Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You can stand under my a capella-ella-ella-eh

The following was written yesterday, at school. I never got round to publishing it last night. Apologies for the recycled pun.

Just a short and fairly stream-of-consciousness sort of update today, because I feel bad about not updating over the weekend. This was due to nomihodai (all you can drink)-induced catastrophic hangover on saturday, and ironing and Wipeout HD-induced apathy on sunday.

They're certainly keeping me on my toes at this school. Yesterday I was busy literally all day from 8:20 to 4:15, and then had to spend a couple of hours in the evening putting together a lesson about Christmas in Scotland. But, I find myself with a spare hour on a tuesday afternoon, so I thought it was time to squeeze out a blog. My desk is in a good stealthy position in this staffroom, and besides, I feel I've earned it.

I normally reserve workday blogging for times of extreme underemployment, doing something more productive like studying kanji at times like this. But I'm feeling a little sleepy and unfocussed right now. This is because I was awoken at five in the morning by blood trickling steadily from my nose. I'm working on the theory this haemonasal discharge was somehow triggered by the extreme chilliness of my bedroom. I can't quite bring myself to leave a heater on all night, as it seems just too wasteful, not to mention a little dangerous. But I did seriously consider sleeping with a beanie on last night. I think I will actually assess whether there is sufficient clearance under my kotatsu (under-heated table) to accommodate both my slumbering form and blood-spattered futon.

Anyway, you'll be pleased to hear that my lesson on the horrors of war went down a storm. Well, the first time I gave it, I think it was merely alright. But the teacher gave me some suggestions and, crucially, more time in the lesson when I came to do it again, and I smacked it out the park. The social studies teacher sat in on the class, presumably eager to keep an eye on the gaijin encroaching on his educational territory. He and the other teachers were very complimentary afterwards. For the record, I chickened out of mentioning Japan's war crimes, and I decided not to go any more disturbing than a low-res photo of a mass grave at Belsen.

What I hadn't bargained for was that I would then have to teach the class Happy Xmas (War is over) by singing it one line at a time and having them sing it back (like Moloko). I'm like Johnny A. Capella these days. It's quite a tricky song; on some lines I'm pretty sure SingStar would have rated me 'bad', at best. Thank the lord we didn't go with Christmas Wrapping.

The third-grade (i.e. oldest) students' English is so good here that the teachers are confident enough to pointlessly showboat by having me teach subjects other than English, in English. So yesterday I became a math (yes, that's how I have to say it) teacher, and delivered a lesson on solving simultaneous equations using the addition method. That is of course my favourite method as long as there are only two equations, after that you have to resort to Gaussian elimination really. It seemed to go reasonably well; as Cady Heron says, math is the same in every country. I feel like a full house of subjects could be on (gotta catch 'em all!), though teaching Japanese in English might be a bit of a struggle.

I'm back writing in the present now.
This morning I had to record myself reading out a story (the story of Tezuka Osamu, as it happens) as a model for a student preparing for a speech contest. Due to my long-standing hatred of hearing my own voice, I wasn't looking forward to this. But I actually surprised myself by not minding it at all. I have quite a nice voice really. I still sound way more Scottish than I do in my head, though. I was particularly taken aback to notice that I make the peculiarly Scottish distinction between the vowels in cIrcle and lUrk.

I'm taking this shedding of an old neurosis as another sign that this whole Japanese escapade is making me a less uptight and more together person. Tangentially, another example occurred to me when I was reading Charlie Brooker's column recently. I still think the man is a genius, but while I used to love his bleak, vitriolic, misanthropic worldview, it now strikes me as just a little needlessly negative.

Anyway, back to today's events. I was really struggling to come up with a activity for tomorrow's first-grade class (teaching 'me', 'him', 'her', etc.). I've been getting quite creative lately, drawing pictures for worksheets, making badges for the kids to wear for games, etc. But I was really drawing a blank on this one. Then I remembered my little sumo JavaScript that I made months ago, and had shelved after its inaugural outing was only so-so. The teacher was blown away, and beckoned over everyone else in the staffroom to have a look. I did my own bit of pointless showboating by using my phone to control it over Bluetooth (which is actually quite useful in a classroom setting, as it allows you to move around). They reacted as if I was actually magic. I love this school.

There is insufficient room to sleep under my kotatsu.


  1. Remember back in the day when you would rather go to a comedy club in an afro wig rather than sing karaoke?

  2. Right! I've come a long way (baby).

    Are you in Greece at the moment? I'm getting quite a few hits from the Athens region.

  3. Yes, I'm in greece and doing a lot of internet browsing.

  4. I don't like that you have a window into my obsessive compulsive internet habits.
    And why doesn't spellcheck accept internet, google or spellcheck yet?

  5. Yup, I'm totally watching you. I'm Sting and you're Rockwell.

    No offence, but I'm a little disappointed it's just you. I was hoping your mum was a big fan of mine.