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Friday, October 10, 2014

First Day At School Fourteen

First, I'd like to start by apologizing for not updating in over a week. The weather in Hokkaido has gotten cold, which means I have gotten a cold. For the last week I've just not felt well and have spent much of my free time sleeping due to sinus headaches. Yay!

I know I have a Part II to my last post to write up, but honestly it still makes me sad to think about leaving that last school so I would rather post about this. Plus, I think this may be more interesting. Maybe.

In Sapporo, the board of education has us change schools halfway in the year, so from May to September I am at one school and then October to March I am at another school. It's a very stressful, depressing time because leaving schools is depressing and starting a new school is stressful. This year was no different. I left my previous school on a Tuesday and then started at a new school on a Wednesday (all while fighting off the beginnings of a cold). It was very, very hard for me to leave this last school, as I'd been there for a year - October 2013 to September 2014 - and it was honestly one of the best schools I have ever gone to. Needless to say, my first day was going to be a rough one.

My shoe locker in the entry
This was only amplified by me making what is perhaps the most annoying mistake anyone in my position can make. I had forgotten my indoor shoes. So, in Japanese schools everyone is required to change out of the shoes that they wore to school into clean "indoor shoes". This is done for a number of reasons that I don't feel like getting into at the moment. If you're curious I suggest reading this. Due to my forgetfulness, it meant I was to spend my entire first day in awfully uncomfortable slippers provided by the school. These are generally small with zero padding and live up to the "slip" part of "slippers" very, very well.

Per my contract, I don't have to be at school for the morning meeting (which usually happens thirty minutes before first period) but on the first day the principal wants to introduce me to the teachers and staff. This means that I am usually sequestered in the principal's office for twenty minutes trying to come up with some sentences in Japanese to impress my new coworkers all whilst fighting back my nerves and making awkward small talk with the principal.

This principal, however, wanted to interview me. He began by asking if I was from Orlando, Florida. After I said that I am he told me about how his daughter had been there, and then asked me about Disney, Universal, and the Kennedy Space Center. Once that was out of the way, he asked me about my history teaching in Japan, mainly confirming what my company had given him. Then the questions about Japan started: "What Japanese food do you like?" "How are America and Japan different?" "What surprised you about Japan?" etc.

This entire conversation was done in both English and Japanese, and once he felt he had enough information on me he told me how his son is living in Canada and then stood up to show me something on his phone. It was a picture of his dog, a miniature dachshund, which is his "best friend". Then, he pretended to be a dog. At this point I honestly thought that maybe I hadn't woken up yet and was in the middle of some strange stress-dream.

The introduction to the staff went well, I had decided to plan ahead on my welcome speech and written something in Japanese the week before, which got me many compliments from my new coworkers. My morning, however, was still very stressful. I had to give my first lesson during first period, which gave me very little time to unpack or prepare or adjust or really do anything. I also had to give a speech on TV to students, which lead to a gaggle of third year boys crammed in the staff room doorway to get a good look at me as I left the broadcasting room.

It had been a while since I had started a new school and I'd forgotten just how much attention my appearance garners. The entire day was filled with groups of boys or girls following me down the hallways trying to convince each other to talk to me. Eventually a boy would muster up enough courage and introduce himself to me, which would lead to a good five minutes of me answering questions about myself, normally in the vein of if I'm single or not, how tall I am, and what my age is.

Worksheet I use during my introduction
The lessons themselves went well enough, the first day was just second years, and at that age (13 and 14) the students vary quite a lot in regards to how interesting they find me. Overall, the English level at this school is quite high and the students are much better at listening than my prior second years, so it was already an improvement. I am also required at this school to eat lunch with the students, which is a mixed bag in most cases, especially at the beginning when the students aren't used to me. I could (and most likely will) write an entire post about eating with students, so I won't go into too many details other than to say that eating with students is usually just me sitting quietly trying to shove food in my mouth for the ten minutes I am given to eat.

There's really not much else to say at this point. I'm still adjusting to the new school, having finished all of my self-introduction lessons this past Tuesday. Usually once I get through an actual English lesson with each class I finally feel at ease, as I know what to expect. Overall, I think I'll enjoy this school. The teachers seem really good and friendly, and the students are engaged and good at listening (so far). I've honestly yet to have a "bad school" in Japan, so I feel very lucky and I'm really not even sure they exist.

I'll try to get another post up Monday or Tuesday, as it's a long weekend (health and sports day, wooo!). Hope you have a wonderful day!

My desk! It's small :(

I've also added this post to the Lotus Collective Daily Diaries. You can see more posts there!


  1. Snap on the sinus stuff hope you feel better soon :) Thats a strange way of doing things having to change schools halfway in the year isn't that annoying for students to ? I guess different countries have different ways of doing things ! It is interesting though :)

    1. It's definitely weird. Every city (board of education) does things differently. There are a number of reasons why it's good and bad. They can only afford to have half the number of foreign English teachers as schools, so I can't be there a full year because of money. :( I personally think that switching every week would be better, because then I could be at the schools for an entire year, but then for certain activities (sports day, school festivals, graduation, etc) I'd always have to choose between the two schools, whereas now I only have the one!

      Thanks for you comment. It's great hearing what others think. :)

  2. I just typed a paragraph response and my internet flaked out on me :( basically i thinkit's so funny the first thing ppl ask u about when you say u;re from orlando is disney. lol grew up in ohio but I now live in fl. i feel sad ev time I leave a school I really miss my kids ev time but thank god I usu end up in a better place/ would like to talk more about teaching eng in a differ county as I;'m an english teacher too. i've taught 5-11 grades. plz ck out my blog =) I'm also on twitter @emancipatedmimi. take care ttyl!

    1. That's annoying about your internet!!

      More people here actually DON'T know about Disney in Orlando. That to me is even more weird!

      Changing schools is definitely hard, but I enjoy the change. I get restless doing the same thing over and over, and with my job that's super easy as I have very little responsibility!!

  3. Stopping by from Daily Diaries. I hope you feel better soon!

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I think I've finally beaten this cold so it's a good day! :D