Well, after months of preparation, I just had my first classes.
I wasn’t worried, they were seven-year olds after all, but it turns out that seven year olds (maybe any elementary school age?) are like cats. They are harmless when there’s one of them, but a mob of them is surprisingly terrifying.
Within two feet of the classroom of my first class I was literally swarmed by miniature people. They were all shouting (I think it was just enthusiasm) in Japanese and waving their arms at me. I fought my way into the classroom where I was swiftly backed up against the blackboard by eager beavers. It took the teacher’s intervention to get kids into seats and peel me off the blackboard.
Naturally I had some technical problems. No, there is not a computer in this classroom. No, we cannot plug your mac into the screen. Yes, there is a spare PC laptop you can use today. No, we will not explain why we are turning it off then on again repeatedly while you are waiting to use it.
Finally hooked up and ready to go, we began class with the hello song.
“Hello, hello, hello how are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine how are you?” Repeat.
Then we talked about the weather. Keeping in mind that we are a few hours from being slammed by typhoon 12 and it’s about 30 degrees and 99% humidity, I had some funny answers.
“What’s the weather like today? Is it sunny?“
“Really? Oh, okay. Is it rainy?”
“Right! Is it cold?”
Good. Okay, full points for enthusiasm.
Then I hung a New Zealand flag on the blackboard. As I unfolded it, the kids yelled out suggestions.
When I kept shaking my head they ran out of countries. Clearly the foreigner at the front was making up an imaginary country…
My PowerPoint went really well (except for the bit in the middle where the computer died) and the kids were super excited.
They were particularly excited about the slides with the sheep, the bungy jumping, the money, the Santa wearing shorts and, for some reason, the plain white slide with the word ‘Hello!’
Then we played the game where I toss a soft toy kiwi at/ to a kid and when they catch it they have to say their name. I gave up trying to repeat their names, but I think they had fun.
And then, my favourite bit. Q&A.
The most amusing questions were:
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Are you married?” (Yes, this came shortly after the boyfriend question.)
“What’s your favourite vegetable?”
“What’s your favourite fruit?” (These two were asked in all three classes)
“What is your boyfriend’s name?” (These kids were preoccupied.)
“What country do you come from?” (I had just given a ten minute presentation on New Zealand, but that’s cool.)
“What’s your favourite shape?”
“What’s your favourite thing?”
I managed to come up with answers to most of them.
Yes, I have eleven. No, my boyfriends keep me busy. Carrots. Mangos. Frankenstein. New Zealand. Stars. Showers.
Yeah, I panicked on the last one.
We end classes (which are mercifully short at this grade) with the goodbye song.
“Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye to you. Goodbye, goodbye, I’ll see you again.” Repeat.
I had the best time today. All the classes, even the “noisiest class in second grade”, were full of kids who were unbelievably excited by my mere presence. I don’t remember ever being that full of enthusiasm for any foreigner who walked into my J2 class.
Japanese elementary school kids are awesome. They are, to use a Japanese phrase, ‘cho genki’. The fear is slowly receding, and I’m actually kind of excited about hanging out with kids. And yes, I will deny I ever said that.