Archive for August 10th, 2009

Oh, Monday morning.  I almost forgot what these were like, having lived my Telluride round-the-clock work, round-the-clock play life for the last year plus.  But yes, Monday morning indeed.  I haven’t had to set my alarm for such a consistent hour, so many days in a row since high-school.  What is this work business?  Not that I’m “working” yet.  For the past week, since school isn’t in session (not till 24 August) I report to my BOE every morning by 8:15.  I proceed to write back to emails, peruse the nytimes online, update my blog, and get my pop culture fix via Jezebel.com.  When I force the computer away, I study, by which I mean, I go through my Japanese for JETs book and copy down vocabulary I don’t know, and star things I have the intention of looking back through later.

I did, however, start coaching my Speech Contest students – 3 Junior High Schoolers, Grades 1, 2, and 3.  (Equivalent to Grades 7, 8, and 9 stateside.)  For the two younger grades, the Speech Contest will consist of them memorizing and reciting (with pizazz if I have anything to do with it) Japanese folk stories in English.  These are two boys, Taiki and Yoshiki.  They have a little work yet on the pizazz front.  (Sidenote: there is nothing more endearingly awkward than that whole voice-change stage, especially when it comes to public speaking.) The Grade 3 student, Nanami (name translates to Seven Seas) is my fave.  She is a cute, bright, athletic 14 year old girl.  The “speech” she is doing is something she has written in Japanese, and which was “translated”/re-written by my predecessor into English.  It goes as follows:

<“WHAT is this?!”

“They’re not even paying any attention.”

“They’re so rude.”

“Yeah! They have no discipline.”

Doshisha Junior High School is our sister school. Every autumn, the second year students of Kazamaura Junior High School go on a trip to Kyoto and we spend a whole day visiting Doshisha.  But last year, my classmates and I were feeling that we really didn’t want to go.  You see, our teacher had shown us a video of the previous year’s trip.  We saw our school mates standing on a stage in an auditorium filled with one thousand noisy Doshisha students.  When our school mates began to sing, their voices were drowned out by all the chatter.  How could the audience be so inconsiderate? They were just as rowdy when our school mates were performing the soran dance for them.  My classmates and I were disgusted.

We were a little scared, too, because the two schools are so different.  Our school is tiny.  We only have twenty people in our second year class.  On the other hand, Doshisha is huge!  Also, in Kazamaura Junior High School we must wear school uniforms and there are rules about what kind of haircuts we may have.  At Doshisha, may students wear brand-name clothes and some of them have fancy hair styles.  I think the biggest difference, though, is that our school emphasizes unity and discipline.  At Doshisha, they emphasize individual freedom and independence.  It seems that their teachers never tell them what to do.  After watching the video, we felt that their freedom must not be a very good thing.

However, when the day of our Doshisha visit finally arrived we were in for a surprise. At first glance, it looked like our Doshisha hosts were completely disorganized, with everybody just doing wht they felt like…just as we had expected.  But we soon realized that their student government had planned everything very well, and they knew how to get things done.  One event they hosted was a kickball tournament.

“Oh no, that’s no fun! The two Kazamaura teams have to play against each other in the semi finals.”

“You’re right! We had better switch up the fixtures for this round so that they both have a chance to advance to the finals.”

Wow. How considerate of them! And they were able to make a decision and to solve the problem just like that.  At our school, we would probably take a long time to discus that kind of situation.  We might even ask our teachers what we should do.  I began to realize that the Doshisha students were able to think for themselves and to have confidence in their own decisions.

Finally, the moment we had all been dreading the most arrived. We said to each other: “Let’s rock this place! There’s no way we’ll let them get away with ignoring our soran dance this year!” But we needn’t have worried.  Sure they were noisy, but they were not ignoring us.  One of our teachers even overheard a Doshisha student say: “Wow, those Kazamaura guys really know to put on a good show!” We were so proud when we heard about that.

Our visit to Doshisha had turned out to be a wonderful experience.  Most importantly, though, I now understand that there is more than one way to be a good school.  I love the unity and discipline of my own school, but I have also learned to appreciate the independence and freedom of Doshisha.>

On top of being judged on memorization and pronunciation (Bs and Vs, Ls and Rs, Sing vs THing, and plurals!) the speech contestants will also be judged on their style.  Basically, how much umph they can put into it.  Which is where I come in.  I think Nanami thinks I’m crazy, since I’m all trying to get her to gesture widly with her hands – a certain habit of mine, I’ve realized – wag her finger all sassy-like, and put her hands on her hips in fierce indignation, as well as really drive home those words and phrases which need emphasis: thousand, disgusted, different, completely disorganized, wow, etc.  The actual meet is not until September, so there is still time, but I have to say that the rest of the JH schools in Aomori are going down when I roll in deep with my b.a. kids.  Pictures forthcoming.


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