Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Shogakko Shell-Shock

(shogakkou = elementary school)

Here I am, on a Wednesday afternoon, finished my teaching of elementary classes, and I am about ready to pass out. This is normal.

The heat is getting more intense now, average 26-28 degrees in daytime, and that rainy season is well overdue to cool things off. Or make it hot AND humid.

I teach at the elementary every Wednesday afternoon. Alternating, one week I teach K123, and the other week 456 with maybe a Nursery school class. The school has been kind to me in that they give me one full period in the morning to prep and wake up before the insanity begins. Then they hit me with the most energy consuming class: the Kindergarten or Nursery class in second period. If I wasn't awake before, twelve (nursery) to twenty-eight (kindergarten) kids climbing all over me and running around screaming and jumping is sure to do the trick. Somehow, even though I pour tonnes of energy into conducting those classes, doing games like What Time Is it Mr. Wolf?, the touch-colour game, the isu-tori game, alphabet karuta, and the ever-effective all purpose "warm-up game", I usually come out of the classes ready to take on the world.

Then I have two more periods of warm up game, teach some stuff, use said stuff in a game, and I often come out of the classes thinking "That wasn't so bad at all!" Then there is lunch and after lunch I sit down at my desk and inevitably fall asleep. My body nearly always commandeers 45 minutes of nap-time during lunch.

I don't know what it is about elementary that does this to me. I have played six games of soccer in a day and not fallen asleep right after dinner. I have walked up mountains all morning and not fallen alseep at the top. I have done various physical activities and honestly pushed myself, and nothing wears me out as quickly as a group of increadibly excited children who are fun to play with. And teach...

They do learn stuff from the classes I do, really. But even if they didn't I'm not sure it matters. The terms they give to the classes are things like "English activities" or the class fits in to some more general group of activities. They never call it English Class at the elementary. Which is good. I'm not the type to teach a proper class, at least not to elementary kids.

I just get my eight to twelve words, my song on CD by Genki English, and my basic question and answer and my games, and mash it all together with a lot of standing up and doing actions between, and that passes well enough for a class. Everybody seems to think it's great enough for elementary. So I'm happy too. And inevitably tired.

I wake up after my nap to walk to the fifth period class. Or some of the students from that class come to the office (all the teachers have one big office, no lounge) and wake me up.

After the last class I have one more period to do any prep I deem neccessary, or to do things like typing on my blog or chatting with teachers or finishing my nap. Add another 30 mins or so and it's four o'clock, home time.

Back when I first came to Japan, shogakkou was really stressful. It's hard when your Japanese is still minimal and the teachers' English is minimal. Somehow it works, but every class I felt like I had somehow screwed up big-time and was just not fit for teaching. For all the ways that I differ from my predecessor, the one thing I thank God for about him was that he left me a basic curriculum outline for elementary. It's loose, which suits my style, but it's something to follow. Of course i have modified it and personalised it, but setting up a basic foundation like that would have been very frustrating for me.

I used to dread wednesdays, wishing I could just do more junior high classes instead, but now I really value the change. Perhaps a big part was seeing how what I teach at elementary helps the grade sixers when they become first year junior high students. (In their first year they learn stuff like is/am/are, plural s, that/this, how much, basic pronouns, -ing, can, some basic phrases like "would you like", and only a little bit of past tense by the end of the year.) Teaching phonics in elementary six helped a bunch I think.

Anyway, accustomed though I am to what I need to do to teach successfully here, and accustomed though I am to the amount of energy output I will give (I make sure to have a GOOD nights when I go to bed on tuesdays), I still am dog-tired after a day of shogakko classes.
Today I only had 123, no K, which is perhaps why I've had enough energy to actually type something. Of course, that lunchtime nap always helps.


At 11:41 p.m. PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aww. Cute. You should put up a picture of an elem. class!

- Tom

At 7:26 p.m. PDT, Blogger Fletcher said...

I'm not sure I like the idea of breaking out my cell phone in the middle of a class to take a picture. That would be asking pandemonium to run the rest of the class.

At 1:40 a.m. PDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you think pandemonium would be delighted to oblige?


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