Tuesday, March 04, 2008


The written goal of the JET Programme is to "increase mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations, to promote internationalisation in Japan's local communities by helping to improve foreign language education, and to develop international exchange at the community level." Sometimes though, you end up only being an English teacher in the most specific and grammatical of ways. But on occasion, you have a thoroughly kick ass teacher who looks around and says "You know what? We've got a perfectly good gaijin here... let's get some more out of him." And that rocks.

Recently, one of the teachers at the smaller elementary school I teach at had just that idea.

And that idea transformed and evolved into four separate class lessons where:
1 - I taught about the differences between American and Japanese Elementary Schools
2 - The kids taught me about Japanese children's games, stories, anime and manga
3 - We played Japanese kid's games, and
4 - I helped them craft the traditional American lunch of a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.
Very, very cool and lots of fun. I wish more teachers would do stuff like that. The little bit of extra work I had to do was inconsequential compared to how good a time I had.

So to start I went in and did a class and Q&A on the differences between American and Japanese elementary schools. On the plus side, in the US we've got school buses, where in Japan the kids have to walk/bike. In the US we get our lunches from the lunch lady or bring it from home. In Japan, the kids don the aprons and funny hats and serve up the food themselves. [Though there really isn't anything quite as cute as a 1st grader decked out in their lunch gear, ladling out miso soup with spoons bigger than their heads. Adorable.] And in US we have janitors, where in Japan the kids have soji everday [cleaning time] and they clean the school themselves. Advantage - US.

On the other hand, the big surprise and difference is that in US you can fail or be held back a grade. Never happen in Japan. [Why the social stigma and disruption to the WA alone is too horrible to contemplate.] Even in Jr High, as long as you show up every once in a while, you can graduate, no matter how little you've learned. Advantage - Japan.

So the kids took my visual aids from that class and made a poster about the lesson I gave.

This is me, btw.

You can tell because I am really handsome looking. [And bald.]

After my class, the kids had a week to prep a lesson to teach me about things in Japan. Working with their homeroom teacher we decided they would teach me about popular kid's games, stories, and anime and manga.

I have to say, the kids did a fantastic job. Tiny little people acting as super professional teachers, complete with pointers, graphs, visual aids and charts and surveys they completed by asking all the kids in their school. It was so cute I thought I'd die. Just an awesome job.

And then after they taught me a buncha stuff [and I did some other English story/teaching stuff], we went outside to play some of the games they taught me about. The two most popular were ONI and Kori ONI. Which, basically, are TAG and FREEZE TAG. "Oni" means demon/devil, so the ONI is "IT." And Kori ONI means ice demon, roughly.

No problem, right? Except I got to rediscover two things. One, I remain pathetically out of shape, and two, all 3rd graders are apparently fueled on a never ending supply of sugar and hormones.

Also, children steal my clothes at the first opportunity.

And in an apparent effort to affirm I'm no longer young, in endeavoring to dodge and duck and slip and slide during freeze tag, I manage to take out one youngster and face plant into the asphalt. Smoooooooooooth.

The child, as children often are, was unharmed. I, on the other hand...

Finally, having regaled the tykes with stories of the traditional suburban USA school lunch of peanut butter and jelly, they were keen on trying it out. So the last class we had was a PB&J instructional.

Adorable has a new name, and it is "Japanese Children." [Okay, that's a weird name, but you know what I mean.]

Oh, and in other news, I finally found a good use for children.

[Though that shouldn't really come as a shock, as I remember having to give both my parents massages as a kid. Perpetuating the vicious cycle, that's me.]

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