Thursday, August 27, 2009

Camping at Lake Tanuki

Last weekend I went camping with the teachers, managers and 22 students at Lake Tanuki by Mount Fuji. The kids, age 6 to 12ish, were really well behaved and the campsite was beautiful, but overall I'd have to say the trip was pretty odd, especially compared to camping trips I've been on.

It was supposed to be an English Camp where the kids would earn stamps for speaking English, and all of the information would be in English at least first, then Japanese. Kind of an All English, All the Time type of trip. With such young children, it's understandable that many things had to be repeated in Japanese, but after a few hours, things weren't said in English in the first place. So the only people who didn't understand what was going on at the English Camp were the English teachers. It should've been called Camping with the English Teachers instead.

We left Matsusaka before 9am on Sunday and took a bus for five hours to Lake Tanuki, stopping every hour or so for bathroom breaks. On the bus we quizzed the kids using flashcards and playing games, but that didn't last. Some kids napped which was good, and the rest were happy just talking (in Japanese) or looking out the windows. We had activity teams, each with an English teacher and a Japanese manager (four groups: A, B, C and D - I was B) that we'd stay in during the day, and so when we had a picnic lunch at a rest stop we sat in our groups and had to pick group names. My favorite suggestion in my group was that we call ourselves Team B. It was so bad it was good. After we shot her idea down, the girl then suggested, "Team A?" Another girl named my group the Stars (we were going to be the Superstars, but the boys didn't like it).

We didn't get to camp until around 3pm. Then we had to split the kids into cabin groups, get blankets, and take the luggage to the cabins. Somehow this took hours. The funny thing was, the kids were split into three cabin groups, one for boys and two for girls, and none of the cabins had adults! And though the cabins were in the same area, they weren't that close together! I thought it was odd that the children would be alone all night. The cabins were nice though, with screens so a breeze could go through and they were pretty big... all you needed was a cot or a sleeping bad and they'd've been perfect. Instead, we had two dirty orange blankets apiece. No pillows. It was a delight.

By the time things were squared away we had to start making dinner. The managers organized that because they spoke Japanese, and they put the kids to work. The girls washed the rice and the boys helped with the fire. I watched. I also slipped away to take several (hundred) pictures of Fuji San because the view from the lake was gorgeous. Apparently it's rare to have such a clear view of the mountain because it's usually hidden behind clouds but we could see it all day Sunday. Totemo utsukushii!

Once the rice was cooking the teachers finally started barbecuing the meat. The kids were starving by then and lined up holding plates, begging for food like they were in Oliver! By the time dinner was finished, it was dark and time for showers and then bed, so we were there all afternoon but didn't really play any English games or do anything besides make dinner. The kids ran around and liked being there though, so I don't think they minded.

I was sharing a cabin with Katie, the other American teacher. We are both terrified of bugs and were not so thrilled about the orange blanket situation, so when we finally went to our cabin to sleep, of course I saw the most enormous spider imagineable.

Back up. Though I said I liked the camp, and the cabins were nice enough, the bathrooms were a different story. The bathroom itself was about as bad as a normal camp bathroom, but the showers, which were in a separate building, were horrifying. One of the only two girls' showers was flooded with gross murky water, and so all the teachers used the second. You had to pay 200 yen ($2) for a five minute shower, which was fine because you couldn't possibly stand to be in there any longer. It was like a wildlife show. There were spiders and moths and it was dirty and smelly... you get the picture. Anyways, I shower, and I'm changing in the little area in front of the shower when I notice what's in there with me. Not only is there a moth over my head and a spider just inches away on the wall, but there is the most ridiculous bug on the floor in front of me. It's like a square grasshopper, and it has huge feet. It could wear shoes. If it hadn't hopped out from under my stall, I was prepared to run out into the night naked and screaming.

Which brings me back to the spider in the cabin. I see it there, hanging out on a broom in the entrance area of the cabin. I tell Katie about it. "Where is it?" she asks. "You don't want to see it. We can just pretend it isn't there," I say. "No, tell me!" "It's on that broom."

Katie looks at it, stands up, and goes "Okay... okay.... let's make a plan!"

"I can't go near it," I say.

"Okay, you go hold open the door, and then I'll throw the broom outside."

To do this, I'd have to walk past the spider. "I can't walk past the spider!" I cry.

"Would you rather be the one to pick up the broom?"

