~Disclaimer: I changed the name of the school~
Woah where did the time go? I planned to have this out two weeks ago. In this short period of time I finished up my jikoshokai/self-introduction classes and experienced a typical Japanese Sports Day – Junior high school style. Anyways here is what my first week or two at school looked like.
I started my first week on a Tuesday at Hilltop. It was the first day of the fall semester, but that didn’t mean classes had begun. It was the first time I encountered all of my students and teachers. The day started off with a morning assembly in the gym. Everyone took off their shoes before entering.. All of the students were lined up by grade and class. I sat off to the side, in a suit while everyone was dressed in their jerseys.
The assembly started after everyone mumble-sang the school anthem to one of the students playing the piano. Halfway through speeches by the principal (Kocho-sensei) and vice-principal (Kyoto-sensei) I was invited to introduce myself in both English and Japanese. I froze briefly during my Japanese introduction and accidentally made it shorter than the English version. Oops.
After speaking I was escorted back to teachers’ office. At my desk I found a stack of 40 pink notebooks. It was the students’ summer homework. Needless to say I am still grading them and today I found more on my desk. While I was grading homework students and teachers spent the day practicing for the upcoming sports day.
The students and teachers spent a lot of time during the summer break practicing and preparing for the day. Even during break almost all of the students and teachers came to school. I teach at Hilltop on Tuesday and Thursday but with the wonky practice schedule I didn’t start my self-introduction classes until the next week, because that Sunday was the long awaited day. Instead of working on Thursday I came into school on Saturday.
Despite spending my first days in the teachers office grading homework I did get to interact with students. The yankii/yankee students (the rowdy, punk-ish kids) were in and out of the teachers office all day – sometimes in trouble, sometimes being obnoxious. On Saturday one of the infamous second years (eighth grade) decided to enter the school through the teachers office for lunch and swiped the megaphone from a teacher. He stood two feet from me and yelled “Hello, I love you!” That line followed me for the next two weeks.
While everyone was outside practicing I took the opportunity to explore the school. It is three stories in a U/rectangle shape. On the right side of the building are the regular classrooms. Third years (ninth grade) on the first floor, second years (eighth grade) on the second floor, and first years (seventh grade) on the third floor.The teachers office, principle’s office, school administration, and specialty classrooms (music/science/arts etc.) make up the left side. An open air dirt tennis court makes the inner courtyard. The school entrance is a giant genkan where everyone – student, teacher, and guest alike – switch from outdoor shoes to indoor shoes. Every student and teacher have their own small cabinet to place their shoes. My first day I that my predecessor left three pairs of shoes!
On Thursday I took a break from grading and wander the halls to observe the students practicing indoors for their particular events. Many students pointed and whispered when I passed by but many more greeted me in the hallway – in English! It my anxiety and fears at ease. I have only grown more comfortable and excited about working at Hilltop and getting to know my students and fellow teachers. So far they have been nothing but welcoming and helpful.