Apples and Oranges

During the lunch break, one of my students was running around calling other kids “bad apples”. I found it hilarious, but the other students were quite confused. While they understood the literal meaning of “bad apple”, they didn’t get it in reference to a person.

A brief excerpt:

Students: Sensei, what does he mean? Apple? I’m a human, not an apple…

Me: Well, sometimes “bad apple” is an expression used for a “bad person”.

Students: Ehhh? But…why? Apples are apples, and people are…people???

As if helping them try to figure our the linguistic conundrum of figurative speech was not entertaining enough for me…

I was giving examples, and may or may not have used the sentence: “I think *insert name of current “leader” of a particular country that shall remain unnamed* is a bad apple”.

Just then, the Social Studies teacher was walking by. He stopped in his tracks, leaned towards us and said (with a shit-eating grin on his face all the while):

“Oh, he’s no apple. He’s an orange.”

The kids were a bit delayed in getting the joke, but they got there eventually. Minds were blown. Lessons were learned. I laughed all the way back to the teachers room.

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Remodeling

The school where I teach every day is 70 years old, and it shows. The outside is looking worse for wear, the aged facade blotched with grime. The concrete walls are marbled by cracks resealed, reminders of large earthquakes in years past. Dust rolls like tumbleweeds through the halls, even after daily cleaning time. The place is so drafty that you might as well hold class outside, it wouldn’t make much difference.

The upside is that the classrooms and halls are full of natural light and a killer view of the mountains. I think back to the serious lack of windows and nasty fluorescent lights in my middle and high schools back in the States…I’d rather freeze/sweat to death in the sunlight than experience that again.

For the past two weeks, we’ve been enduring the constant interruption of drilling, hammering, and noisy workers meandering up and down the halls during class. After 60 years, our school is finally getting it’s first upgrade. The bathrooms are being remodeled.

Being the old school that it is, we of course have been stuck with the good old squatty-potties thus far. Although I have grown accustomed to them over the years, they are no more pleasant an experience, only a practice in tolerance.

But when I arrived at school this morning, among the pile of papers on my desk was an outline of what the new bathrooms will look like, and within that outline I saw it; the smooth lid, the fancy control panel on the side…one of Japan’s greatest modern technological gifts to the world, the washlette. Three settings for bum-washing and water temperature, heated seats, self-cleaning systems…all those bells and whistles are great, but simply having somewhere to park your bum is the greatest gift of all.

I have never been so excited about taking a dump my life.

 

 

 

Graduation Day

The 3rd year students graduated on Monday. The ceremony was three hours of continuous sitting, standing, and bowing. There were long speeches by some supposedly important people whom I have never seen before in my life, and one very emotional speech by one of my favorite graduates. I shed quite a few tears, especially when the 1st/2nd years and the 3rd years sang a goodbye song to each other. And then again as all of us teachers lined up on either side of the aisle to applaud as the students made their final exit from the gym.

Afterwards, the graduates have one last homeroom session, during which I retreated to the warmth of the teacher’s room to enjoy a cup of celebratory sakura tea. The cherry blossoms are preserved in salt, so it tastes less like what you imagine of “tea” and more like…well, salty flowers. But it wasn’t bad at all. The flavor is actually quite comforting, especially when you’re all broken up about your favorite students leaving you for the great wide world of high school.

As if I wasn’t already emotional enough, we all filed outside to applaud the graduates as they made their way from the school into the parking lot, where about an hour of mingling and photo-taking ensued. I lost count of how many selfies with various bunny, bear, and cat filters were taken that day.

Finally, I hugged the crap out of my self-dubbed “Crazy People”, wished them luck, and said my last goodbyes. Exhausted and emotional, I returned once again to the teacher’s room to eat my special graduation day bento, which wasn’t that great (it was cold), but it was nice to have something different from the daily kyushoku.

Mercifully, I was released after lunch and promptly returned home, where I collapsed on my sofa with a glass of wine and flipped through the yearbook before reuniting with my old friend, Netflix.

This was the second class that I’ve sent off from this school, but the first with whom I had developed a close bond. They were so much fun to teach, and always tried their best. It was quite fulfilling to see them learn and grow, and become comfortable enough to speak with me both in class and casually around school regardless of their English level. I will miss their smiles and shouts of “Happy Friday” echoing through these halls. I’ll always look back on the year(s) I’ve spent with them fondly, and hope that they can do the same.

A few Haiku

I was bored so I wrote some haiku. I find it’s a good way to pass time. Also somewhat meditative in that the challenge of achieving the right amount of syllables takes your mind off things. It’s been years since I’ve written any poetry. Here’s my mediocre attempt…

the school day is done

but it is only Monday

how will I survive?

 

I’m sick of cooking

I hate cleaning the kitchen

I just want to eat

 

winds like icy shards

surrounded by three mountains

there is no escape

 

the weather slowly

begins to warm into spring

but still the wind stings

Morning Greetings, Pt.2

(On February 6th)

Me: Hello, everyone!

Class: Hello, Ms. Rachel!

Me: How are you today?

Class: I’m *insert variation of “fine, cold, happy, hungry, sleep, angry, etc.”, and you?*

Me: What’s the date today?

Rogue student: It’s February….SEX!!!

Class: *uproarious laughter*

Me:

…..

….

Happy Friday

These are my favorite days.

The fall Fridays, when the sky is clear and the sun shining, but the air is fresh and cool and free of summer’s humidity.

All the windows and doors in the school stand open, inviting the breeze to sweep through the halls and classrooms. Papers fly everywhere, but nobody really minds. It’s just the kind of weather that puts you in good spirits regardless of whatever else is going on around you.

The end of the week used to be reserved for 3rd year classes. My students would shout “Happy Friday” at the beginning of class and whenever they saw me in the hallway. (And I try not to think about how bittersweet it is, that they’ll be graduating next March and will take with them all the little quirky sayings and traditions we share.)

Now all my 3rd year classes have been moved to Wednesday. While I try to implement the “Happy Friday” tradition with the 1st and 2nd year students, it hasn’t quite caught on yet.

However, the 3rd years, also disappointed that our Friday celebrations have been disrupted, have taken to filling the ever-dreaded hump day with shouts of “Happy Wednesday!!!” I find that works it’s magic just as well. 🙂

Happy Friday (or Wednesday) to all!