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October 15th 2012
Published: October 15th 2012
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Naijeria sensei is on the case!Naijeria sensei is on the case!Naijeria sensei is on the case!

I'm holding a little wooden gun, used for shooting paper, on the school culture day.

Hello, my name is Nigeria, and I come from Iceland.

This is the inevitable impression I have to battle against in my introduction classes. My name is tricky to pronounce for my students here, so I get that they find Nigel hard to say, but I am still baffled as to why they have no idea what or where Ireland is. Well I’m not really surprised that they don't know about Ireland, but more that they do know about Iceland. I don’t think kids in Europe would know exactly where Iceland is; yet 90%!o(MISSING)f these kids know exactly where it is.

They always point out Iceland on the map when I bribe them with coins to guess where Ireland is (even after I’ve showed them the map of what Ireland looks like!). They sometimes even play Enya during lunchtime here! It is a mystery to me and I want to solve it! I thought at first it was the recent volcanic activity in Iceland, but apparently it has always been like this! My mission; put Ireland on the feckin map for these kids!

My intro classes varied from flashy powerpoints with clips of hurling

I was a little bit confused and concerned when this did the rounds in the office!
and Irish dancing, to off the cuff shoddy drawings of Ireland with coloured chalk on a blackboard. Either way the kids were pretty happy to get a break from the mundane textbooks! Usually this included question time at the end, and by far the most awkward question was asked by a group of 3rd year students. Four lads huddled together to come up with a question, and then a hand shot up ‘What is your favourite part of woman?’. Shocked,I looked over to my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) expecting him to berate the student and he said ‘Oh good question!’...!!!

Is he a bad-man mommy?

My first month and a bit of actual work has just come to a close, and there have been some interesting and bizarre happenings. Sometimes both at the same time! One of the first days of school, one of the non-English teachers mentioned to me that there was a bad-man coming to the school later in the day. His description started the ould spider senses tingling, as with our combination of English and Japanese I didn't know exactly what was happening, but I knew something was going down! Have a look at the picture and you’ll see the poster that the teacher was trying to describe to me.

So first a police car rolls up to the school with 3 policemen…hmm interesting… pre-empting the bad-man…I like there style! Then, all the teachers mobilize and move into the gym, grabbing their poles to subdue the bad-man. The poles are like wide headed pitchforks with two rubber prongs. Pretty pathetic looking, but with 5 teachers working together it was surprisingly effective…as long as they weren’t all girls! The girls tried 3 times to subdue a guy with a plastic knife, and well lets just say it would have been a bloodbath lol!

With the training over we all returned to the staff room and one of the police changed clothes and disappeared outside the school. It was role-play time, and we proceeded on as if it was a normal school day. Someone rang the office and reported seeing a strange man walking around the outskirts of the school. Cue eerie music, that Halloween one springs to mind, and teachers started peering out windows for a glimpse of the man. He ran and disappeared out of sight

The girls tried three times but to no avail...twas like a butcher shop!
of the staff room, around the back of the school. A call to arms was issued by kyoutou-sensei (vice-principal) and the teachers armed themselves with their rubber pitchforks! Calm calls went out on the walkie-talkies, and it was clear the bad-man was in the school, and they were trying to locate him. Then a rally call rang out…he’d been spotted and the pole bearers rushed into action, and in about 20 seconds the man was pinned to the wall with 5 rubber poles! Oh Japan!

Now I don’t think teacher-training days are quite like this back in ould Ireland...!

It’s school festival time you know!

September is the beginning of the 2nd term of the school year in Japan, and is chock-o-block full of festival events. For the first 2 weeks there were little to no classes and I spent my time getting to know the students, learning how to make paper cranes, lifting tables and organizing a cool maze for the culture festival. It's a time of art and craft, singing, dancing and general fun!

My second day at my visiting school, I was told to chuck on some rather
Yama Yama Yama

We lugged one of these bad boys up and down the main street for 3 hours...!
short shorts (got them pasty white shticks on display hehe) and got the chance to take part in a school festival event! I didn’t know how long this would take, and I ended up being outside in the roasting hot Japanese summer for 3 hours…without sunscreen…oops! With the second grade classes I pulled a massive float on wheels, called a yama I think, up and down the main street, and side streets of Tsuruga (my local city). The yama was really tall, and when we were on the side streets we kept getting caught in telephone wires. Up top we had some students with poles to move those pesky wires out of the way, and we slowly barged our way onto the main street.

