Wednesday, 19 April 2006

Kamagadai

Yesterday I promised that I would talk about the new school I am visiting, Kamagadai Shochugakkou.

I have been to Kamagadai twice since term started. Last week, I was picked up from outside Konoura Jr. High at 8.30am and taken by town car to Kamagadai. There was significantly less snow than there had been when I visited during spring vacation. When I got to school, I met the English teacher Mr. Sato. He is the husband of Yumi sensei the school nurse who left Konoura Jr. High the other week. Small world, huh? He has also just moved from another school, so the students don't really know him either. Anyway, we discussed the day's lesson plans, and then I talked with the Vice Principal. Kamagadai has a lady V.P. who is very, um, loud and genki. She kept unselfconsciously speaking broken English to me, which I thought was really good.

From 9.30am until lunch I was teaching. 2nd period was the 3rd grade student (there is only one). He is an odd boy, very shy, who seems to lack the courage to learn. His English is quite bad. 3rd period was the 2nd grade class. There are seven 2nd graders. With the exception of one boy, they are surprisingly good at English. 3rd period was the 1st grade student (again, only one). She is still filled with an elementary student's enthusiasm for learning English. She is always smiling and is eager to learn, the kind of student I wish all my students were.

Then I ate lunch with all the Jr. High kids. All nine students, two teachers and I can sit around one big table. I didn't have a schedule in the afternoon, so after having a meeting with the head of the Elementary teachers, I was taken back to Konoura. The ride back was horrible. I was sitting in the back of the car, and the driver (an old guy with a thick Akita accent) only spoke to me briefly twice. I was feeling very car sick by the time I got back to Konoura.

Yesterday, I went to Kamagadai again. I had a different driver on the way up the hill (the hunter bear-eater guy I wrote about yesterday). The V.P. was not there yesterday. The principal had not been there last week. Are they there in turns?

My morning schedule was the same as the week before. I took a few photos at lunch time. (I will probably be able to find time to load them up on Thursday or Friday, but it is unlikely I will be able to load them today). Then in the afternoon I had, not a class, but a welcome session with all the elementary students. There are less students than I thought. I had heard there were 25 students. Assuming my memory is working well, there were 16 or 17 students (I didn't do a head count). Maybe 25 is the number of all the students in the whole school.

After the embarrassing round of applause and the greeting, all the students, even the first grader who has been a student there for about two weeks, stood up and sang 'Country Road' together. I was blown away! They had all of that memorised? I have tried teaching 'Old MacDonald' to elementary students before, but all I could get them to remember was 'e-i-e-i-o'. 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas' had the same level of success despite the fact that it is played on TV and in shops for the three months leading up to Christmas.

After the singing, every student introduced themselves to me. I shook everyones hands and listened to what food and/or animal they like. Then I showed them pictures of New Zealand. After that we played 'London Bridge'. It was lots of fun.

The old driver took me back to Konoura. He did not come in the town car that is for taking people places. He came in the town car that has speakers on top and broadcasts news announcements to the people. It took a while to get back to Konoura because we drove slowly with recorded announcements blaring from the top of the car. We kept detouring to drive around suburbs and broadcast the messages (whatever they were) as widely as possible. An interesting experience.
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