You know what? It wasn't even hard. In fact I'd go as far as to say it was really, really easy. I walked in expecting to have, well, classes; it turns out that as I'm at the 'sports-centered' Nogata high school and the annual sports festival is approaching, practically all the class time has given way to athletic and performance practice sessions; this means the (quite large) quotient of P.E. teachers are relatively busy, but the 'geeks': those of us who teach things like history, maths, Japanese, English and the like are essentially working in a practical vat of free time.
So this week I've made a few speeches, taken a tour of the school, chatted a lot with the staff, studied some Japanese, eaten some lunches, drunk some coffee and generally tried to act like any conscientious educator would in my situation.
Nogata high school, more often known as 'Noko'. The main building was obviously designed by a person with a fondness for concrete, rectangles and communism.
The staff have all been really nice, friendly and helpful; and they all do their best to meet my broken Japanese with English responses. I've got some big shoes to fill; my predecessor Taea (a charming young Hawaiian woman) came to visit the school for a few days before she said goodbye; she helped me out a lot with advice, and everyone will miss her muchly I'm sure- still, just another reason to swing by and visit Hawaii right?
The kids are all really cool too- some are shy and stammer when they try to speak to me, others are so enthusiastic that they just grab and start speaking Japanese, again I feel like a rock-star; there's nothing like having a gaggle of cheerleaders begging you to dance with them to boost a guys self-esteem. One first year student made my day when she found out that I knew who Haruhi Suzumiya is and then proceeded to organise her friends to perform the dance from the shows title.
Inside a classroom (class 2-3 to be exact). I hardly ever get to be in one of these so it's quite special. Also, the kids haven't dissolved, they've just changed into sportswear and left behind a giant cache of hello-kitty accessories.
So really so far my job involves wandering the halls of a high school and making small talk with students and staff, occasionally observing and occasionally participating in sports, VERY occasionally preparing some materials and ASSISTING in teaching an English class and generally bringing my Shaunitude to the institute as a whole. Far be it from me to complain about Japanese tax dollars subsidising what often feels to me like life in a slightly surreal sports club.
Most wacky/fun things about the job so far:
a) I am the shoe king!: I own and use no less than 4 pairs of shoes while on the job; 'outside' shoes, 'inside' shoes, 'gym' shoes and 'track' shoes (and that's not counting school provided bathroom slippers). I am now proficient in changing footwear in under 8 seconds.
b) Student servitude: there is no janitor, students clean the school in the 15 minute 'cleaning' block at the end of the day while teachers 'supervise'; they even come into the staff room and empty our wastepaper baskets and sweep the floor... never has being slovenly been easier!
c) Coordination central: 'Sports day' over here isn't just about running, jumping and spraying your hair a funny colour: it's about high-grade crowd synchronisation. Everything from student marches to cheerleading to massed displays using coloured boards is controlled with loud communal yelling, taiko drums and megaphones. Sometimes it feels suspiciously like the Nuremberg rally (then the cheer squad plays a Spice Girls song and the illusion is shattered).
Anyway; as always, I'm having fun, being silly and am not dead. Mission accomplished I say.
Stay busy people of the world,