Yesterday the replacement came for the teacher who left the first day. K-sensei, she'd actually worked at the school before but left to get some more schooling, so I've offered to help her with conversation practice for her exams in August. The kids adore her - they hung out the windows of the classrooms (these slide open into the halls) and yelled "Okaeri!" (Welcome home!) at the top of their lungs. I like her a lot too - she talks very fluently in English, and she's interested in different teaching methods. Today A and I stayed after our scheduled leaving time to talk with her about how to teach essay-writing, until one of the other teachers pointedly tapped her watch in front of K-sensei's face. It's the first time I've felt like I was actually being useful, though.
We try getting them to write their own paragraphs, but if they have a sample one it's difficult. For instance, the example is about the Statue of Liberty - "one of the most famous statues in the world" and "France gave it to the United States as a symbol of friendship." The result when we tell them to write about a pet is, is the most famous dog in Japan. Which France gave to the United States. Although one which made me laugh until I cried - or perhaps the other way around, was: "This is my pet. His name is Daifuku (a kind of Japanese sweet pastry). He is hamasuta. He was very cute. He was dead."
Yesterday we had yet another ceremony - this one for the teachers who have left. I can't help but think they could compress all these different events into one big "hello-goodbye" ceremony. There was a surprising number of teachers leaving - eighteen - especially since most had only been there for a few years. A lot were going to other schools in the area. The school band - who is incredibly professional sounding - played a medley that ended with Memories. Personally I wouldn't want that song at my going-away event "I remember the time I knew what happiness was", but. A and I can both hum the school song now, and it gets stuck in our heads at inconvenient moments.
Everytime I run through my introduction I include my age, and the teachers exclaim "Wakai!" (Young!). The male teachers have the kids guess their age ("600!") and when I said, 25? M-sensei shook my hand seriously, "Thank you." And when he revealed 32 (I never would have guessed, It's so difficult to tell with Japanese people) he added "Ten years difference, ne..." and another ten years between myself and our twelve year old first years.
After our first lesson together, K-sensei said, "So young! But I thought - you seemed so..." Old? I supplied. Mature? She scrambled for her electronic dictionary. "Calm!" Ah you should have seen me last week. But it does feel oddly as though I'm slightly getting the hang of things (knock on wood), as long as I ask the day before, what should I get ready for tomorrow? And make sure I'm early for everything, and get enough sleep, and breathe. After all I'm working with the English Language, which is exactly what I've always been best at.
Thus ends my first month in Japan.