Sunday, December 23, 2007

attack of the munchkins: elementary school visits

I spent last week goofing with manchickens at elementary schools. It was delightful.

At the first school I had a chaperon assigned to me, who spent the entire two days not five feet away from me. He led me into every room, sat me down for coffee breaks (repeatedly grabbing me coffees because I told him I'm a big coffee drinker), and even walked me to the toilet when he felt it was in order (and basically waited outside the door for me)! He was an incredibly kind man, and I felt so spoiled by the teachers and kids at this school (I didn't think too much about the fact that, partially, they were scared as heck of what a crazy foreigner might do at any moment).

I walked into my first class not really sure what I was going to say about myself, but my limited Canada memorabilia provided a smooth flowing introduction that the kids were able to understand without needing any translation.

I showed them the flag, sang a bit of "Oh Canada" in response to their singing "KimiGaYo", told them about my favourite sports and my hobby - very unpracticed juggling. I was quite chuffed that I every time I showed them the picture of Vancouver a round of 'oo' and 'aa' emerged.

After my introduction (which varied in complexity for each grade), each class consisted of an english vocabulary game as well as some general mucking around games - head and shoulders, simon says, hockey pockey, basketball-basketball-cake (a variation on Duck-Duck-Goose). I haven't stood up in front of a group of little children since being a counsellor at Outdoor School in highschool. It comes to you pretty naturally though, when the kids are so well behaved and staring up expectantly for whatever it is you might do next. They were pretty enthralled, AND i didn't make anybody cry, so I think it was a big success.

Each class had a song or dance to thank me with. I've never actually enjoyed a recorder performance before! One class did this cool Japanese dance which looked a mix between traditional dance and modern aerobic workout. It was awesome, and I didn't have to try to keep the grin plastered on my face.

There are so many little memories from these four days that I couldn't capture them all. The first day at the second school I got totally beat up at recess. The kids were expert snowball throwers and, once I was down, made a massive dogpile on top of me. Other fun games included tag and dodgeball in the school gym. Oh, and reading a children's story (I"ll Always Love You) to a group of tiny and adorable ichinensei (first graders). They had read a direct translation in Japanese already, and it was such a cool feeling to watch their faces light up as they understood my reading through the pictures and their previous preparation. Also cool was getting walked to the subway station by a group of kids, thrilled to show off their knowledge of the neighbourhood. This will probably be the only time in my life where I have throngs of people (or mini-people) asking for my autograph. The kids are fascinated by the way we write (just as kanji fascinates us), though I don't think my signature is anything special. Basically every moment held a good memory!
Most of the teachers were visibly on edge the entire time I was in class, scared that they would have to come in with their unconfidant english skills, or just scared that I would do something crazy. Nonetheless, together we managed to mash each class out and I don't think I did anything too crazy.
Needless to say, I had an amazing time and I really hope to get the chance to go again next year. I should also mention, however, that every single day was exhausting to a G. I got off a little bit early each day and the use to which I put this extra time was going straight home and passing out for an hour or two, dead to the world. By the last day, Thursday, I was pretty beat to begin with, and we had managed to squeeze a couple extra hours of interaction into my schedule, so by the end of the 8 hour day I was pretty much a dead man walking (though still grinning!). As I expected, my voice started to go Thursday afternoon. My throat started to get sore Friday morning. My sinuses started to plug Friday afternoon. Friday afternoon it took a whole pot of coffee to keep me awake for the bonenkai, my junior elemntary school's year-end party. By Saturday evening my head was no longer attached to my body.
I figured I would catch something from the combination of exhaustion, constant touching (face included) by the kids, and the new germs of new schools in different neighbourhoods.
It's ok. It was worth it!

(As long as I'm healthy by the time we leave for Thailand!)

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