The first thing that surprised me, and actually put my mind at ease, was that the parents visiting the open campus were dressed as if they were going to a picnic. So were a lot of the students. On parents days during the year the parents dress up and I very often have to avert my eyes as the mothers seem to get younger and younger each year whilst I stay the same age. (Something like that. I’ve been 24 or 25 for at least five years.)
I also noticed that the turn out for high school classes like mine were much smaller than for junior high classes. This is because 1) it’s easier to get into the junior high school (requirements: Japanese and breathing) and 2) once you’re in the junior high it’s easier to get into high school.
Because there wasn’t much pressure, I relaxed. However, me being me, I immediately started changing the plan while I was standing in front of the class. This involved drawing a picture that represented fear of heights on the board and adding the words “collecting pens” to indicate my hobby (at least for today; I also told them I was 24) and added “#1 Fear”.
For the first class, when everyone, myself included, was fresh and energetic, I was able to sell all those and get a reaction when I pointed out the number one fear was “giving speeches” and that’s exactly what they were about to do. I then got a series of good speeches that ended about 10 minutes before I expected them to, which was 15 minutes before the end of class. I then went into actor improv mode and pointed out that the back of the speech paper was blank and, as a teacher, “I hate blank pages” and had them make pairs and write short conversation based on the speech.
I also noticed that one of my students was also a pen and pencil collector. He had, based on my quick observations a Pilot S20 mechanical pencil; a Lime Green Lamy Safari, a black Rotring Rapid Pro mechanical pencil and several other pens all tightly packed in a Lihit Lab Teffa pen case.
(Note: this means he’s not allowed to attend school where I work. He’s not allowed to have cooler pens and pencils than I do.)
The class went so well I knew the second class, the one after lunch, would be bad.
It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. The vibe was a lot different and the students weren’t as energetic. Once again it finished early and I assigned a conversation. Although some students asked for help, others just sat there staring at each other wondering what to do. I authorized my Japanese assistant (long story) to act as a human electronic dictionary and answer their questions.
No one had any cool pens though. I even had to loan one guy my Rotring 600 mechanical pencil because he hadn’t thought to bring any pens or pencils.
Unfortunately for him he gave it back rather than trying to steal it. That means he can’t come to the school either.