I was badly sunburned, and completely wrecked by the end of it, but this kind of event is what the JET program is all about. Getting a chance to take part in a local festival is a unique opportunity, and also a great way to bond with your students out of the classroom.

Ganbatte kudasai!

Japan is very much a ganbatte (do your best) kind of culture, so I knew the sports day would be competitive, but it totally blew me away. It started off with everyone standing at attention, in military style rows, and facing the Japanese flag with the national anthem beating out. Then, there were individual speeches, bowing and well wishing from the principal and all 20 members of the Parents Teacher Association. It was clear the stakes were high!

The entire school was split into three teams, teachers included, and there could only be one winner. The events were an incredibly strong show of Japan’s idea of the ‘group’ over the ‘individual’. Most western countries are pretty individualistic, and the sports day here highlighted, underlined and circled, that significant difference in our cultures.

One event was a 60-person tug-of-war. Another, was three entire classes running one by one in a relay! They were actually very exciting, as the students were really busting a gut to give it their all! My favourite event had 2 teams of 12 students race from either side of a field to the center to fight over 7 pieces of rope. Usually, each side will nick one or two ropes, and in the end they all mob over 2 or 3. Some kids hold on till the bitter end and get dragged along the ground (check the photo). It was a real honour and privilege to take part in my first sports day!

Alas, there can be only one winner, and my team, the mighty blue team, was absolutely gutted to have lost. Especially the 3rd years, for whom it was the last sports day in this school. After my team lost I gave a shoddy team-talk saying something along the lines of “Blue team has heart. Heart is strong. I am proud of the white tigers (our mascot was a snow leopard).” The kids were balling crying… quite possibly at my bad Japanese lol!!

I’ll leave you with some things from my introduction classes that blow the students minds hehe!

-Titanic: I tell them that the Titanic was built in Ireland, and the last port it sailed from was also in my home city! I usually draw a picture of the big ship on the blackboard with the four iconic chimneystacks, and most kids will guess it from the movie. Some kids are stunned that
Paper cranesPaper cranesPaper cranes

I cannot for the life of me remember how to make them now lol!
A) it was real and not a movie and B) that little old Ireland built the thing! My favourite reaction is when some students stand up and do Kate Winslet’s pose when she stands at the front of the ship.

-Union Jack: I show them how the Union Jack is made. You get the English and Scottish flags, and add a fake Irish flag (seriously where did they get this from). The diagonal red stripe is called the ‘Cross of Saint Patrick’, and it was most likely picked because it fitted the Union Jack quite nicely. The Olympics were on centre stage when I arrived, so my students had the Union Jack on the mind. I drew the flags on the board and then slowly showed them each flag combining together to make the Union Jack! One clever student asked me ‘Where is Wales’ flag?’ and they were surprised to hear that Wales aren't represented on the Union Jack!

-Irish, Scottish Gaelic & Welch: I show them all the different languages on the Irish and British islands. One of my teachers enjoyed this too, as he said to me after class, “That had no relevance in an English class, but can you teach us some more next week?”. Welch in particular got a couple of confused ‘eeehhss’ hehe.

Additional photos below
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16th October 2012

Story horse
Good read man, ill be keeping an eye on this page :) Sounds like your having a lot of fun.
20th October 2012

Thanks Vaughan my man! It's really good fun at the moment! Hope the new course is going well!!
20th October 2012

Thanks Vaughan my man! It's really good fun at the moment! Hope the new course is going well!!
20th October 2012

Thanks Vaughan my man! It's really good fun at the moment! Hope the new course is going well!!
17th October 2012

Good stuff
Always enjoy your writing style, it's very readable. Never knew the red diagonal on the union jack was supposed to be Ireland, always thought it was Wales. Well you learn something new in every blog :)
20th October 2012

Cheers Des! Ya I know right, its pretty crazy, there has been some talk about them putting a dragon on the Union Jack to rerpresent Wales too!

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