I go open the door. You exit the cabin through the entrance area and make a right out of the door onto the porch, then you make a left to go down the steps (follow me?). So if you open the door and throw the spider broom out straight, you'd land it on the porch. You have to throw it out and left to get it in the grass and away from the cabin. I'm standing as far away as I can on the porch, but in front of the door to hold it open. "Ready!" I shout.

"I can't!" Katie screams back. Meanwhile, I have the door wide open and the light is on in the cabin, so every Japanese bug imagineable is flying inside. "You have to!" I shout.

Suddenly, like in slow motion, I hear Katie pick up the broom, run towards the door, and throw the broom. It lands squarely at my feet on the porch.

Well I scream like a psychopath, jump over it as if it were a hurdle, and run back inside. Now there is a giant moth right next to my bed. At this point, I give up, Nature wins, and so I move my orange blankets over and let the moth have most of the floor. I'm done.

The rest of the night was uneventful, though I slept curled in a ball completely under my orange blanket for fear of crawling things touching me. It was also hard to sleep on the floor when I'm used to a bed. On top of this, we heard the kids talking or laughing all night long. Our cabin was the furthest from them, so I can't imagine how loud they really were. The next morning we asked the boys how many hours they slept. "Zero hours," said one boy, smiling. "Eleven minutes," said another.

We'd gotten up at 5:30 am to watch the sunrise. It's supposed to do this diamond reflection thing directly over Mount Fuji only two weeks every summer, but of course when we get to the lake it is cloudy. You can't even tell Mount Fuji is there. We, and a crowd of other disappointed photographers, wait anyways to see if the clouds will clear, and we're able to see half of the diamond effect which was cool. The kids were very good about hanging out in a field staring at clouds. Then we did exercises and ate breakfast.

This whole time the kids have been pretty much able to do whatever they want. If they weren't good kids, there was nothing to stop them from wandering away. So after breakfast, I was taking one kid to the bathroom when I pass a boy (the boy who said he slept zero hours), walking back from the main building where there are vending machines. He has this look in his eyes like, "you caught me," and he's drinking something.

Then I see: he'd bought an iced coffee! This eight year old boy is drinking iced coffee! He smiles and since I can't yell at him in Japanese, I bring him to one of the managers to yell at him for me. Funny thing was, I think he ended up being able to keep the iced coffee, or maybe he'd pretty much finished it by the time we caught him. Either way we didn't really yell at him; it was pretty funny that he went and did that in the first place.

After breakfast we cleaned up, packed, and got back on the bus to go to a nearby farm. It was a great place for families: it had playgrounds and you could pet all kinds of animals. We could only stay an hour which was a shame, but we split up into our groups again and took our kids to as much as we could. Parts of it were cool, but parts were sad. There was a rabbit room where the kids could go in and feed the rabbits or pick them up, and each bunny had a crazy wide-eyed look that said "just kill me now." The kids would shove carrots in their faces, and the bunnies would sit there, letting the kids poke them in the mouths repeatedly. It was sad.

While the bunnies had it bad because the kids could pick them up, the horses had it worse because they were tied down. People took their pictures in front of the horses and fed them, but the horses couldn't go anywhere. Maybe since it's a farm, they only have to do that a few hours a day and then they can roam around the rest of the time, but I doubt it.

The only happy animals were the medium-sized ones, like the ponies and the sheep. You could go right into a pen of sheep. The kids would walk towards the sheep, thinking, this animal looks nice! Then the sheep would see the kids and think, hey, they might have food! Cut to many sheep chasing many screaming children.

From the sheep's pen you could enter a guinea pig room. It had a giant table in the middle that held about ten guinea pigs, and the kids could feed them or pick them up. I was in there with four of my students and another family.

So all of my students are holding guinea pigs. Then someone in the sheep's pen opens the door, and suddenly there is a sheep in the guinea pig room! The kids scream and the sheep chases them around the table. They're running, all still holding guinea pigs, and the guinea pigs, who until then looked miserable, now look miserable and absolutely terrified. This parade of guinea pigs held by children chased by a sheep continues for several laps around the table. I try to herd the sheep out the door by walking behind it, but there is no one to block it from going around the table again and again. Finally, a man grabs its food bowl and lures it out that way. Only in Japan would a sheep get stuck in the guinea pig room at a petting zoo.

