So you've successfully made it to school. You traipse in the door dropping your umbrella in the stand (it's rainy season; a combination of sweltering heat and buckets of rain) and switch your outdoor shoes for your indoor shoes, shoving your inappropriately un-water proof, sopping wet outdoor shoes in your shoes cupboard. You plod merrily down the hall toward the staff room and take your seat at an empty table assigned to you and wait patiently for the assistant English teacher to show their face. While walking toward your desk it is best to say "Ohayo Gozaimasu!" (good morning) to everyone that makes eye contact with you and smile like a loon.
Meeting your AIE (assistant instructor of English) for the first time I would advise writing their name down somewhere because, if you're like me, you are likely to forget it almost instantly and spend many uncomfortable minutes trying to work out a ploy to get them to repeat it and appear as if you haven't forgotten it. Your AIE will likely introduce you to the principal, vice-principal and the teachers whose classes you will be taking that day. Some principals/vice-principals will be only delighted to meet you. I've had chats over cups of oddly salty tea about Japan with some, been given kit kats or business cards by others and met with polite disinterest by a few. I also had a principal too shy to meet me one day so he wrote his name on a sticky note and had the AIE give it to me. A particularly mortifying experience was when one principal asked that I come to school an hour early and had me stand at the top of the staffroom and introduce myself in my pigeon Japanese to 40+ members of staff. I think a set a new record that day on how red my face can go when I'm embarrassed.
Once staff room introductions are complete it's time to introduce yourself to the kids. After a 10 minute introduction where they guess your country and you show pictures of the various sights, animals and sports it's question time! Oh question time... a chance for the kids to be as nosy as possible and ask questions about your country, your likes and your personal and love life. Most questions will be pretty standard e.g. What is your favourite colour/food/animal/sport? What is Ireland like? When is your birthday How many members in your family? (The fact that I have 4 siblings and 3 parents is generally met with gasps of shock). After the kids build up a bit of confidence they usually cajole one of the messers in the class to ask more personal questions like whether you are engaged, married or have a boyfriend/girlfriend. If you reply that you have a significant other the most common response is a round of applause and cheering as if it is a massive achievement worthy of their praise. They ask your age and weight and whether you intend to marry and have children. There have also been odd questions too like: Why are your eyes blue? Are they blue because they froze from the cold in Ireland? Do you like pyramids? How much is a pencil in Ireland? (you wouldn't believe how impressed they were when I told them) and oddest of all: What's your blood type? (It's supposed to be a personality indicator here, like your star sign). Once the introductions are all done it's time to get stuck into the nitty gritty task of trying to impart some knowledge to the nosy youngsters. A story for another time.
On a final note the first time I meet my students is when they usually decide to tell me I have a small face. Apparently it's a compliment and practically mandatory for pop stars here. One of the odder compliments I've received in my lifetime. But hey, at least it means I can try out for AKB48.
|A drastically improved potential line-up of AKB48. I should send this to their manager immediately. My face is smaller than any of theirs so I think that makes me the best by default|