Graduations and appreciations

Graduation season has rolled around again here in Japan.

I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about graduations on here offhand, but today was the graduation at my elementary school. Back home, the idea of graduation from elementary school seems silly. Here in Japan, though, it’s a big rite of passage.

Speeches

As part of the ceremony at my elementary school, the students make a short speech after they get their diplomas. In them, they thank their parents for raising them up that point. After that, they go to meet their parents in the audience. They hand off the diploma, a gift from the PTA (which has been a Japanese-English dictionary every year that I’ve been here), and a small bouquet of flowers they receive so that they can go back to their seats and do their part in the rest of the ceremony unencumbered.

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School Festival, Part 2: We are SINGER!!

paper cutout by Mr. Genki

Okay, the students didn’t say that. I’m making titles up now. But I see no reason not to continue the grammatically incorrect titling. Besides, I’m about to talk about the students’ singing. With a bit about their music education in general.

This is the second post I’ve written about this year’s school festival. Check out part one and part three.

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School Festival: We are HERO!!

Stained-glass style banner the students hung just inside the school's main entrance.
The kids insisted on being grammatically incorrect.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. I’ve been busy — I’m now writing articles for IndieGames.com regularly. I also went to Tokyo Game Show (the first event of its kind I’ve ever been to). Coming back from Tokyo Game Show, I came down with a cold. It’s caused minimal discomfort but a fever that kept me out of work for 3 days.

This past Sunday my junior high school had its annual school festival. It’s the first time I’ve been to one of my schools’ festivals without having been around for most of the weeks of practice since right after I first got here. This made it an event of mixed feelings. A big part of the reason I missed so much of the prep time was Tokyo Game Show and the cold it gave me.

I’m also not at all sorry for going to Tokyo Game Show.

>_>

Anyway, read on if you want to find out about all the neat stuff my students did for their festival. Here’s a list of the general flow of the day, with details starting after the break. This is be the first of multiple posts. (Check out part two and part three.)

  • Free performances by grade
  • Choir performances by grade
  • PTA Choir performance
  • Random performances (optional)
  • Lunch
  • Dance performances (all grades)
  • Play performance (all grades)
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ALT Resources I Made

I make a lot of stuff for my classes. Some of it is great, some of it sucks, some can be reused, and others are just one-time things. The ones that can be reused aren’t always things I feel others would want. I have come up with a few things, though, I’d like to share in case my fellow ALTs — JET or otherwise — can make use of them.

I was going to upload three things today, but LibreOffice hates me, so there are only two.

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My Students are Awesome

I have awesome students.

I don’t know the third person in this conversation — I assume it’s one of my student’s new friends at his high school. Still, I’m pretty damn proud of him right now. His English really is clunky at best, but I’ll be damned if he doesn’t try.

I can’t take all the credit for this; my JET predecessor was better at encouraging the students to try than I am, I think. But still. <3 This made me very, very happy.

awsome student on Facebook

A Cheeky Child and a Troubled Transfer

The Cheeky Child

Photo credit: xopherlance on Flikr.
Photo credit: xopherlance on Flikr.

At the beginning of every one of my classes (at all levels of education from preschool to high school), I ask each student, “How are you?” This would take too much time if I had more students. As things stand it’s a good, regular way to start the class. All the students knowing it also gives me a way to use English with them every time I see them around town. Unless a kid is obstinate and doesn’t want to respond — which happens sometimes — I’m guaranteed to be able to toss some English back and forth with every kid in town.

Rather than just teach them the stock “I’m fine. (And you?)”, I teach them to respond with things like, “I’m happy,” or “I’m hot.” I got this idea from the 5th grade textbooks. It seemed like a good idea, because rather than just teaching them that sentence A in English is the same as sentence B in Japanese, the interaction between question and answer must be explained. In Japanese, if you ask the equivalent of “How are you?”, what you’re really asking is “Are you healthy/energetic?”, to which the other person answers in the affirmative or the negative. Skipping the stock response and pointing out that you can really answer in any number of ways sets the students up to realize that learning a foreign language is more than just substituting the words in one language for the words in another language.

Wordplay

Several weeks ago, Googly Ears made me really proud by connecting a couple of random dots on her own. One day, during recess, I asked her how she was doing.

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The Japanese and the Weather

Up until now, I’ve been keeping my JET Program blog posts on a separate blog. I want to blog more regularly, but have no desire to devote the time necessary to keep two blogs up at once, so I’m merging it into this blog. The now defunct blog is here.

Since the Japanese are more concerned about online identity protection and I work with kids in particular, all Japanese persons I mention are given nicknames.


Yesterday, it was very windy. That was great. It’s been upwards of and sometimes around 30 degrees celsius here in Nakagawa for the past 2-3 weeks, well past the usual point where the weather breaks and things start to cool off. It was still hot, but the wind made things bearable. Overjoyed, I left my house in the morning — by bike, as usual — and greeted the elementary school students as I passed them on my way to work*.

Taikyuu responded to my greeting with a worried look and worried words.

Taikyuu: It’s dangerous, Lena-sensei!
Me: (stopping, not sure I’d heard correctly) What?
Taikyuu: It’s dangerous! The wind is strong. Please be careful.

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What I’ve Been Up To

The following is copy-pasted from a post I just made on the NerdFitness forums. It pretty much sums up how things have been for me for the past couple of months.

I dunno how many of you went, “Hmm… WTF happened to Crowbeak?” after I dropped off the radar, but I just wanted to let yall know that I live. During the Rebel Strength Guide contest, I got sick back-to-back with 3-4 different things. I was down for two weeks straight. Then I was finishing up college (successfully graduated!), followed by getting ready to go back to Japan when my dad died.

A lot has happened since then and I probably only remember about half of it. The first two days were awful — within four hours of my finding out about dad’s death, my cell phone battery had burned out and I had to go get a new one. My mom and brother didn’t get into town for two days. I was bombarded with decisions that had to be made that they couldn’t really help me with. Everything went pretty well and I got to kick back for the two weeks they were here. They took over because I’d have to take care of what was left after they were gone.

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