One other attraction at the farm that we didn't have time to do was goat walking. I thought this was hysterical. For 300 yen ($3) you could borrow a goat. It would have two leashes attached to its collar, and usually a kid would hold one leash while a parent had the other, and they'd march around the farm walking their goat. After 20 minutes you'd return it. If I'd known about it sooner, my group would totally have had a goat with us as we walked around the petting zoo. Sad things.

After the farm we went to the gift shop where the kids bought presents for their families. It was adorable. Both boys in my group bought jars of milk for their mothers (cute!) and the girls bought stuffed animals for their siblings or mothers. Then one of the boys tried to buy a hotdog. He got so far as to be handed it on a plate, when Mayu (my group's manager) caught him and took it away. Poor kid. All the kids were starving when we left the farm, and we still had to visit the waterfalls before lunch!

The Shiraito waterfalls were beautiful but uneventful. We marched the increasingly exhausted and hungry kids down to see them and then had to practically carry them back up the hill again. Afterwards, we went to lunch at a restaurant that was expecting us (the kids sat in their own separate room which I thought was odd) and then within moments of boarding the bus to go home, everyone was asleep. I've never seen so many kids passed out on a bus. My favorite was the boy who'd drunk the iced coffee. He was sitting up with his head slumped back, sleeping with his mouth wide open and snoring loudly. I have a picture of him on Facebook. He was so soundly asleep that when we stopped for a bathroom break and everyone made noise, he didn't stir.

All in all it was definitely a good trip and we were lucky the kids were so great. I would go back to the lake and the campgrounds in a heartbeat, but next time I'd bring a sleeping bag and a large can of Raid. Oh, and something has to be done about the bathrooms.

Friday, August 21, 2009

My Community Center Class in Hisai

Yesterday I went to Hisai, a town between Tsu and Matsusaka, to teach a once-a-month class for a group of middle-aged people/senior citizens at the community center.

Pause: I turned my iTunes Shuffle on, and a piercing scream was the first thing I heard. It was a track from Bernarda Alba, but the volume was too loud and it just scared me half to death.

Speaking of scary (こわい), I rode my bicycle (Nice Friend) home after dark yesterday. As I was locking NF to a pole under my steps, a cat jumped out of a trash area directly towards me, like a flying monster, except it was a cat. I shrieked, then apologized to the adorable cat that was then cowering in fear, waiting for me to go away. My neighbors must think I'm crazy.

Back to the elderly. Most of my classes are 50 minutes, but the Hisai class is 90 minutes. At first I thought, "OH GOD what do I do for 90 minutes with senior citizens?" Now it's one of my favorite classes. I have a text book and a CD that are pretty basic, with questions like "What is your favorite baseball team?" and "Are you retired?" We barely used it at all. The class shouldn't be an English class so much as The History of Meg Delcher.

They had met me during my observation week and learned my name, that I had lived in New York, and that I studied art, but that was about it. Then yesterday a student showed up with a map of New York for each person, and asked me to point out where I went to school and where I lived. Then all twelve took turns asking me questions about my life or about American culture (ha). I'd correct each question, write it on the board, they'd all write it down, we'd repeat and practice it, I'd write my answer, they'd repeat that, and so on. There was also a lengthy discussion about each topic, or a long period of confusion while I tried to figure out what was being asked. They were all over the board, asking things like:

Where did you play in your childhood?

Were you in New York for September 11th?

Why is your nickname "Meg" if your name is "Margaret"?

In the song "Hey There, Delilah," what does "Hey There" mean?

How many people can fit in Carnegie Hall?

Here is a brochure; will you go see my friend's artwork at the Mie Museum in Tsu? She painted on the Berlin wall. I told the gallery to expect you.

I loved trying to answer these questions. I walked away with a Japanese map of New York, a museum brochure, and a note-to-self to google Carnegie Hall, origins of English names, and the Mie art museum. I'm going to try to go see the show next week; after all, they are expecting me.

I should also mention that to get to this class, I take a train to Hisai where someone should be waiting to pick me up and drive me to the community center. Yesterday, the first thing my driver did when I got into her car was to hand me a photo album of her granddaughter. I thought, okay, she's a proud grandmother... and then I realized: her granddaughter is the adorable girl in my Tsu class of 3-year-old "favorites"! I asked if she knew the little wild boy, and I did an impression of him by flailing around. She laughed and said she knew him. I told her how great I think that class is, and how smart her granddaughter is. Small world! Thank god she didn't show me a Matsusaka student - I have more there, and I'm still having trouble learning who's who. But her I certainly know her granddaughter!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

My Favorite Student

First, it should be noted that my shortcut was wholly unsuccessful. It still takes me about 20 minutes to bike to the train station. This is 16 minutes farther than I prefer to bike. But that is neither here nor there.

