Today at school lunch, the bullet fell into the chamber and the trigger was pulled. That's right, it was Natto day. Two teachers warned me about it as I picked up my tray for school lunch (to take to eat with the sixth graders), saying that for the last ALT it had been “dame” (bad/impossible/no go, pronounced Dah + May). So it was with some trepidation (and a little bit of excitement...I mean, the buildup has been worthy of a John Williams Orchestral production) that I took my first bite...
...and all I can say is, rumors or Natto's horribleness have been greatly exaggerated. I didn't feel an instant need to vomit or run screaming into the rain. Sure, it wasn't the most exciting food of my life, but it was perfectly edible (especially if I made sure to take a bite of the rice and a sip of the soup to cut the slightly bizarre aftertaste.) I cleared my plate with no problem. And the texture wasn't that bad either, just a little slimy. Maybe Ohata Elementary makes the stuff drier and less stinky than other places, it certainly looked better than the pictures I've seen of Natto in other places—check out my facebook album for this. I don't know if this was a special case. But Natto simply didn't bother me that much. Which is good, because I'll be getting it about once a month at random with my school lunches, so it's better if I can eat it.
In fact, the only thing in my day that bordered on “dame” was my second period, fourth grade class.
But to backtrack to the beginning of the day and tell things in some kind of order. I arrived at Ohata Elementary at about 8:15am. Passing by the playground the the entrance, I saw a group of kids in the (super awesome) playground biking on unicycles. It seems to be this school's thing, biking on unicycles. I immediately took video of it. Super cool! Later at recess (timeskip again) I asked one of the other kids if sometime they could show me how to do it. I got my medical insurance card a couple of days ago in the mail, so hopefully that will cover most of the injuries. The one girl shyly nodded, which is good enough...I'm holding her to it. After a minute or so of videotaping my talented students, I decided I'd better go inside and go to work, so I walked into the entrance way, shed my outside shoes, traded them for my slippers and walked with confidence to the staff room. Or something like that.
Ohata is my smallest school (so far), about 85 kids in total for first through sixth grades. The staff room has about ten people in total, including me. It's a warm and welcoming working environment! From the moment I stepped in, I was showed to my desk,l given tea and chatted with. During the morning meeting, I gave my (now diamond honed) self introduction in Japanese to the staff, who laughed at the appropriate points and seemed interested. My schedule (Thank God) was fully all day. I only had one free period at the end of the day, the perfect time to organize my papers, chat with other teachers (about life and such), etc. before getting ready to go home.
Soon after morning meeting, two of the third grade students (both girls) showed me to the third grade classroom. I talked with both of them, asking their names, etc, and they were responsive if a bit shy at first. That seems to be the norm in Japan, especially with the girls. The third grade class went very well. They had a find time whacking things with fly swatters, and memorized the vocabulary quite well. The class was quite organized and responsive, and a whole lot of fun!
At the end, I instituted the “comment” time I stole from Kosema and had them speak a bit about the class (in Japanese or English...I really just like giving everyone a chance to reflect a tiny bit at the end of class). I also gave a final comment about how much I liked the class and the students and how well they were doing in English. It was fun! And I'm so impressed that every kid in Japan, no matter how young, instantly recognizes Obama. Whatever your feelings on him politically, he's absolutely helping save my butt as a teacher, and I'm thrilled to have him in my class. (I'm in the Pro-Obama camp generally, so this shouldn't be a shock) I'm sure he might be less thrilled to find out that Japanese children are joyfully beating his face with a fly swatter every day, but it's done in good fun and they are all clearly impressed.
Then came my fourth grade class. This was the worst class I've ever had here (so far) in Japan. The boys were totally out of control, and every technique I had to get them back in line (nicely) fell like a damp pancake. The Homeroom Teacher (HRT), for whatever reason (maybe he didn't want to undercut my authority, but what authority, it's not my class and it's been made clear to me by many people that it's not my role to discipline the kids) did nothing much to get his students back in line. They were running around, sitting wherever, laying on the floor, being vocally disruptive, the works. They weren't violent or mean, just totally undisciplined. (I really wanted to call Supernanny...does she come to Japan?)
This was like night and day in comparison to every other class I've worked with in Japan. So as a result, my ten student class felt like fifty students, and by the end of the class I was seeing red. This is one case where being an assistant is VERY annoying: if it was my class completely, I'd have had the 1-2 major troublemakers sitting in corners until they apologized, or on their way to the Principal's office so they could explain things to their parents. Throw one person out, and the others usually come in line. Alas, it's not my class.
After the class, the HRT apologized to me, saying that the boys had been like little animals today. I said it had been an “energetic” class and that the boys were “a little...” (that's never good in Japanese, the “chotto” plus pause), but I tried to keep in lighthearted. That said, if those kids are like that with this HRT everyday, I'm surprised he's not in jail for murder. I do want to talk with him about how we can work together to keep the boys from going totally insane. Maybe he has some techniques for some reason he chose not to enact on this day (again, maybe not wanting to step on my toes, but why not...?)
After that class came recess, and while I was really ticked off, I made sure to go out to recess and play with all of the kids (even the troublemakers). That went well, and after recess my mood was back in check for my next class of fifth graders, who were a joy. The rest of the day's classes went well, and you already heard about my lunch, so let's move on. The highlights of my day from afternoon on include teaching “great, good, okay, not so good, terrible and tired” to my group of fifth graders, and taking questions from my sixth graders (who were a little shy but got into it, especially when I sang some of “Fighting Dreamers” from Naruto.) That HRT also apologized to me for his students being shy, which was totally no problem as I told him. I'd rather have shy kids than terrors any day.
My day ended with my adorable second graders, who were fun, intelligent and interactive! I'm so glad, because these are the students I'm doing my display class with tomorrow (in front of their parents). Their HRT is a lovely woman who is on top of her game, and her kids are fantastic! Thank God! If I had to do a demonstration lesson with the fourth graders here, I think I'd be unemployed.
After school, it was a nice, rainy walk to the train station, where I got on the wrong train and ended up going one stop in the wrong direction, turning around and getting back on the return train. I had a delicious dinner at CoCo Curry and then spent about an hour and a half at VITS doing Karaoke. Now I'm going to spend a couple of hours at the Izakaya and then head home so I can be up at 6:30 am to go to Ohata for a half day of lessons. This is a bit of a PITA now, but it means I get the Friday before my vacation week off, so one half day = a whole extra day of vacation. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for this week off. A part of me wants to go to Tokyo, but money is tight. I've been recommended some mountain Onsens, which might be cheaper and a lot of fun. Or maybe I'll just get the week railpass and wander around Japan as cheaply as possible (which seems like the best bet). Thinking about it.
Another day, another destiny. And tomorrow, Ohata, then Nagoya for Reggaeton and Sunday museum trip with Ishikawa-san, a good weekend...!