I’ve heard that a blog can be kind of like a diary. Here is my first “diary” entry. A day in the life…of me.
I woke up today at 6:15, the same time I always wake up on a work day. My alarm always wakes me up. This morning I was in a deep sleep and I think I was having a nightmare, so it wasn’t a bad thing that the alarm went off.
My workday morning routine (notice I don’t say “weekday” since here in Japan my workweek often includes Saturday) is always the same: shower, iron my clothes, dress, blow-dry, make lunch for later, take vitamins, eat cereal and drink coffee, check Gmail/ CNN/ Facebook/ Twitter/ bank account, put on a touch of makeup, head out the door at 8:00 AM. Walk across the street. (My school is across the street from my apartment complex.)
I work at a private Japanese secondary school. It includes both a junior high and high school. We are required to be there at 8:20 for the morning meeting. The morning meeting is when all the teachers meet in the main teachers’ office on the ground floor and the principal or vice-principals take us through any announcements for the day. Since I work in a smaller international program within this school, I don’t actually have a desk in the main teachers’ office. During the morning meeting, all of us from the international program jam ourselves into a corner in the back, sitting uncomfortably on folding chairs as the announcements are given in Japanese. I don’t understand a word of it (OK, I admit, I might understand a word hear or there). But we have a translator (the head of our program, actually…she wears many hats). She makes sure we get all the information, down to the smallest detail…. We do this every morning. Morning after morning. It’s really weird when I am sitting there and then I blink and I am sitting there again but it is the next morning. This is the routine, Monday through Friday, and two Saturdays per month.
This morning, the morning meeting was short. There are various school trips going on at the moment, with some of our students in the international program away in Iowa for a homestay program, and some of the other students in Utah for a different homestay program. Teachers are with them, and some other teachers are away on business trips, so less teachers and less students meant less announcements, thus, a short morning meeting.
The students have homeroom at 8:40 for about 5 minutes. I’m not a homeroom teacher (I have the heaviest class load so I got out of having that duty). Then we start lessons at 8:50. But I didn’t have class this morning during first period. Actually, today I had much of my morning free to prep. We are in the last couple weeks of the last term of the year (the third term), and I have a little bit of a lighter schedule since my twelfth graders have finished all their classes. (In Japan, the twelfth graders finish at the end of term two and they spend much of term three taking university entrance exams.) So today I spent my morning grading exams, making photocopies, and preparing lessons.
Lunchtime is usually at 12:40. It was a bit earlier today because the students have shortened lessons due to this being the end of the school year. The students eat lunch in their classrooms. Their mothers pack them bento lunches, which are a balanced smorgasbord of vegetables, a small portion of meat (often fish) and a big serving of rice. Sometimes I like to take a peek to see the nicely organized compartments in their bento boxes. I wish I had time to make such a healthy meal, but for me it’s usually a sandwich or leftovers from dinner the night before. Today it was leftovers.
I taught three periods of classes in the afternoon. My seventh graders are adorable little demons who find any opportunity they can to make trouble, but who are very good at doing so without me knowing. I’m fine with that. They follow the Japanese custom of standing and bowing to the teacher at the beginning and end of class. At first I thought it was strange and I was a little uncomfortable with it. I don’t expect my other students to do it (my 10th, 11th, and 12th graders), and they know it is not expected by the foreign teachers like me, so they don’t bow to us. But the seventh graders need structure and they have such a hard time not acting like maniacs half the time, so all of the teachers, including the foreign teachers, encourage them to maintain the custom. I am sure it will fall by the wayside when they enter 8th grade, but it has helped create some sense of structure in the class.
(One of the reasons there has been such difficulty with this particular seventh grade class is because the Japanese style of discipline does not include stating explicit rules of behavior. This particular group of kids really needs explicit rules and expectations. But the discipline philosophy is completely different in Japan, so there are no rules. But that is a post for another day.)
I also taught my eleventh graders in the afternoon. That was an uneventful class. I just gave them back their year-end exams, passed out some homework I wanted them to work on over the next week, and let them work on the reading assignments.
My tenth grade class was more eventful. I taught the lesson I wrote about in my previous post, the lesson called “Football in American High Schools.” This was an important lesson because I was recording it to show to my induction supervisor in the program I’m doing through CGU to clear my credential. I set up the digital recorder and explained to my students that it was there to record me, not to record them. I asked them to try to be actively engaged in the lesson because this would make me look good (I did this before I pressed the record button, of course!). They were happy to help. I found out that this is actually a great strategy for getting them to be more engaged – tell them it will help to make me look good. (They are really sweet kids – usually very quiet but since they knew they were helping me out, they tried their hardest to seem like they were totally comfortable discussing ideas in front of a camera.) Of course, there were some technical difficulties. The camera was on for a while but then it stopped because the SD card was full. I had to spend about 10 minutes just trying to figure out how to delete stuff off the SD card. It was a school camera, and I hadn’t realized that people had filled it up and hadn’t deleted their old files. So that wasted some time. But my students were totally cool about it. To be honest, I didn’t really care if they learned a thing during this lesson. It’s the end of the school year, I’ve made them work their butts off for the last three terms, and I just wanted to get this lesson on video so I could check off another box on my way to clearing my credential. My students played along, and we eventually got the lesson back on track. They put on a good show of discussing their definition of “culture” and then we came up with a definition that I wrote on the board and then the bell rang and class was over. I think I’ll show them the second episode of “Friday Night Lights” tomorrow as a reward for being so helpful today. I showed them the pilot last week and they seemed to really like it. Today some of them were asking me what happened to Jason Street. I feel bad giving them the bad news. I’ll let them find out in the show tomorrow.
After that, I went back to the office and watched the video of my lesson. I realize that I definitely have a “teacher voice” and that I kind of look drunk when I am in front of the class. I’ll have to work on that.
At 5:20 I came home, worked out, ate dinner, and started blogging. And here I am.