My favorite class (the three year old wild boy and adorable girl) were berserk again today, as expected.

To contrast, I had my class of three other three and four year olds for the first time today (all were absent my first Tuesday) and they were great. One girl talks the whole time in Japanese, but totally on topic from what I can understand. The boy is super eager to be there and answer the questions, and the last girl is shy and quiet. It didn't look promising when they came in, because the boy had a nosebleed and his mom was sticking kleenex up his nose. But she said he was fine (I was like, "are you sureeee?") and he had kleenex stuck up his nose the for the whole class. It looked uncomfortable, but he didn't seem to mind. The girls laughed at him at first, but they got over it quickly and the lesson went smoothly. My favorite thing to do with those kids was this series of verbal command flashcards. "Swim!" and they all lay on the floor and pretend to swim. By far the best is "Dance!" - three year olds are crazy good dancers.

After that very successful class (pat on the back, me) I had to do the same lesson plan with my "favorites". They both showed up 10 minutes early, of course. The girl got there first and waited quietly with her mother. Then I see the boy and his grandfather walking towards the door. The grandfather opens the door and steps in. The boy runs the other direction, back across the parking lot. Great. His grandfather drags him back in, and he climbs up by the window in the waiting room and hides. The girl goes into the classroom, puts her bag away, and gets ready to start. Makiko, the manager, and the grandfather work together to shove the boy into the classroom. It should be noted that the boy's pantlegs are wet. He didn't pee himself (thank god) but he'd gotten himself wet somehow. Once pushed into the classroom, he runs side to side around the room as Makiko blocks the door, and the girl and I sing the Hello song.

Then, despite his oddly damp clothing, he's suddenly participating in the lesson! I hand the kids fake fruit and veggies and ask "Do you like carrots? Do you like strawberries?" "Yes I do!" they both say! They pretend to eat them and give them back, laughing. We go through the alphabet cards, and I ask "Do you like bears?" "Do you like pigs?" "Do you like rabbits?" etc. and they are totally into it ("YES I DO!" they scream). I had discovered last week that the boy is afaid of the W-witch card and will run out of the room when he sees it, so I switched it for a different card. Around U he runs to the door. I skip V, call his name, and show him the new card. "W-Watch - see?" and he looks confused, then happy, and then comes back over! I give him the card. Then I shuffle the rest, hold them up, and whoever can say "U-Umbrella" etc. the fastest gets the card. Well they start off sitting about three feet away from me, but are so eager to get more cards that they move closer and closer until the girl is literally sitting on my foot, and the boy is trying to grab the cards out of my hands. That's more like it! I let the boy win, and he looks proud as we both clap for him afterwards. He is a little out of control the whole time, moving way more than necessary no matter what we're doing. He'll answer the questions, but be bending over touching his head to the floor and jumping side to side as he talks. Hey, at least he's paying attention! They sing (er, shout) the alphabet song and dance (more three year old dancing: priceless) and run around the room laughing and pointing to colors as I name them ("Find something blue!"). Unbelievably great.

Fast forward ten minutes. The girl is alone with me in the classroom, and the boy is in the waiting room not wearing pants.

I could tell I was losing the boy's attention. I had done all of the exciting action things ("Stand! Sit! Stand! Sit! Jump! Swim! Turn around!") and we'd sung a lot of songs (they both did I'm a Little Teapot and pretended to pour tea out of their spouts for me to drink: cute). But then I was supposed to do a lesson about body parts from a book. I held up the flashcards, the boy looked right at them, and I could tell he was thinking "eh." He was gone.

The girl and I finish the body parts lesson from the book, and the boy still hasn't come back into the classroom. I go into the waiting room to find the boy pantsless and the girl's mother putting his pants on top of the air conditioner (will that dry them?). I guess his damp pants had annoyed him so he took them off. He's hiding in his pull-ups under the manager's desk. I look at the boy, I look at Makiko, and I walk back into the classroom. I'm no help there. The girl and I start a coloring project and eventually Makiko plops the still-pantsless boy down in my classroom again. He sees we're coloring and he immediately gets out his crayons! We were drawing pictures of Humpty Dumpty to practice identifying body parts (Draw the arms! etc.) and who knew, but the boy is pretty great at drawing! I can barely get him to stop coloring long enough to sing the Goodbye song.

