hurting nearly as much anymore, but it still does hurt to an extent. My teachers at Hokubu know I listen to VK and attend concerts and so I didn’t have a problem telling them where I hurt myself; it was still a bit embarrassing though. The students are who surprised me the most. At my ES, the kids will carry my things to my next class or back downstairs for me since it takes so long for me to move down and up the stairs. At JHS, the students walk with me to and from class and to the staff room to make sure I make it without hurting myself. It’s really sweet!

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Hoping to have another post up later this month about what a usual day at my JHS looks like, along with a usual day at an ES. Also REALLY behind on the VK posts, the next one might have to be two parts since lots has gone down since my last one (September I think?). Keep an eye out! I suspect this month will get busy!

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About mandipanda13

I love Visual Kei and almost everything about Japan! If you're wondering what the small percentage of dislike is consisted of I'll sum it up in a few short words: COCKROACHES AND HUMIDITY. Alaska has neither of them; hence, no likey.
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