closing ceremonies

Well that was interesting. My school just had our closing ceremonies for winter vacation. It's called closing ceremonies and treated like an end of the year thing, yet the students will come back for one more trimester and the school year actually ends in April. Strange then that they have all of these award ceremonies and formalities for just a 2 week break. I mean most of the kids going to keep coming to school for club sports anyway. Here's what my day has been like so far:

8:30: morning meeting. This happens every day, but the teachers were acting extra formal and excited this morning, and there seemed to be more information than usual. While often only the vice principal talks, this time many teachers stood up to make announcements

8:50: Big clean-up time. Usually the students clean up the school for 15 minutes at the end of the day. Students are broken into cleaning posse's of 10-15 and assigned a location to clean, which periodically changes. Each teacher, also is assigned to supervise a location, and help clean, depending on the individual. I supervise the staff room and i help the students sweep up dust and chat with them in english. So today cleaning time was in the morning and lasted 40 minutes. After the regular cleanup of sweeping the dust around, we waxed the floors. Yeah. Waxed. That was interesting. We didnt have enough mops to spread the wax around so a few other students and I worked it into the floor by hand. My boss was impressed to see me working hard on my hands and knees, but was concerned about my pants getting dirty, lol. After we waxed for a while, I told the students they did an awesome job this year and that i'll miss them next year! (theyll probably get rotated to a new location). I had told them earlier this week that they could give me a letter to bring to America and i would have someone write back to them. And one girl who used to be in my crew but got moved wrote a letter to me!

Dear. Mr Michael
Hello! I am Yuka Ikenono.
I enjoyed talking with you. I was looking forward to going to a staff room to clean.

I think that English is very difficult.
But, it is fun for me to talk it.
I want to develop myself English and whisk through books in English in no time.

By the way, what is a look during Christmas in America? I am sure of lively town.
Do you eat a cake on Christmas?

Thank you for reading a letter. See you again.

from Yuka


9:30 Students and teachers meet in the gymnasium
We all met up in the gym. The teachers all sat on pre-arranged folding chairs that were set up on tarps so that we could wear our regular shoes inside. Then the students all lined up according to year, homeroom and gender, as they always do. This one group of boys seated near me were all wearing their summer uniforms, which are white, short-sleeved button-down shirts instead of their winter uniforms (a black coat with a stand-up collar). I asked them later what the heck they were thinking and they were like "We wanted to do it together! We are HARDCORE" haha a lot of the guy students like showing off by wearing their shortsleeved uniforms or shortsleeved gym shorts to outdoor PE classes. They have to wear uniforms but the school doesn't enforce which type they wear when. Haha there was also one girl who was wearing her summer uniform until a few weeks ago.

Everyone was then instructed to stand up, attention, bow, then sit down. The teachers do it too.

Then the school song was played on piano and sung by everyone.

Next the principal was introduced by vice principal
Principal climbs up to the stage, stops, bows to the Japanese flag, goes to the podium, bows the audience (audience bows back) and then begins his speech. Our principal... uh... isn't the best orator. He tends to ramble on past everyone's attention span. It's funny how I can notice that rapport between him and the audience even without understanding the speech. Same thing happened at the morning meeting. He kept rambling past the bell. Anyway he began his speech by talking about the "Sub Prime Loan problem" and was talking about other high schools for some reason. Then he suddenly started talking about difficult kanji and japanese words. He had the whole audience repeat difficult words and phrases after him. i had no idea what was going on.

During the speech one kid wearing a sick mask had to leave due to exhaustion, and was ushered out by his homeroom teacher. Another teacher standing next to me had some kind of panic attack while we were singing the school song and had to sit down (we were all standing for the song and the principal's speech). He started rocking back and forth with his head in his hands and sat there for the rest of the time, eventually leaving the room before the end of the ceremony. The same guy had an emotional/stress breakdown last week too and was taken away on a gurney in an ambulance. Of course these kinds of issues don't warrant psychological help or time off from work. One teacher was "helping him" by standing behind him, as if supervising, like he would step in if the guy started flipping out and screaming or something, which only drew everyone's attention to the situation. Awkward.

Next the head-teacher gave a speech. He is pretty cool and somehow, this will sound weird, has a voice appropriate for an english speaking dog character in a cartoon. Also, like, he would, like, use the phrase "desu ne" after, like, every few words, which is the equivalant of saying over and over again in English. But he cracked some awesome jokes and it got the audience laughing and a little loosened up. He's cool.

Then the hardass discipline teacher gave a speech. He started with a joke, which made students laugh, but then got really serious and was talking about the difficulties of something or another. It's interesting to notice different individual speaking styles even (especially?) in a language you don't understand. Has anyone else ever notice this? It makes me wonder what the overall impression of my speaking style would be for a Japanese person. Probable "not confident enough"

The procedure for each speaker was the same: they climbed the stairs to the stage, then bowed to the Japanese flag, then went to the podium, then bowed again. I love the formality of it all.

Finally there was an awards ceremony for student achievements. The students ran from various places in the audience to line up offstage, where one teacher put them in the order they would be called on. They all took off their inside shoes and stood at attention while someone gave a speech about the award ceremony that was about to happen. Then they were called up in 2 groups of 8. First the whole group bowed to the principal who was at the podium, then he acknowledged each student for his or her achievement, gave em a certificate and stated the date, then they bowed to each other and everyone clapped. after all of them had recieved their certificate, the group would turn to face the audience and bow. We bow back.

Lastly there was one more too-damn-long speech by the principal, then everyone left. I chatted with some of my student pals and thanked Yuka for her letter. Now it's lunch time!


Leah said...

Feel free to volunteer me if you need to set anyone up with an American penpal.

And I don't know if you eat cake at Christmas, but it would be cool to eat cake with you at New Years at Andrew's party!

James Smyth said...

Oh, my principal is a rambling speaker, too! He'll get wound up about something and say the same thing about it three times, but you can tell when his thoughts are losing steam so I think everyone only pays attention to the first few sentences of each paragraph, making things a little less boring. My vice principal only speaks for a couple minutes and it's always about extremely practical things like keeping the toilets clean and properly opening and closing the sliding doors so they won't be broken. Our #3/MC is really curt. When we had student body elections, only one student had the courage to crack jokes in his speech and he won in a landslide. We need more official humor here at Tensui Chuu.

That's really sweet that that girl sent you a letter and said she wants to "whisk" through books.

I think when you don't know the language so well you become hyper-sensitive to how people say things, imagining you can pick up what they're talking about just from that. That's what I was doing especially at all our introduction orientations. Now that I know the language, the ALT Conference "first Japanese, then English" speeches are fun for listening to how people try to express Japanese phrases like "Kaze wo hikanai you ni" and "Yoroshiku onegaishimasu," since they're untranslatable but -must be said-!