Here's the craziest part. The class ends, the girl leaves, and the boy, who mere minutes ago had made another run for it, is still in the classroom. He's CLEANING UP! And not his things, but mine! I stand there, dumbfounded, watching him. He stacks the flashcards. He takes the CD out of the CD player and puts it in it's case. He closes my attendance binder and puts it with the lesson books. Seriously? He's not looking for attention either, because I try to be like "Wow, that's so wonderful!" and he doesn't care. He just finishes what he's doing, says a quick goodbye, and goes into the hallway to meet his grandfather, who is standing there holding the boy's pants.

To sum up: escapes into parking lot, runs into walls, shouts alphabet, points to blue, dances, sheds pants, hides under desk, draws Humpty Dumpty, stays late, cleans up. And I thought the kid with kleenex shoved up his nose was exciting.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Back to Work

Sad things. I was so great at not working this last week that it's a shame to go back today. Also, today is the day I have my "favorite" 3 year olds, and I'm expecting that class to be at least as wonderful, if not wonderfuller than last time. I'm considering buying the little boy a helmet if he continues running headfirst into walls.

In about 40 minutes I have to go to the train station to go to Tsu. Two days ago I decided to find a shortcut to the train station, because I'd either taken the bus or biked down the main roads before, and both were time consuming. Since I'd have to look at a map to guess roughly where I was (no street names), I couldn't bike. I thought, 'That's fine, I'll go on a walk'. That walk lasted three hours. Granted, I spent some time taking pictures ("Ooh, a rice field!"), some time stopping because I found a shrine and a cemetery (more pictures), and some time buying dinner at a Family Mart, but I also got decidedly lost. I asked a variety of people for directions (and by asked, I mean I said "Matsusaka Eki?" which is the train station, and made my best 'I'm lost, help me' face). People who came to my rescue included an old man on a bike who was super happy to give me lengthy directions that were ultimately "keep going straight" and a teenage boy who was so scared this stranger was speaking to him that he shook. Reminded me of my scared-shaky World Studies students. His directions came in the form of subtle gesturing and not looking directly at me. Once I got there, I timed the walk back and it was roughly 40 minutes. Ew. By main roads it takes me about 20 to bike to the station, so we'll see how much time the 40-minute-walk route takes. I'm guessing 20 minutes, ha. I am a poor bike rider.

Other than taking Epic Walks and cleaning my apartment (I scrubbed things!), I also went to Nagoya with Katie and loved it. It's about an hour away by Expensive Train, and about 100 minutes away by Affordable Train. I took Affordable Train. When we got there we went straight to the castle (Nagoya Jou, I think) and walked around there. The outside is beautiful but they're doing construction on the grounds on one side, so it was less than picturesque. Inside I expected to find a period-decorated castle layout but was totally mistaken. It looked more like an 80s museum (carpeted floors, dark rooms, and things in giant display boxes) and was unbelievably interactive. When I stepped off the elevator (yes, elevator) the first thing I saw was a line of about 20 people waiting to take their picture with a golden dragon-fish statue. Clearly I had to get in this line, too. There was also an exhibit showing how hard it had been to move the rocks that were used to build the castle. You could pull on a rope and a meter would tell you how much weight you moved. I managed a phenominal 10 kg. Pathetic. There was also a box to sit in that had a TV screen in it, but I'm not sure what that was about. Overall it was nice, just not at all what I expected! Lots of golden dragon-fish statues.

