One Week Down
I peer around the office, analyzing the calm environment. One teacher, at the far end of a long row of desks, looks at a variety of vases on Amazon, for purposes I could not assume. The head teacher, or Kyoto-senei, decides to head to the staff break room, where shortly afterwards a soft, audible snore can be heard. My first year English teacher, waves to me and sneaks out around 11 a.m., in which she had just come two hours prior.
Such was the characteristics of my first week of work.
Now, granted, all of these facets should be taken with a grain of salt. My first week of work was right towards the end of summer vacation, where the only students that come to the school are those in athletic clubs. Even then, the only teachers that come in are those that coach them, though it’s a large majority.
The task given to me on my first Monday was an easy one: complete my self-introduction. In the words of a friend, who had previously taught English in Korea, “Your self-intro is the only project that really matters.” I had my intro done by the end of the week (with all the stereotypical stuff one could have in such a project), which almost came as a shock to my first-year teacher. I’ve found the work ethic of a Japanese office is not necessarily one that appreciates how much work one has done, but rather how long and rigorous one has worked on the tasks. Having said that, my early completion only gave birth to more puzzled faces as to what exactly I should be doing.
I took such downtime to work on this blog, study (a very poor amount of) Japanese and randomly browse Twitter, Facebook and the like. With the current environment being so lax, however, no one seemed to care if I roamed along the various halls and classrooms. It was interesting to see the various signs put up by the students outside of the classrooms, which included such statements as “Say a loud ‘good morning!’ to your classmates and teachers!” and, my favorite, “(In English) Let’s beautiful school! (In Japanese) Let’s make the school beautiful!”
Walking around also led me into some of the areas where the different teams were practicing, all of which were more than welcoming of my presence. I did some drills with the volleyball team, got absolutely crushed by some 13 year old ping-pong players and watched the intensity of the judo team’s exercises. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some of my future students, which all had a healthy curiosity. Part of my motivation to visit clubs was to have my face be a little more well known before the new semester begins, as well. I’m sure I was scaring enough students, who probably turn to their friends and ask “who’s the new white guy?” Needless to say, I heard my fair share of “めっちゃイケメン！” What a totally hot dude! I also got a few chuckles out of replying to their morning greetings, with a large majority reacting in surprise to their friends, “He can talk!?”
While my first could have been described as “slow,” I was a bit lucky that I had two weeks after coming to Japan to relax at my apartment and get used to my new living quarters. For some others new to the program though, they were required to come in right after orientation. So, the first week of me “trying to find stuff to do,” has been the last couple of weeks for some fellow JETs. I can only hope (and imagine) that once the semester officially starts there will be much more happening around the school, but for the first official entry of the captains log: “Life found and somewhat encountered. Also the instant coffee could be better.”