I am at school, I brought my laptop in today because I had homework last night that needed printed today. I am tired but not as bad as yesterday. I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night, nervous for the first day of school and all. Here is a typical school schedule:
8:20 Teachers arrive by this time, students go to homeroom.
8:50 – 9:40 1st Period
9:50 – 10:40 2nd Period
10:50 – 11:40 3rd Period
11:50 – 12:40 4th Period
12:40 – 1:30 Lunch Break
1:30 – 2:20 5th Period
2:30 – 3:20 6th Period
3:20 – 3:35 Cleaning Period (In Japan they do not hire a custodial staff, at the end of each day at this time students clean the building)
3:35 – 3:50 Homeroom
4:15 My day officially ends
5:15 Teachers’ day officially ends
My schedule changes daily. Sometimes I will be really busy, 9/17/04 for example has me teaching 4 out of the 6 periods, and other days 9/10/04 I barely have any work to do, just 2 periods. The typical day looks to be about 3 periods a day. Regardless I will have to have a hobby. Learning Japanese for sounds like a good one! Regrettably only one computer has the internet so I will probably not be on much at work. Hopefully during the course of the renovation that will change. I wouldn’t mind checking out CNN and places like that to get some news while I am here.
An important note is that the homeroom teacher is much more involved in a kids life than the American counterpart. In Japan the homeroom teacher acts more as a surrogate parent than a teacher. If a child is in trouble and is arrested it is the homeroom teacher that goes bails them out and apologizes on behalf of the school and student. If a student is in the hospital it is the homeroom teacher that sits by their bedside. It is really striking the difference in attitude between Japanese homeroom teachers and their US counterparts. Another difference is the Teacher’s Room (in Japanese Dee Room.”) In the states we have teacher’s lounges but nothing like the Dee room that I know of. It is where all the teachers’ desks are. It is where we eat, where we go when we are not in class, etc. The teacher’s room is the hub of activity. We sit in our respective grades. I rotate from English teacher to teacher, but I sit with the 2nd grade teachers. I say 2nd grade but not 2nd grade by US standards. In Japan, grades do not start to be counted until Middle School (called Junior High here) so their 1st grade is our 6th grade, their 2nd is our 7th, etc.
Apartment of Marble Update
Good news, it is September 2nd. Which means all my burnables (and there were a lot of them) are now off to be burned. I have a little wiggle room in my apartment again. The bad news is I am still stuck with that miserable sofa/bed monstrosity. I am having trouble getting recycle shops to buy it do to the language barrier. I may have to have Dan or Watabei-sensei help me out. It is too big for my little place so it has to go. I have a master plan for the kitchen now and I am ready to execute it. I am going to have to buy a new fridge because mine is too small. I guess in America we have really big refrigerators by global standards. But I found a perfect fridge for my needs. It is pretty expensive (around $500) but here is why it is the only way I can see myself going. It is skinny but deep. It has lots of storage. It has three chambers, a large main chamber for basic cooling, a freezer drawer, and a second drawer freezer that can be kept at a different temperature. I will use one drawer as a freezer and the other I plan to barely refrigerate and use as storage. Due to the miserable heat and humidity here, even dried goods, like cereal, tend to taste off rather quickly. Have a cool dry place to store them would help. Also simply HAVING a place to store things would be nice! My kitchen lacks storage big time. I will sell my old fridge back to them. I will have to take Dan with me to make it very very clear to the people at the store that they MUST take my old fridge if I am going to buy this new one. Hopefully selling the old fridge will help offset the high price but I kind of doubt it recycle stores are notoriously cheap buyers. But it has to be taken, just like my sofa/bed thing! I am also going to buy a nice wooden cabinet for my kitchen. I have one picked out and everything! It will run me about $130 but it will be well worth it. It is very pretty will have storage for my dishes, my microwave/oven fits will fit in it and it has a section that extends out. Thus, making either more counter space for me (which I need) or a great place for my rice cooker when I get around to buying one. I have 125 cm to play with and the fridge and cabinet combine to 120 cm. Perfect!
The kitchen is the only other major obstacle I have to get over for Apartment of Marble to be complete. I will still have a ton of odds and ends to get (more silverware, I am expecting company after all), more towels (“always have an extra towel”), some wall coverings, and a short couch or chair for my main room.
