The First Years

I taught my first full week of classes last week. This means that I finally taught the first years and got a feel for how this year’s schedule is really going to be. Wednesdays are going to kill me, but over all, I really like having a more packed schedule. The less time I spend at my desk, the better, as far as I’m concerned. The only time I have a solid block of inactivity is Monday morning. I have the first three periods free, which is good considering I’ll probably forget to do quite a few things over the weekend.

I'm starting the year off right by killing a small forest to make sticker sheets and name tents.

I’m starting the year off right by killing a small forest to make sticker sheets and name tents.

The schedule is as follows: (Keep in mind that we have six classes a day)

M: 3rd and 6th
T: 2nd, 4th, and 5th
W: 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th
Th: 2nd, 4th, and 6th
F: 1st, 3rd, and 6th.

The classes are spread out fairly evenly, so I don’t normally have back-to-back classes. (Lunch is between 4th and 5th periods.) However, my Wednesdays are still proving to be hectic. And I have a lot of one-teacher-days, where I teach all three or four classes with the same teacher. On the one hand, I know exactly how the lesson is going to go by the last class. On the other, I’m a little burnt out on that particular JTE by the end of the day.

Overall, it seems like this year’s first years have a higher level of English than last years. They get almost all of my instructions and even when they don’t, they seem more comfortable with English and so they at least try even when the work is hard. The “International Business” track homerooms at my school have a kind of a bad reputation (the second years on this track last year made my Thursdays brutal), but while energetic, the first years in that track don’t seem like they’re going to present the same classroom management problems as previous years.

And the first year boys know enough English that even when they’re heckling me or generally messing with me, it’s in English. And I have to admit, it makes me smile. Two boys were fighting over me during Wednesdays class because they both wanted me to help them with something at the same time. They were clearly friends and messing with each other too, but they kept trying to distract me from helping the other one. Over all, it was really amusing and I let it continue for a minute or two before I finally seriously intervened.

Also, there is a homeroom of all girls. That’s 40 fifteen or sixteen year old girls packed into a room. All with a surprisingly high level of English and a lot of energy. I walked into the classroom before the bell rang and started setting up for my first lesson with this homeroom. The JTE wasn’t there yet because I was pretty early (most teachers try not to show up until a minute or two before the bell rings), so the students started shouting out every question that they could think of. Sometimes it just consisted of them shouting, “BOYFRIEND?” Other times they were more complete like, “How tall?”

It was awesome and hilarious. I was grinning and laughing as I tried to answer what I could, or redirect when they were asking a question that was part of my introduction activity. (I used the same intro activity from when I first showed up in Japan.) Finally I just said, “Wait! Wait, there’s a game. I promise it’s all in the game.” They laughed, but that bought me enough time to get back to preparing.

While I was turned around, writing on the board, they continued discussing me in a mixture of English and Japanese. “She’s so cute.” “Nice fashion!” “Her clothes are cool!” “I love you!” “Nice body!” And that’s where I turned around, (probably fairly red) and crossed my arms into an X. “Nope! Nopenopenope, we’re done,” I said, and the girls started laughing. I couldn’t help but smiling though, at least they seemed interested in getting to know me and talking to me.  That was a good place to start.

All but the very first, first grade homeroom that I taught went really well. But the only reason that one didn’t go well was because I made it too complicated. I fixed it after that and everything ran much more smoothly.


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