One of the most defining aspects of my life in Japan is that I NEVER HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON. While this often has its drawbacks, it also regularly adds spice to life. Case and point: Tuesday, walking through the halls of elementary school, I happed to cross the path of two first-graders dressed in fuchsia trash bags bedazzled with glitter and other glued-on ornaments. I followed them back to their classroom and discovered a throng of similarly dress six-year-olds, some with tails, romping around sans supervision. Now, I’m sure there is a reasonable explanation for this, I just do not now, and probably will not ever, know what it is.
First-graders in general are always doing crazy stuff. Check out this video. I don’t even know what that instrument is.
I teach at two elementary schools, one day a week each. Overall, I tend to understand my first- and second-graders better than any of my other elementary school students. Not that their Japanese is simpler- because I still don’t understand most of what they’re saying- but that my own psyche is apparently much more in sync with that of the six to eight-year-old set.
During recess, we play a variation of tag in which I am somehow always it. We also go to the library to look at I Spy books. My kids translate the Japanese clues for me: “Dog, two, jump,” or “red ding dong ding dong.” At that age, they are still very impressed that they can speak any English at all, so they like to show off. I also help them during cleaning time. In Japanese, the word for “school janitors” is “students.” Every day, 15-20 minutes is dedicated to beautifying the school grounds. That does mean that the first-grade classroom usually looks like it was cleaned by first-graders, but by fourth-grade they’ve got the hang of it, and my middle school is immaculate.