June 15, 2006

You And Your Little Dog Too...

Backshift a few weeks now.

I may have mentioned it, but Amity teaches really young students. They start with babies from six months, which usually means I have this conversation:

"So Mike, how young were the kids you were teaching, like middle school?"
"Well we taught all ages, from six months to high schoolers, and I had a few Mum students too"
"Wait, what do you mean six months"
"Six months, like six months ... six months years old"
"But thats a BABY?"
"Yeah, it was a Baby class - luckily I didn't teach any - if it has a high chance of uncontrolled bowel movement or a regurgitation reflex, I don't go near it"

Baby classes actually do make sense, they are pretty receptive - and we don't normally go to intensive on responses at that age. They are still learning Japanese and basic human non-verbal communication skills at this stage (that's why I don't deal with babies - they communicate with crying, shitting and puking - but they are admittedly cute when they aren't doing that)

Anyway, despite two baby trial lessons, I managed to avoid teaching any permanent baby classes. My youngest students were 3 years old, 4 when I left. These kids can deal okay with English. They are usually eager to please, don't realise what school is, and just have fun. The boys tend to want to play more games, climb and hit things. And the girls have a tendency to run and cry screaming "scary" when something slightly scary such as tall white gaijin teachers, or unnamed gray stain on the carpet, or a hideously inappropriate Shrek prop someone had made pop up in class.

One of these 3 year olds had badgered his Mum into letting him have more of fun Michael's lessons, privately, when he finally worked out 2 and half weeks later that he wasn't taking my class this year. He was cute, and genuinely smart. I did a lesson with him where we were learning to say "No, not today" to "I want pizza!". So we learn "I want pizza" and then the response through a roleplay. I offered him pizza (a cut out) and he says "I want pizza" (I wan pi-za) and then I say "No, not today" and take pizza away, then we move onto cake. We moved onto ice cream by this stage, and he really wasn't liking the "No, not today" followed by me just taking away his food (bwahahahaha - yes I probably did rub it in) so he did the understandable and snatched it back --- but he also said "Yes, today!!" - which is pretty cool if you see this coming from a 3 year old Japanese boy. He was able to tell that both "No" and "Not" were negatives, and that "today" actually had some relevance to the sentence. I relented and let him keep the ice cream after a bit of tug of war.

We had our last lesson together about two weeks before I left Hitachi. The lesson was about clothing, and we were put in the smallest room in the school - which meant a lot of active running games (sorry, activities) that he particularly enjoys were out of the picture - this coupled with me still getting used to our new school and everything I used not being were it was before, meant the lesson was only about 3/4 as fun as a normal Mike Z kickass lesson. So when he wasn't paying attention, and wonderfully using his learnt phrase of "No, not today" (a month later on, he still remembers that one), I tug on his socks and pretend I'm going to eat them. This is a standard trick (in my books) to get 3 year old students to pay more attention, or at least giggle at the crazy teacher. He says in Japanese that its fine by him, so, as socks were actually the subject matter of the lesson. I took off his socks, and did another mock "I'm going to eat them" pose. He then uses his English phrase again and says "No, not today!" So I tell him (in English) that I'll give him back his socks if he pays attention and says the word, so I give him one sock and get him to say "socks", and repeat. Then when he has both socks he says "socks!!" and promptly shoves them both in his mouth.

Aah!

I guess it was my fault anyway. It was inevitable that my "Pay attention or I'll eat you and your little dog too" ruse with kids was going to encourage them to attempt it themselves. So here I am, with about 15 minutes of a lesson, that probably had 40 minutes of material left to cover (I was trying to fit 100 minutes into 40 minutes in the first place), with a 3 year old who is trying to ingest his very dirty socks. On the grounds of hygiene I try to get him to spit them out - he just shakes his head and murmurs what I think is still "No!" (he's still using English I guess...). So I try to pull them out, but little kids have strong bites and ever so fragile heads - so I dont want to break his skull so I don't want to pull too hard - and also at this stage I'm staring to get worried that he's going to choke on them. In the end I had to get his Mum in. His Mum is used to silly behaviour, but just possibly sock-eating isn't in this child's normal behaviour. Anyway she had the same expression on her face as I felt I had, lots of irritation - after all these lessons aren't cheap for her, but also a bit of a giggle from disbelief and he's still so cute wrestling with his teacher over socks like a miniature dog.

It's this kind of unexpected experience that I hope is going to stay with me from my time in Japan. And not the stress and craziness of the office side of things. Thanks Hitachi.

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