Each week, I bring new things to my children’s classes. Right from the start I enjoyed being silly and using strange voices to maintain interest when I drilled them with flashcards but, as anything, my teaching “shtick” evolves. I now enjoy teaching letters and their corresponding phonic sounds through musical scales (this exercise borne out of an attempt to get them to hear the difference between “la la la” and “ra ra ra”). I also enjoy shouting “Stop!” with my palm held out flat in front of me like a policeman if they try to enter or leave my class without answering questions in English, juggling colored balls and asking them to name whichever color ball I have caught and, lately, drawing cartoons on the white board to help illustrate the phrase I am trying to teach them for the day. Since we are not allowed to speak Japanese to the students, illustrating concepts like “How old are you?” and “I like/I don’t like” can be challenging. Though I am not an artist by any means I’d like to think that my drawings and countless hours spent poring over comic books as a kid help the comprehension process. My favorite, from this week, to help illustrate “Do you like ____?” “Yes, I do!/No, I don’t!”:
Further, this week’s favorite student quotes were gleaned by eavesdropping during an arts and crafts project that required one of my classes of 6 year olds to draw pictures of their family. I also joined in the crayon fun and drew “father,” “brother” and “sister.” Since I don’t actually have a sister, I drew the sister I’ve always wanted – Sailor Mercury, resplendent in her pervert-provoking school uniform and bright blue bob. This action sent my students into paroxysms – they literally shrieked when they saw me giving my imaginary sister blue hair. A flurry of Japanese ensued; I caught the words “gaikokujin” and “sensei” coming from Hitomi but couldn’t understand the rest.
My guesses as to what Hitomi might have been saying:
- “Lots of gaikokujin naturally have blue hair. It’s completely normal in England, where sensei is from!”
- “I think sensei is trying to copy manga, but gaikokujin never do it right!”
- “Sensei is such a silly gaikokujin!”
I calmed the students down by instructing them to draw pictures of their mothers. I scribbled away and thought my own picture came out rather well, but apparently two of my girls did not agree because they glanced over at my artwork and gasped in shock. The Japanese began again, but this time I understood:
“Creepy!” cried Miko.
“Poor sensei!” agreed Hitomi.
I apologize heartily to Isa, my beautiful mother. Forgive them, mother – they know not what they do.