A collection of thoughts about the schools this week

This is the view you get from one of the floors of the elementary school–it might’ve been the 4th. My elementary school was only one story, but most elementary schools here seem to be at least 3 or 4 stories. Every classroom has big windows looking out over the town, and you can see the mountains! I think it’s so cool that the kids get to see the whole town from their classrooms and hallways. The younger kids are on the lower floors, and the older kids are on the higher floors (I think. I’ll check again). I love looking out the windows! Around 4-5pm is the best time to take pictures–my camera says this was taken on 9/19/2012 at 4:27pm^^

Students of every level (kindergarten, I think, through middle school) have asked me some form of the question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” or “Have you ever seen a ghost?” during the questions time after my self-introduction. I never expected to be asked that question, haha. I’d already prepared for “Do you have a boyfriend?” with “It’s a secret!” and everything, but that question really made me think, because of 1 Samuel 28 (the Witch of Endor). I just looked that up so I could say something simple about it, but it seems that people (on the first search page, at least) have pretty strong opinions about what that means, so I’ll just leave it there, haha.

I mentioned to a teacher at the elementary school that I really wanted to read manga, but didn’t want to buy it because I only want to read it once, my apartment doesn’t have room, and I’d have to figure out how to sell it again when I moved out…and it turns out that she loves the manga that I wanted to read and has all of them!! She’s lending them to me 10 at a time, and brought the first bag this week–the only thing is, at my current rate it takes me about 2 hours or so to read one volume in Japanese. I’m going to need to practice my speed reading, haha. Oh, my room is still a mess…

Every Friday afternoon, I get to go to the kindergarten and play with the cute kids there. I have a lunch break in the principal’s room, and there are always snacks prepared for me! I’ve noticed that the snacks tend to increase as the age decreases–an inverse operation^^ The first and second weeks, I had some nice snacks and was perfectly happy, but this week was something else entirely…if you can’t tell, there is actually more chocolate underneath the “Chocochip Cookie.”

Tea, a fruit, a Hershey’s chocolate-covered ice cream bar, and assorted sweets, including a “Fugu Happiness Egg,” which not only totally cute, but was also a really good manjuu snack^^

Japanese schools (definitely k-garten through middle, and I think high school too) don’t have janitors, because students and teachers clean the schools every day themselves at a set time (like after lunch). This is in addition to wearing “indoor shoes” when you come in. There are shoe cubbies when you walk in–students take off their outdoor shoes an switch into their indoor shoes there. Every Friday at the kindergarten, a group of six kids comes in to the principal’s room with a teacher and run up and down the room with cloths to clean the floor. This is SO cute, haha. At the k-garten, I switch the classroom I help in every week, and that’s the one I help clean; at the elementary school, I help the teachers clean the teachers’ room during cleaning time; and at the middle school, I’ve started cleaning one of the English classrooms with one of the students. At the middle school, I think students are supposed to clean without talking.

(A note about the kindergarten: We call it “kindergarten,” but it spans several years like a preschool. Elementary school starts from 1st grade and goes through 6th. I think there might be something separate for preschool, but I think you can think of this kindergarten like a preschool.)

I think that anyone would have fun at the kindergarten. Being a foreign visitor there makes you automatically really popular. If I walk by one of the classrooms and they’re all eating quietly, one student will spot me through the window and then everyone yells “STEPHANIE-SENSEI!!!!!” so loudly that I’m hoping I’m not causing the teacher trouble, haha. I have the job of squirting foam soap in kids’ hands before lunch, and sometimes the students from another class will start calling my name and so many people are talking to me that I just give up and laugh until another teacher comes and saves me, haha. Their undoukai is coming up, too, so I’ve been practicing my officially designated jobs as finishing line rope-puller and team flag-carrier, haha. It’s cool getting to see undoukai at so many levels–I wonder if there’s a way I could watch one at a high school, too…? (Or maybe just part of one–they take all day.)

This past week when I went shopping with R-san, I made sure to prepare for lunchtime at the preschool! Everyone has such cute little bags and place mats for their lunch–I will not be outdone! (a Hello Kitty-One Piece crossover…whaaaaaaat?)

I eat in the teachers’ room at the middle school, and with the kids at whichever kindergarten class I’m helping in for that day; at the elementary school, I eat with the students of a different class each time. This week, I ate with a 4th grade class! Students eat together as a class first (at their desks), and then play, either outside or in their classrooms. They are so enthusiastic about everything^^ I got to learn how to play shogi! I asked for help, and like five kids helped me, so we won against the one kid who asked me to play…too bad, but unlike chess where the pieces are all shapes, shogi just has flat pieces with kanji on them and I can’t remember how I’m allowed to move with just one quick explanation, haha. It was fun, though! I want to try again and learn how to move by myself.

Tomorrow morning (Sunday) is my second undoukai, this time for the elementary school! I got to see them practice once, and watched their cheer/ouen dance, but that’s it, so I wonder what it’ll look like!

Song of the Day: Owl City, “Angels”

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