I know, I am a horrible person for not keeping up with this blog, but it's just so easy to get distracted by, well, an entire new country to explore. I will try to back track later on about how training went and our very interesting experience of moving into the countryside of Yamanashi, but first I wanted to make sure to write about the first week of school while it is still fresh and relevant.
On Monday, the 4th, I had the wonderfully awkward experience of getting to meet the principal, vice principal and 'head teacher' of the Junior High (JHS) that I will be working at for the year. When I say awkward, I do truly mean just that too, because the Borderlink reps came along and so everyone talked around me in Japanese for about 15mins, while every now and then someone would look at me and smile or ask a simple question like: "are you sure you can ride a bike to here?"
Once all of that was over (only took maybe 20mins), I left without having a single clue as to how many kids there were, what I would be doing, how many classes there would be, or really anything else at all, except that they were all confused by my name.
So along comes Wednesday, the coordinator has e-mailed me saying to go in at 8:10am for an introduction ceremony that is being held to welcome all the new teachers, and that we will be done and out by noon, but then when I arrive, everyone in the office is surprised to see me and explains to me that the ceremony actually begins at noon and will not be done until at least 3pm. So that means that I not only arrived 4hrs early, but will not be going home early anymore either, joy of joys, it turned out to not be all that bad though, because I need the next 3 whole work days to get rid of the immense piles of useless crap that the previous ALTs had left behind for "help."
Now, to give you an idea of just how much "helpful" material was left behind, the previous 4 ALTs (some of which were here for multiple years) all saved every single sheet of paper they used, and there are roughly 600 students in the school, so multiply 600 by every project they did throughout a school year, and then add all the stuff that has their information on it, so it is also useless... and you're starting to get a feel for what was handed to me. To make matters worse, during my searches, I even managed to find papers and books that were from the early 90's, and an amazing American textbook that had a section about this new epidemic called "the AIDS."
To make matters even worse, any piece of paper that had "secret information" aka even a students name, had to be shredded down in the office, so a decent percentage of the 3 work days were spent shredding piles of paper while an office of Japanese teachers looked confused and sad, because they had thought it would all be "helpful," and here I am destroying it upon arrival.
On the plus side, since my last name is nearly identical to the Japanese word for tea, it was quite easy for everyone to remember my name, and there were quite a few conversations consisting of "is that really your name?, Do you like tea?, etc", and since my name was so easy to remember, it only took the children hearing it once to start yelling "Hello! Koucha-sensi! Hello!" anytime that they even spotted me down the hall (which isn't hard since I'm taller then half of the men and, well, am blond). The only issue that has come up so far with asking everyone to call me "Tea" is when the tea-lady comes around and asks if anyone would like some more, because anytime she asks anyone I hear my name.
That is about it for the first week, there was not a single class to be taught, and supposedly next week might be quite similar because the fitness teacher wants to claim all the students to do tests to see what levels everyone is at, if that ends up being the case, I will either be immensely bored, or I will be learning Japanese quite a bit while getting paid.
Now please enjoy one of the many tranquil views that is along the route to the JHS