After our necessary tourist trip the the castle, we went to the main entertainment/shopping area called Sakae. We found an English bookstore where we could pay twice what it would cost in America for books (thanks, Japan) but I bought a Japan guide (I've been needing one), A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami (a coworker recommended reading this before I left, and I'm just getting around to it now...) and One Hundred Years of Solitude (thanks for the suggestion, Emily!). Then, after a delicious dinner and one giant beer each, we went to the Sunshine Mall and rode a Ferris Wheel! It was called the Sky Boat, and it's entrance was through a DVD store, which made it very difficult to get to. I thought that was funny, considering we were looking for the giant Ferris wheel on the side of the building, and we couldn't seem to find it. The Sky Boat was great - it moved so slowly that you only went around once, but the views were beautiful. Post Sky Boat we went to another mall, Oasis 21, to see a giant sculpture/structure called Spaceship Aqua. Hysterical. I'm not sure what this was, or why this was, but Spaceship Aqua had a shallow pool of water over a glass floor about two stories off the ground in a plaza that I think was called Field of Green. From it you could see the Sky Boat and the TV tower, which bore an uncanny resemblence to Le Tour Eiffel. Also, it had a park around it called Central Park. I guess Spaceship Aqua makes up for the TV Tower's lack of originality. Underneath Spaceship Aqua was the Galaxy Platform, which contained shops, a food court, and glowing dinosaur bushes. Yes, glowing dinosaur bushes.

Next time we go to Nagoya I want to see a shrine on the edge of the city that is supposed to be beautiful. Other than that, it's a nice place to just hang out in and shop. We didn't really see the neighborhood by the main train station yet either. So a return trip is definitely in order.

Well I should really begin my perilous and probably lengthy bikeride to Matsusaka Eki. Wish me luck.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I've Been Here Over a Month Now!

I can't believe I've lived in Japan for over a month now! And I've only taught for 8 days. I'm on break now, but I didn't have time to plan anything much because it came so quickly, so I've just gone to the beach with Makiko, the manager of the Tsu school; seen Harry Potter 6 with Katie and Hisae, the manager of the Ise school; and hopefully I'm going to Nagoya to see a castle, a shrine, a Ferris wheel, and find an English bookstore tomorrow. And I went on a walk. I actually will keep this brief because I want to take pictures of the sunset (and post them with the hoards of other photos I have on Facebook). It's beautiful out now, but still too hot.

Forget brief. I left to take the pictures already. The sky was pretty clear, not really any clouds, so sad things there. I do love clouds. While I was walking I ran into a little old woman who talked to me for fifteen minutes. Normally this would have been fine but I only understood about eight words she said the whole time. After I told her my name, she crouched over and wrote her name in the dirt using a stick. Not sure why saying it wasn't enough, but I am now 100% sure her name is Miura. She was very friendly, and I think we both said something like "see you again here" when we left (we were up on a hill looking at the sunset). Now I have a friend to watch sunsets with.

It's time for 5 Things I've Learned in Japan:

1. There can never be too many vending machines.
2. Kawaii means "cute". Kowaii means "scary". Don't tell people their kids are "kowaii".
3. Sometimes you see a frog on the floor of a bar.
4. The coffee isn't great, but the tea is delicious (totemo oishi desu).
5. People here assume that I'm from Australia.

And 5 Things I Still Don't Know About Japan:

1. How to get to the post office.
2. How to sort my trash correctly (It's combustible or not-combustible here. Go figure).
3. How to get proper storage for my closet (right now it's like a big empty box - the Hello Kitty curtain rod failed).
4. How to meet Japanese people older than 14, younger than 44.
5. How to find a website for cheap flights to Korea. 80,000 yen, really?

My iTunes Shuffle is currently playing the nun choir's "Morning Hymn" from The Sound of Music. "Rex admirabilis..." I still can't set up my TV here (it's complicated) and I'm not convinced that it would work, even if I could plug it in. So iTunes and Youtube are entertaining me when I'm at home. Oooh the shuffle just cut to Jerry Orbach!

I'm pretty much settled in here (apart from the closet debacle) so look for more conistent updates from me! Huzzah.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

First Day of the First Week of Teaching

This is my first week of teaching (our weeks here Tuesday through Saturday). I taught for the first time on August 1st - a Saturday - and overall everything went smoothly. The first class was three 5-6 yr olds who were good. Despite my forgetting what to do and moving too slowly, they were well behaved. Last week when I observed the class, one of the kids had a drooling issue (drool just kept pouring out of his mouth like an uncontrollable fountain; the more he liked the lesson, the more he drooled) but he kept it in check on Saturday for me. The week before he had drooled on the flashcards.

Then I had a class of eleven year old boys. There was a smart one; a boy who might cry (as I discovered last week); another smart boy; and a slower boy. I loved this class. These boys are funny and overall smart and just nice. When The Crier cried during my observation, the others tried to help him or politely ignored him so he didn't feel worse. Cool kids. For my first lesson, the crier was absent and the other three were great. My favorite moment was when I had them asking me question to practice English. They were sticking to the standards "What's your name?" "Where do you live?" "Do you like green peppers?" and so on because they weren't used to the game (each question you ask correctly, you get a point - easy). The boys soon ran out of questions and there was silence. Then the slowest one smiled, looked at me, and asked "Do you have an elephant?" - everyone laughed and I gave him two points. Making a joke in English? Love it.

