Friday, September 29, 2006

The Wee Ones Vs The Gigantic Mogwai

This week I have felt like a monster from a Godzilla movie. The relentless sales team for Peppy Kids has scrounged up enough little tykes to add another couple of handfuls of classes to my schedule and this past week has been the first time for me to meet the new students. This is one of my favorite parts of the job.

Several of the new classes are really small kids, like three and four year olds and for many of them, I am their first experience with a Westerner. Usually, the first classes go something like this:

Phase 1: (Duration 10 minutes) The Shock and Awe Phase

The wee ones approach the class room door and usually before they come in, they see me. Ninety-nine percent of the kids will stop dead in their tracks and do one of three things. A)They weep upon the sight of my greatness B)They cower behind their mothers, in fear of my greatness or C)They stand frigid, like statues, in the doorway, petrified by my greatness. In all of the classes I have had, only three of the little kids just treated me like another grown-up on their first day. The rest of them, are usually traumatized by the event and in some cases, emotionally scarred.

Phase 2: (Duration 5 minutes) The White Giant Phase

At some point in the first ten to fifteen minutes of class, I have to stand up. With the little classes meeting me for the first time, I try to put off doing this for as long as possible. Any kind of report as a friendly, non-threatening guy, I have established with kids can go out the window as soon as I stand up. Up until this point, I have been scooching around on my knees, staying at their height. This makes them comfortable and me, easier to deal with. The moment they realize that I stand a good three feet taller than any of them, they have issues. Usually, after a few minutes they get over this and understand that not only am I godlike in personality but I also have the size to go with it. And I am white.

Phase 3: (Duration, remainder of class and sometimes for the rest of their lives) The Friendly Giant Phase

After the first fifteen or twenty minutes of class, the kids have made up their minds about me. Most of them have figured out by this point that though I am white and tall and have a funny laugh and speak a funny language, I am a pretty good guy. Most people tell me that I am really good with kids and evidently there is some merit to it. Some of the kids think I am weird, I know this because they call me "the weird or interesting teacher" to my face and that is how they refer to me when speaking to their parents. Frankly, if the kids realize this so young, I consider them to be quick learners. But in the end, almost all of them end up liking me and think I am fun to hang out with.

And then there are the other children. For one reason or another, there are a percentage of kids that I absolutely terrorize without meaning to. I am reasonably certain that when they close their eyes at night, they see me and are unable to sleep. I would also guess that they curl into a fetal position and simply rock back and forth until morning. I feel for these kids but at the same time, I am intrigued by them.

In another one of my classes, I have a boy named, Takumi. I like Takumi because he cracks me up. He is five or six and looks like a little old man. Even when he is happy, he looks like he is in pain and when he speaks, he does so with the voice of a veteran smoker. But most days, Takumi cries. I know it is because of my greatness that he sheds numerous tears but I find it very funny that he is not taken aback by the Japanese teacher's greatness, only mine. Some days are better than others but most of the time, in the sixty minutes I have with him, he spends forty-five of them crying in the corner of the room. I never did anything to this kid and if anything, I have been overly nice to him. Why do I scare him so badly?

There is at least partially a reason that some children are inherently frightened of me and it has to do with the Japanese school system. In elementary school, there are no male teachers. It is Japanese tradition that only females teach the kids until they are at least in junior high. Even then, men are in the minority of teachers. Once the kids hit high school, male teachers are pretty common. But back in elementary schools, it is almost unheard of to have a male teacher. Therefore, I am usually the first male authority figure these kids have other than their dad. Another reason I stand out to the kids is because I am white. Unlike the United States and Canada, Japan has very few non-Japanese educators. Meaning, almost every person those kids deal with in school is Japanese. Junior highs and high schools will have the occasional Western, assistant teacher for English classes but to have a full-time Western teacher is again, something that almost never happens. It also does not help that some, not all of these kids, come from families that are still uncomfortable with the idea of Westerns coming to Japan and quite honestly, are not fond of whitey.

In the end though, most of my kids at least find me funny, in good and bad ways. If I can make the kids laugh, I can teach them. Fortunately for me, not one of the new kids I have had this week has cried when confronted with the omniscient magnificence that is me. This means that I have made about twenty-five new friends this week. I still have two more new classes tomorrow so there is still a chance I will terrify someone but I have high hopes that this will not be the case. The only good thing that comes from creeping the kids out is that I never have discipline problems with them but I don't think they learn as much as they could be. Next week, I have another slew of new classes in another one of my schools so we will also see how that turns out.

Some of you wanted to see the picture that I picked up in Tokyo so here it is:

The title of the work is, "Mystery Island" and the artist is a women that goes my Clyd or Clyv, her signature is weird. Its frame is made of cherrywood and its a tad more orange than my wood flooring but goes well with the room. I think I like the picture because deep down inside, I have always wanted my own island to chill on. To me, the person in the boat is going home to hang out with all of their friends or family and get away from the rest of the world. Its seclusion but its seclusion with all of those you love and care for, I like it.

Anywho, I will update tomorrow as to how the last batch of new kids took to me. Later.


At 9:07 AM, Blogger Linguist Jake said...

Awesome post.

You seem to be gettig exposed to Japanese children of all ages. Must be a little difficult to go from one age to another all the time.

Hope things are still going well,


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