Thursday, January 28, 2010


Today was a much anticipated marathon day. Thursdays are always a bit rough, first because the workday consists of fifth and sixth grade at Big Elementary, and that (at least last week) is the ROUGHEST GIG IN TOWN. And second because the post-work time is full of both ikebana and then adult English conversation class (Salamander). It's just a full day.. which requires a lot of gear switching between elementary and adults. Given that most days I teach the same lesson 4 times and call it even, this is always a stretch.

Back to that rough gig: I don't know how they group the classes. When I was in middle school, we were grouped into teams, but it was all very random. That I was on 7-C is to say nothing of my GPA or behavioral status. But I think they actually separate these kids into quiet/well behaved and louder/less well behaved.

And it doesn't always play out the way you'd think.. sometimes I have far better classes with the louder groups just because they are usually much more willing to open their little mouths and give English a shot. Other times, the "genki" kids won't listen long enough to learn how to play the game right, so it all goes to hell.

Anyway, there's one class at Big Elementary, one fifth grade class... 1st through 4th grades I teach with the homeroom teachers, but 5th and 6th I teach with one particular lady, Youthful-sensei, who is a 6th grade teacher (she is HR for one of the two 6th grade classes, that is). Youthful-sensei is awesome, but she isn't the HR for any of the other three classes we teach together, so it's occasionally a challenge for her to handle them too. Oh, and she speaks English only kind of. So teaching Thursdays with her requires me to convey my meaning not only to these kids who don't know English, but their teacher, who knows only a bit more than they. She's really patient and we work around it (it's worked amazingly so far).. but imagine the frustration of knowing there are only ten minutes left in class and you'd really like to do this one last activity, but... the setup/explanation time are going to be exorbitant. Yeah.

So add to that this one fifth grade class which contains all of the behaviorally energetic kids, plus all kids with special needs. Subtract their actual HR teacher, add me and Youthful-sensei. What does it add up to? Last Thursday, it was DISASTER. This one particular kid tends to get really obnoxious on his bad days. He yells and runs around and pointedly refuses to cooperate. I think he's smart.. I can see that he often understands what I'm trying to convey because this little brat stares at me a minute and then does the exact opposite. You couldn't be that contrary unless you knew what I wanted in the first place.

Anyway, he quite regularly refuses to do what I want them to do, and quite regularly makes teaching the others very difficult. All of which I kind of ignore because.. well, what can you do? But last week, I passed out these beautiful alphabet letters made by my predecessor, all color coded (rainbowing from a red A with matching lowercase red a to a purple H and so on) and magnetized on the back so they stick to the chalkboard. And I passed out all the green and blue and yellow and orange ones and said, "Half of you have uppercase, half have lowercase, go find your partner." [and then acted it out with Youthful-sensei so they would get that]

And when they had done this, all the kids were kind of bending their letters and flapping them around or whatever, and that's fine. I saw him consider sticking his into the giant kerosene heater in the middle of the room. Lucky for us all, he thought better of it. But by the time we were teaching the kids to have a shopping conversation in pairs, he was stabbing through the lamination with the pointy end of a circle-drawing compass.

That shit is zenzen not okay.

I held out my hand to demand the letter T back from him, and he actually ran away from me. So I chased him. And tried to grab that letter from him. But he twisted so I couldn't reach it. So I gravely looked to his friend and classmate and said, "Take that from him and give it to me." He stared. I tried again in Japanese this time. He stared. Slower this time. He did it.

The stabby kid in question returned to his seat and quietly ignored my class for the rest of the period. Everyone basically tried to ignore that I had just lost my shit and attacked a child. Okay not really. But that's how it felt. Youthful-sensei looked like she wanted to say something, but we sort of didn't talk about it. After class, I went in the bathroom and cried.

So that was last week. Flash forward to this one. I was looking forward to Thursday the way a doomed man looks forward to his date with the gallows. Because I had the same old Big-Elementary linep, immediately followed by Open School at the middle school 5th period.

What is Open School? I'm glad you asked. Apparently, every so often, they open up a certain day or time of a certain day for kids' parents to come and see what their kids do in school all day. The moms stand in the back of the room and watch you teach/watch their kids learn.


So my thought is: awesome. 5th graders are going to slaughter me just in time for my bloodless corpse to be paraded before the onlooking parents of the 2nd year (8th grade) students.

But by the end of the elementary stint, I was feeling pretty okay. I dedicated myself to not letting things frustrate or get the best of me. It's too damn easy, really, to get frustrated, because things will basically never go how you plan or even want them to go. So if you can just shrug it off and say "OH WELL! Shikata ga nai!" then you will save a lot more sanity.

So me and Jermaine (the name of my blister.. we'll get to that in Hot Danger part II) made it through 5th and 6th grade. We even maybe accomplished something along the way. And then I pranced my little dressed-up self over to the middle school feeling quite powerful. Bring it on, moms of the middle school. I CAN TAKE YOU ALL.

And we did a lesson, and the moms observed, and it was fine.

I've been so focused on getting through to this afternoon. Now I feel a lot more free. I'm not going to ikebana tonight because Salamander eikaiwa is a welcome party for our newest student, and that starts at 6 right next to my apartment. Win win win. And there will be karoke. Which I haven't done in approximately way too long.

There are a lot of things left to do, but this week of intensity is now officially on its way out. Yess.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I was thinking about the pen pal thing - what about Carter and Peyton? And give Jermaine my best... xoxo