New Mission: Operation Desk of Marble
Along similar lines to Operation Apartment of Marble comes Operation Desk of Marble. My work desk is bare bones. I have to make it my own. I need some bookends, a cool toy type thing (I am thinking a classy Lego set) and some magnets. I sit on the end and my desk is made of metal, probably iron based on the rust I have observed. That means I can put stuff up on the side with magnets. I am trying to get the kids to talk to me so I will probably have one of the teachers here make me a sign that says something like, “Please feel free to talk to me. No matter how busy I look, I am only pretending.”
Well I just taught my first real class. I did it with Mr. Maeda a first year English teacher. This school has 4 English teachers:
Mr. Maeda (1st year)
Ms. Iwamoto (1st year)
Ms. Takeda (2nd year)
Mr. Okumura (3rd year)
They all seem very nice and I think I will greatly enjoy working with them.
Today’s class went okay. There was a great deal of room for improvement. This is good otherwise this would be a pretty boring job if I walked in and mastered it on day 1. The class went well but it was too hard for most of the students. The worksheets I had them do confirms this suspicion. The average on the first was probably around 13/23. On the second worksheet though I would say the average was closer to 23/75. It is strange how physics has warped my philosophy on education. The very system I did not like I now use. In physics the idea is to separate the wheat from the shaft. The exams were positively brutal. It seems to be this way in every physics department I have heard of, I recall Laurence telling me one of his profs got a 4/100 on a physics exam which corresponded to the average in the class. It was very demoralizing to walk out of an exam knowing I could not pass without the curve. Knowing how little I actually knew. But this was the very point, because when someone did do well on an exam they were pushed to their limit and did a wonderful job. When I got a B- on Mr. Goeff’s final without a curve (an B+ with) I felt such elation. Was that worth the pain of knowing I only could earn 1/3 of the points on the previous test? I don’t know. I know that physics was both a joy and a sorrow. It was wonderful and horrible. Yet, this is almost the system I want to set up here. I almost want to push too hard. I feel like only when you are pushed can you feel the thrill of success, but I didn’t feel that way while I was in the program. Only now when I am done with physics do I look back and realize how being pushed so hard has helped me and also how close it came to breaking me. Only now do I realize that I received a far more rigorous and more worthwhile education compared to my peers even at Oberlin. But was it all worth it? I didn’t have much of a social life because of physics, I didn’t have much free time because of physics, and I had a lot of stress because of physics. Was it worth it? I think it was. But there are days I am not so sure, and I am really not sure if I want to subject others to this ideal of education.
What good is 100 Yen? I haven’t talked about the greatest thing about this country the legendary, the monumental, the utterly great 100 Yen store. These places are everywhere and they are wonderful. Unlike our dollar stores the 100 Yen stores sell mind bogglingly good stuff. Need plates? 100 yen store. Need snacks? 100 yen store. Need a tie? 100 yen store. Let me just list some of the other great stuff I have gotten from the 100 yen store:
A pair of owl bookends (100 yen each)
A full marker set
The list goes on and is too numerous and somewhat tedious to list. The moral is the 100 yen store is sacred ground to me. The stuff is high quality and the price is low. You walk in gloomy and leave with almost the same amount of money a ton of nice stuff and a smile on your face. The 100 yen store is chicken soup for the Japanese consumer’s soul. And this chicken soup only costs 100 yen a bowl.
Well operation apartment of marble is drawing to a close. Today I spent a ton of money but come Sunday I will have the refrigerator I want. And to top it all off, on Monday the kitchen cabinet I got today will arrive. The fridge guys will haul my old fridge away, I had to pay extra for that though. But if my old fridge is young enough they will buy it off me, keep your fingers crossed. I am still stuck with the abominable sofa/couch. They simply wouldn’t take it. I have a few more options, but things are looking grim. I don’t want to hold on to it much longer. Super Trash day isn’t for another few months so I can’t throw the couch out until then. Next pay day is the 16th and I would like to complete OAOM with a tasteful chair or love seat, but to do that horrid couch must go! Maybe if I go to another recycle store they will haul abysmal couch away, I may have to pay them but it would be well worth it.