After the boys was another class of 5-6 year olds. All girls and a boy and they behaved for me although the boy can be bad. Then I taught a class of four 4-5 year olds (a boy tried to pull down another boy's pants!). They are way behind the other students their age. There are twins who hit each other, a boy who is smart but can misbehave, and a 4 year old girl who is quiet. Sigh. To contrast them, I have a private lesson with a 5 year old girl after; my last class of the day. She is wonderful. While the previous class struggled with the alphabet and numbers 1-10, she can look at a card and say "There are two blue rectangles" or "The cat is going up the stairs". She's so great I'd forget she's only five, until I mixed the cards together in a silly way, or made a shocked noise because a flashcard was upside down, causing her to laugh hysterically. Cute kid, and nice way to end a Tuesday.

BUT moving on to today. All of my classes were back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back (that's right, 5 of 'em). Things started with a bang. I had a group of 3 year olds and two cancelled. The third was a no-show. SWEET - I must say I was fabulous, teaching a class of zero :-) Class number two was a private lesson for a smart 5 year old boy. Think the 5 year old girl from my last Saturday class, but not quite as brilliant. Still smart, and fun to play games with.

Then disaster struck.

The third class (my absolute favorite during observation) was two 3 year olds, a quiet girl and a crazy little boy. When I observed them last week, they were wonderful. The boy can misbehave a bit but was totally into the songs. The old teacher played the alphabet song and the two were up and dancing in their own little worlds out of excitement, even before the singing started. Today, not so much. The boy would have none of it.

I walk into the classroom and the girl is being shy. She's not used to me but thankfully she warms up quickly. The boy is bouncing off the walls. I play the standard Hello Song and while the adorable girl does the motions and sings along, the boy literally runs back and forth across the room doing laps and slamming himself into the walls. If I weren't teaching, it would have been hysterical. Then the boy runs out of the classroom. I had made it to the Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes song and I left the girl so I could go get the boy, who was with the manager in the waiting area. Thankfully no one else (like a parent) was there to see this. Well I grab the boy under my arm like a sack of potatoes and carry him back into the classroom. I walk back in and there is the girl, staring at the wall, doing Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes by herself. Singing along, happy as can be, staring at nothing and singing. She's doing the motions too. HYSETERICAL (and sad). Clearly she doesn't need me. I restart the song, keep hold of the boy, and muddle through. The boy didn't stop running or talking (in Japanese) or squirming or pulling or kicking the whole class. And the girl did every bit of the lesson perfectly, by herself. Imagine me chasing a little boy around while a little girl goes through a routine alone. She did the I'm a Little Teapot song by herself while I held the boy in my lap. It was a circus. She even knew opposites and sat there saying "Stong, weak, strong, weak" and making muscle-arms while I ignored her and held the boy upside down. Someone should film this.

The rest of the day was fine. Another class of four boys, 3rd and 4th grade, and only three showed up. Then a private lesson with a 7 year old boy had a make-up student, and the two were great together. One of the activities is to read off a list of commands ("Fly!" "Jump" "Point to the window!" "Touch your toes!") and the students act them out. The advanced students also add "I'm jumping!" or "I'm touching my toes" as they mime. I let these two take turns being teacher and command me and the other student, which they got a kick out of. A good way to end the day.

I should point out that earlier, I had done other commands with the two three year olds (the quiet girl and the energetic boy).

"Ride a bike!" I said. The girl pretended to ride a bike. The boy ran in circles at full speed around the room.

"Swim!" I said. The girl pretended to swim. The boy ran head first into the wall.

"Point to the door!" I said. The girl pointed to the door. The boy opened it and ran out.

I'll have to figure out how to deal with my "favorites" next week. Maybe I'll let the girl lead herself in her own lesson while I take the boy to a track and time him running around it.

Tomorrow I have an easy series of lessons with kindergarteners and then one middle school class and one adult class. The middle schoolers are so afraid to be in class that they shake, but more on that later. Hope you enjoy reading about my struggling teaching career. More on everything else non-teaching later.