Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Month-Long Cold

I'm admittedly new to this whole being-a-teacher thing. Before I started teaching them, I was sure I hated children. They were noisy, annoying, smelly, and essentially walking germ factories.

Then I started teaching them, and I realized that working with small children is one of the most rewarding and fun jobs I've ever had in my life. I realized that little kids and the way they see the world are awesome. However, I also realized I was right about the other stuff too. Especially the germ thing.

I've been told that a good number of people at my work, when they started, had a cold that lasted for close to a month. Originally, I figured I'd dodged a bullet since I hadn't been particularly sick for a good half-year after I started. But now that the weather is changing (or rather, has changed) I've come down with a cold that just refuses to go away.

I guess you have to build up a bunch of specific antibodies for the special sorts of viruses and bacteria four-year-olds manage to collect on a daily basis. And admittedly I have never had a job where the people at work will walk up and bite me on the arm or cough and sneeze directly into my unprepared face.

I guess on the plus side, after I'm finished teaching, my immune system is going to truly be that: immune. I can't think of another job I could possibly have where I'd be subject to the sheer quantity of disease I face on a daily basis here.

They are cute, though. At least being sick means I can't smell 'em.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The job search and its aftermath

The Job Search


The Obu Job

While I was at Yamasa, for the last two semesters I was there, I had a small once-a-week job in Obu teaching kindergarteners. I got the job from a friend of mine who was leaving the country and needed to get rid of his classes. That's generally how things work in the gaijin community here--the revolving-door nature of living in Japan temporarily really makes it easy to get part time work as people leave and hand you a job here or there.

I was more of an assistant in that job than an actual teacher, and the pay wasn't amazing (though it was certainly enough to cover food expenses, which was nice) but it taught me that I actually really enjoy dealing with small children.

Every class would be structured the same way: we'd begin with flashcard review, where the kids had to produce words for the colors, numbers, shapes, weather, and basic greetings ("my name is Ryota, I'm 8 years old" etc) among other things. Once we had finished the review, we generally went into TPR (Total Physical Response, a thing I had never heard of before), where I would yell out actions and the kids would do the actions. This would include stuff like "Okay everyone, touch something green!" or "Everyone walk slowly! Walk quickly! RUN! STOP!". Stuff like that. I guess it helps kindergarteners let out some of that energy they always seem to have, and it was actually a lot of fun.

Then after that was usually music time, where they'd sing songs with dances or hand motions to go along with them. Most of the songs I knew, like The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Hokey Pokey and the ones I didn't I figured out pretty easily. Cool stuff. After they were all songed out, we would get out our workbooks and do a page which usually involved coloring or folding something.

It was a great job and I actually really grew to love those kids. But since my tenure at Yamasa was coming to an end, I had to find a full-time job.

The Search

All my friends knew that it was my last semester and that I wasn't ready to leave the country yet, so pretty much everyone had a recommendation as to where I could go to work. I had friends working full- or part-time at basically every national eikaiwa (English conversation school) chain in the area: ECC, Berlitz, AEON, and others. However, as fate would have it, one of my Taiwanese friends had a friend who was applying to be an assistant at a local school for super little kids (preschool age), and through the grapevine had heard that I was looking for a job. Turns out that eikaiwa like that one are generally always hiring for summer, since kids are out of school and the ones whose parents hate them force them to go to English school every day during vacation.

My "interview" ended up being me teaching a full day of Saturday class (five hours) full of problem students by myself because their previous teacher had quit recently. It was one of the most bewildering and horrifying experiences of my life, seeing as how I had very little experience teaching at that point, extremely little experience teaching children without anyone around to help me, and exactly zero experience teaching elementary students.

At the end of the day I was offered the job (presumably because they were desperate) and at that point due to my utter laziness it had reached the point where, due to visa processing times, it was either take this job or go back to the States and do something else. I chose the former, obviously, and here I am. But I was real worried at the beginning about my viability as a teacher.

The New Job Begins


So, basically, I began working there before I was even finished at Yamasa. I taught only on Saturdays, and then came in on Thursdays and Fridays to observe some afternoon classes. This was referred to as "training."

The way this particular school works (and I'm not going to write the name of the school I work for because lol internet) on weekdays is in two parts. The first part goes from 10:00AM to 2:45PM, and is a full-day preschool class. There are three different levels of classes: the baby class for 1-3 year olds, then there are two pre-K classes containing kids from 4-6 years old. Those two classes are split along ability lines, but they generally end up being split along age lines as well, since most of these kids have been coming to this school their entire lives.

Then, in the afternoon, starting at 3:55, kids come in for small 45-minute group lessons. They can be as young as kindergarten and as old as high school, though the high schoolers generally end up coming real super late because of all the other stuff those poor kids are forced to do.

These days, I am fairly happy about where I am. My only real gripe is about the deterioration of my Japanese language ability, because I work in a school with nothing but Americans (or English-speaking Philipinos or Japanese staff who speak some manner of English). I sometimes go multiple days without speaking a single bit of Japanese. But that's a story for another day.

As an aside, I know I'm really living up to the title of my blog. I'm really trying to make an effort to update more often, but my schedule gets in the way a lot. I apologize.