Belated Birthday

Five months after the fact, my 25th birthday fell on my second week here (I have so many drafted posts and I am finally working through them, sorry!). Being a school day (a first-day-at-that-school day) and a long one, it didn’t feel much like a birthday – although that is probably more to do with how much less exciting birthdays are as an adult in general. The unfamiliarity of everything meant that I was still in a state of slight surreality, so wrapping my head around the fact that I am just that much closer to 30 wasn’t going to happen.
Coincidentally the only other birthday I’ve had abroad was also in Japan, when I turned 19. Farewell my youth!

C-san used the birthday thing to endear me more to the school, getting me to play up the cutesy-ness to endear me to teachers (which was really gross and I still haven’t forgiven him), and telling them how “happy” I was to be at that school for my birthday.
I was just relieved no one sang. Alas, the next day we were teaching dates and birthdays and I’m sure you can guess how that turned out (really still haven’t forgiven him).

That evening Mai, Nelson and I set the precedent of many meals to come by checking out an Indian restaurant (that I unfortunately can’t remember the name of, but will update when I can find out). The naans here are out of this world. Who knew?


Thrown to the (Little) Lions

So, several months later and about to start my second term, I’m finally getting round to telling you about the start of my first term at school.

With so many schools I had three days of ‘first days’ in one week (with two of my mountain schools on the second). For these days my trainer (C-san) co-attended to help me settle in.

The relationship between my schools and the last ALT wasn’t brilliant and she’d had to leave in the middle of term, so it helped to have C-san there to smooth over any issues. From then on it would be up to me to repair and strengthen the relationship with the schools. It’s lucky that years of experience in the service industry plus patriarchal expectations of women has me set on default smile.

Having C-san co-attending was a great way to get me used to things through example (as I’m a visual learner), despite being slightly intimidating as he is a very good teacher. However, it’s important when first starting…anything, really…to remember that there are always going to be people better and worse at it than you, which I tried to keep in mind for those few days.

It’s a very different dynamic teaching as a duo, but it definitely helped to get me used to the classroom environment! It was also great fun, and not something you get to do most of the time as an ALT (at least, not with another ALT).
C-san uses a comedy style to teach, so the kids have fun and relax enough that they feel comfortable trying to use the language. He uses the Manzai comedy style, which generally has two performers – a tsukkomi (the serious one) and the boke (the funny one) which has a long history in Japan but is now largely associated with the Kansai region and Kansai-ben – the Kansai dialect.
Sometimes C-san leads the kids to say something in the style of the boke so he can react as the tsukkomi, but more often he plays the boke (this also happens a lot unintentionally because he is quite accident prone) and the kids are generally on point about laying into him as the tsukkomi. I enjoyed working together with him using Manzai because I got to play the tsukkomi!

It’s interesting to find out just how many factors influence teaching style: your own personality, the way the society views you, your perceived gender, the way you look…it goes on. My trainer is male and an American Asian, he has a great understanding of Japanese culture and comedy, and is able to use it very effectively in the classroom. For him this works brilliantly, but for me it’s not always an option. As a foreign woman, they expect me to act cute (*throws up in mouth*). In the time I’ve had teaching so far, I have found I can be silly with them, partly because I am a massive klutz and therefore often accidentally comedic (I managed to get my trousers hooked on the chalk drawer once and got loose chalk all over my bum) – but it still has to have that element of cuteness to go across well.

Luckily I am British and have perfected the ability to smother my self-loathing in layers of sarcasm.