Friday, April 23, 2010

Ibo, Black Socks and MORE CATS!

This is going to be a short entry because I have to be up early tomorrow to go to Nagoya for more followup training. But I wanted to say a few words about my experience today at Ibo Elementary, mainly because it was soooo much fun! I am really going to enjoy teaching here. The kids aren't shy at all; they are very forthcoming with questions and jump right in for lessons. The younger kids got a huge kick out of my cat's names and “MORE CATS!” (I always ask “how many cats do I have” and have the kids guess, starting at one and going up to five, with each raise in number of cats getting the kids to say MORE CATS!)

The sixth graders especially loved it when I pulled my hair out of my scrunchie and headbanged a bit with my PHI LA DEL PHI A chant! (where we clap on each syllable). You never know how kids are going to take the crazy, but this group just loved it so we had an excellent time. The HRT was also in stitches. And with the older kids (5th and 6th grade), I usually have an explicit question and answer time (the younger kids sometimes ask questions, which I on the spot answer, but they get shy if asked to produce questions on their own as a part of the lesson, so I tend to leave that for the older kids). Sometimes they ask in Japanese, sometimes in English. I answer in English, if I can translating their question into English and having them repeat it to me in English before answering. (I get a lot of the same questions, so this isn't as hard as it sounds). If the question is beyond my Japanese, often the HRT will translate for me, which is hugely helpful.

Today I got the usual “What are your cats' names” which leads me into a lesson on SKINNY and FAT as well as translating their names, which are all thankfully character or physical traits. (Littlecat is LITTLE plus CAT, etc). It's a painless way to teach vocabulary. Usually the names get lost in the shuffle, but Skinny and Fat sticks. I always draw pictures of my cats, starting with two normal looking ones and then having them get progressively fatter (larger circles for the body) until I get to Boo Boo (who actually is a skinny cat now, but it's better for the lesson to use him as the fattest) where I draw a giant circle for the body with a tiny head. This has the kids in stitches (from grades 1-6 that I've used it for). I've found this lesson only works though if the kids ask me about my cats first. If I just try to bring it up, the kids are bored (I only tried this once).

Today, I also had the privilege of working with the Special Needs class at the school (three adorable children who seem to have learning disabilities and some degree of mental retardation) This was a last minute addition to the schedule, I think a direct result of my conversation with the Kyoto sensei where I mentioned that I was also working at Toyota Yogo. I made an attempt at my Jikoshoukai lesson, but it wasn't flying at all, so we broke that off and ended up just doing songs. I started with Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes which was a huge hit, and then moved onto Row, Row, Row Your Boat, did a brief sting of “Doing the Butt, Sexy Sexy” since Nagomi-chan really wanted to bump butts during Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Then, still having 15 minutes, started dredging back through my memory for Camp Songs. I was wearing black socks, so I took one off and said “this is a song about Black Socks,” showing the socks, pointing to the childrens' socks etc. Then I somehow managed a passable translation of the songs' lyrics as I was singing them a verse at a time: “Black socks, they never get dirty, the longer you wear them the stronger they get...” I had to impromptu the gestures (the kids adored all of my gestures and imitated quite well, especially Yuna-chan, who became my great friend for the day). Next part: “...sometimes, I think I should launder them, but something keeps telling me, don't wash them yet, not yet, not yet...” This song is meant to be sung in a round, but that wasn't happening today. Still it was great fun for all!

To wrap up, we did the first part of “So Long, Farewell, Avidazane, Goodbye” complete with dramatic goodbye gestures. As I was doing my songs with the kids, the Kyoto-sensei (Vice Principal - I noticed him in the middle of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” was standing at the window to the classroom, imitating the gestures and trying to learn the words. It was clear this lesson was a hit for all concerned (and I made sure to talk extra loud with my explanations). Later on, when I joined Yuna-chan for Souji time (while we were waiting for brooms I started doing Head Shoulders Knees and Toes with her again, and she just lit up and immediately joined in. I also was talking to some of the other kids in our cleaning group about the Karate Kid: wax on, wax off. I can't believe that movie is so old now!

Oh yeah, and for Kyuushoku lunch we had a dessert crepe: Strawberry! (we never get dessert, so this was very exciting for me! I'm also still waiting in breathless anticipation of the Chocolate Milk, as I was chatting about with one of my HRTs today in the staff room, much to her amusement.) I ate lunch with the first graders, who were sooo talking my ear off and showering me with questions. Someone had taught them the names of a bunch of fruits in English, so they were gleefully relaying this information to me, as well as asking me how to say this and that in English. One girl asked about something in the soup, and I was like "Mezurashii" (no's brand new to me). That was laughter all around!

In short, I had a great time at Ibo, and while my cold is getting worse, it's been a good day all around. Now to go to bed so I'm well enough to do training and the all night party that follows.