Thursday, April 10, 2008

the best medicine for waking one up and raising one's spirits are a room full of fresh faced, eager, and slightly scared 7th graders who like English! or at least they like it enough to jump into lessons with positive attitude and energy.
today i met all 38 of them in two separate classes. 19 kids in a room is a wonderful thing; I am really gonna get to like the small number in the classroom. Originally all 38 of them were supposed to be in one class. According to Japan's rules, if the number of new students entering is 41 or under they are all to be put in one classroom and the teaching staff is to be hired/dismissed accordingly. Because of this rule we have one less staff this year, but because our teachers are not afraid of a little extra work and because our classrooms were not made for more than 35 kids at the most and because having all 38 kids in one class when we have two empty classrooms available is sheer insanity, they decided to split them up. Whoo hoo!
Today, I introduced myself, my 4th and last time of self-introduction using the same laminated photo cards i made when i first arrived. The best part was, however, when they introduced themselves because most of them were able to do it without skipping a beat and because thanx to Cliff! i found out that some of them like "fishing" and "listening to music" and "cooking" and "running" along with the usual fare of watermelons, strawberries, basketball, and baseball.
Way to go, Cliff! Thanx to him also the kids surprised me by asking me on their first day in school, "What's up, Elina teacher?" and when i ask them the same question in return some of them know to say, "Nothing much!"
That just made me laugh out loud. Awesome!
So a good start with the 1st graders. Seeing them also made me feel like i know the community a little bit through them--or at least the children's community because about half of them have older siblings who are either still at the school or whom i've taught in the previous three school years. And that's a wonderful thing--recognizing kids based on the siblings I've already met and seeing how they're different and what traits they share. One of them in particular looks so much so like his brother did when he was a 1st grader 3 years ago, i almost called him by his brother's name.

the rest of the blog i'll do in pictures.

Three 3rd graders were asked to screw in grade plaques at the top of each classroom entrance. This is the point at which they gave up because they chose the wrong screws and couldn't undo what they'd done. I tried helping but it was finally obvious that they needed another adult but all the teachers were in a meeting. This was during Monday's afternoon when all other students went home after the morning's ceremonies.

2nd and 3rd grade students hold a flower arch way for incoming 1st graders to walk through on the way to the front of the gym. This was the last ceremony on Monday. The first ceremony was to welcome and introduce four new staff members and tell students who their homeroom teachers will be in the new year. The second ceremony was the official openning of the new school term. And after an hour and a half break, parents and village officials joined for the final ceremony of the day--the welcoming of new students.

Last Sunday I went for a drive on the eastern side of the island looking for random roads and things. Here's a picture i took near Arume village (Higashi-son).

The previous picture i took while driving along to find a wild boar place in the hills of Arume and here it is! At the gate it said that entrance was 200Yen for adults, so i drove just a little ways in to see what it was all about and noticed the boars behind a fence to the right of the car. I got out and snapped some pictures and reversed out of the driveway. Feel a little bad for not going all the way in and paying to see these loudly snorting and easily scared animals. Maybe I'll come back.

This is Bunsei Shimabukuro, an accomplished potter in Ogimi whom we visited while Anna and Brad were on Okinawa. He lives in the jungle hills with his wife where they built a home and he has built two kilns and is working on a third. He was incredibly kind to us in showing us around his place and I think really impressed Anna and Brad. I particularly liked his wife's cooking. :)

Anna and Brad were introduced to Okinawa's instruments while at K-san's house during their visit. Brad really took to sanshin, the three stringed instrument. That night we had a wonderful time at K-san's house who is one of my adult conversation students and she and her family have become great friends to me.

I sent a photo of this giant kiln in Yomitan village to Anna two years ago, and seeing it up close, I think, has been a goal of theirs in coming to Okinawa. Here they are very happy in having accomplished it. The Yomitan visit was a learning experience in many respects for me because through Anna and Brad I discovered quite a bit about Okinawan pottery traditions and I was looking at the same pottery I saw so many times through the new knowledge which made it so much more enjoyable and interesting.

Here is Anna behind a wall of a man made waterfall at the Fukushuen Park in the middle of urban Naha. It's a Chinese style garden park that was built 10 years ago to commemorate a 20 year anniversary of a sister-city relationship established between Naha and Fukushu, China. The garden is free to visit and is a wonderful, mid-city spot to relax amid nature and beautifully arranged Chinese-style buildings, bridges, and pavilions.

This is the first picture I snapped of Anna and Brad on Okinawa. We were walking along Kokusai street and an awamori shop caught their eyes, so we walked in. First they were amazed to discover snakes in the giant glass sake jars, but next their attention was drawn by beautifully fired ceramic awamori vessels. They were struck by everything from form to color to size and style, and I knew they were gonna love Okinawa because this was our first stop and pottery is all over this island. :)

So that's the end of the photo journey of the last two weeks. I'll try not to take such long breaks between blogs--but i believe it's a promise i've been making for last two years and 8 months and am still not able to keep.
Less than 4 months to go.



Liz Brooks said...

Hooray to your teachers for splitting the 7th grade class! It's hard to believe they had the nerve for such a bold, brilliant move.

I'm interested in this boar preserve. I'll pay the 200 yen if you tell me where it is.

Kevin Thomas Hurley said...

How about a few more blogs before the end?