Well hey there. I have fallen quite behind on this, and I completely blame the lack of Internet in the early days. I kept thinking Oooh! I'll have to blog about this when I get Internet! and the like, and when I finally did get Internet (after gorging myself on American television and anime) I felt like there was a huge pile of blogs that were needing to be written and I didn't want to do it. So, we are just starting from right now! Making life easy.
I'm meeting one of my speaking partners in an hour, so I will be making a separate post of all my pictures so far because not everyone has the Facebook :D
SO this post is to tell you about my days at my current junior high, which I will call Junior High #1. I am called an ALT: Assistant Language Teacher, and as I am a city ALT I rotate from junior high to junior high every so many months depending on the size of the school. My current school is only 200 students, and as such I will be transferring to Junior High #2 after November 8th. I am most sad and nervous because I really like JH #1. But anyway, some important vocabulary first. In Japan, Elementary Schools (which I will talk about at a later date) are from 1st-6th grade, Junior High is 7-9th grade, and High School is 10-12. In Japanese, ~nensei means year student. So at junior high, there are ichinensei (first graders/ 7th graders), ninensei (second graders/8th graders), and sannensei (third graders/ 9th graders). So it is easiest for me to say ichinensei, ninensei, and sannensei, so this is a helpful key so you know who I am talking about!
Also, more vocabulary: JTE= Japanese Teachers of English. These are the English teachers at each school that I work with. At JH#1, I only have 2 JTEs, and they are awesome. I sit across from the one, and I go to her classes most of the time. The other teaches the ichinensei (and one sannensei class), so I only see her students some of the time, but they are both really nice and we work really well together.
So, now I will present: A typical day at JH#1 for me! From my apartment, I take a train and bus to get there; it takes about a half hour, which is heaven compared to my forty minute drive in the freezing snow when I was doing student teaching. Before I even step in the school, I take off my shoes. In the entranceway to the school, there are little shoe lockers to put your shoes in, and I change to my indoor shoes. (They have slippers for guests). Because inside/outside is very important in Japan, you change shoes. So, because of this, you see a lot of people wearing suits, professional wear....and tennis shoes XD So I wear my tennis shoes to school every day, regardless (although they just barely fit in the shoe locker next to each other, gotta love gaijin [foreigner] feet).
Then, I head to my desk in the teachers room. Unlike America, the teacher's room is a bustling place: students come in and out all the time. This is because also unlike America, students do not change classrooms. One homeroom stays in the same place, and the teachers rotate. So if you need to talk to a teacher / get a key / anything, you need to come to the teacher's room. The students also come get the teacher's for class. So, when I am going to the classes of the JTE that sits across from me, when the students come to get her, she makes them ask me to come to class as well. In English of course. It is super cute, and I love it! :D
So in the morning, there is a homeroom time before the first four periods of the day. Each period is 50 minutes. If I don't have a class, I sit at my desk and study, prepare for other lessons, write, or even read (but lately I've been super busy so just studying typically). If I have a class, we go to class! At class, I do a variety of things. The common thing is to read things. Because I am a native speaker, accent is important. But I also get to create nice grammar activities for the students as well. This school does not have technology in the classrooms, (but it does have the most colored variety of chalk I've ever seen), so I have many many laminated blown up pictures for various lessons (so now I have laminated pictures of me in grade school, my house, family, etc.).
After fourth period is school lunch, or kyuushoku. In theory, it is from 12:30 until 1. Not so. Teachers do not get to kyuushoku (which is like in a PTA room, because students eat in their classrooms) around 12:40, so we really only have 15 minutes to eat. This was really hard in the beginning for me. But luckily, our kyuushoku is self serve, so I just take small portions of everything and there isn't a problem. My favorite joke about kyuushoku:
"It's like 5 minutes ago, I was super hungry, and now I am ridiculously full, and I can't figure out why..."
Because lunch is that fast.
When you think of kyuushoku, do not think of anything resembling an American school lunch. There is almost always rice, or bread. Then, there is a "salad" (either actual salad, or tuna with salad, or cabbage/spinach, etc.), and some sort of soup (tofu, stew, something in a bowl). There is also a meat that is usually fish. I usually eat everything at kyuushoku, even if I don't really like it (I really hate the cabbage spinach salad thing, it's chewy and nasty, but I eat it), but there are two things so far that I just can't. I can't eat it, I've tried, and I just...gah.
One, is a specialty to Shizuoka. It is a raw fish called shirasu, or baby sardines. As you can see, they have eyes. They don't appear in a blob like that in kyuushoku thank goodness, but they're in some salads and just...blah. It's not the eyes per se, it's the texture. The texture is so off, I really do not enjoy. But I can if I have to, and I actually don't mind them when they're cooked (they taste a lot better).
The one I absolutely despise, hate, and/or can't tolerate at all is this fried little pregnant fish called shishamo that seriously looks like it's screaming. You eat all of it, eyes and skin and all. I tried, I really did, but I can't. And my JTE laughs at me for it, and it's sort of become a running joke. Here is a decent picture of a kyuushoku, just to give you an idea. The milk is decidedly thick, but I've gotten used to it.
Oh yeah, also things I can't eat: this. It's these little crunchy fish ( ) about that big that come in a bag with almonds. I can't eat them; they're crunchy and taste like nothing but skin and eyes. But they come in a little bag so they are easy enough to avoid.
So after kyuushoku is a lunch break, a recess where students just hang out if you will. There's no going outside to run around (there is a grounds for baseball and gym and events, but there is almost never grass. Just a big pile of dirt). I usually spend my lunch break at my desk, recovering from lunch and my sudden fullness with food. This is also the point where teachers (and most of the students I'm told) brush their teeth. Like, don't even go water the toothbrush down, just put toothpaste on it, sit at their desk, and brush their teeth. It took me a while, but I have finally started to do this as well. I don't sit at my desk, I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth, but it's good for you so hey, why not!
On Monday and Friday, there is only 5th period after lunch; on Tues-Thrs, there is 5th and 6th periods. After these classes, there's cleaning time! Because it is everyone's job to clean the school! It's about 15 minutes, nothing special, but we clean! I help sweep the entranceway.
Then after that, there is another short homeroom. After that, students have school clubs! Every student is in a club. You are only allowed to be in one club. The sannensei are no longer in clubs, and they go home so they have more time to study (the entrance exams into high school are super hard, and super important. Students to go a cram school after school for more studying). At this time, I either study or (if it's Friday because that is the longest amount of time), I go watch the clubs. If I were to go watch any other day but Friday, all I would see is stretching. But they are always happy to see me, so I go watch. It makes me want to play, though :( But lord knows what would happen there.
Then, I catch the bus home and return around 5:30. As is my day: a brief glimpse into Japan!