Lucky me, this week started off amazing. I taught 3 awesome 6th grade classes at the largest elementary school (633 students!). After school, I met the Watanabe’s and they took me to our “downtown area” to watch a music practice for another festival. This Mitake festival (I don’t know the name yet, sorry) will take place on Monday (Oct. 11th) and it celebrates something with the Shinto religion and a moving alter-like item around town. The music practice was only men (women aren’t allowed), and these men practice every night prior to the festival. There were about 13 men and they each took turns playing a bamboo flute or the drums. The challenge is that the 6 songs are only taught by sight. Meaning there is no sheet music to use. It would be similar to memorizing a book, but someone would only read it to you, and you couldn’t read it yourself. I actually got to try out both instruments (yay for being a foreigner) and it was quite fun. I can wait to see the pictures that Mr. Watanabe took of me playing each instrument.
On Tuesday, I went to introduce myself to 1st and 2nd graders (I only have 8 self introductions left) and teach one 6th grade class. I was warned that this would be my toughest school, and well, it is. It requires a lot of patience and it’s definitely a learning experience, but who doesn’t need a challenge. Tuesday wasn’t a spectacular day for the 6th grade class (meaning, quite terrible), they acted very inappropriate and rude. After class the HRT (homeroom teacher) had about ½ the class, mainly the students who misbehaved, come to the teachers’ room and apologize to me. That one action completely turned my day around, which was an awesome feeling. I mean, the previous day I taught the exact same lesson and it went so well! I guess that can give you an insight to the varying students and teachers at the schools I work at. The most interesting part of the apology is that while the first group (they came in 2 waves, about 15 students total) was apologizing, the principal came out and asked why there was a group of 6th graders talking to me. Well, it was quite the embarrassment for those students to get caught by the principal. In the end, here is my cultural note: in Japan, the worst form of punishment is humiliation, especially when it’s in front of a lot of people or superiors. The principal later apologized again for the students’ actions, because as the leader of the school, the action of the students reflects on the principal. Remember when the Toyota recall happened and the newspapers/online media wrote about the head of Toyota stepping down? Well, that was fueled from the belief that as the leader, you are ultimately responsible for everything (….now, if the US could take a note and stop blaming everything on someone else…).