Goldenlicks, for lack of a better title

Today, I had my last elementary classes of the year, yay. It feels like a big accomplishment, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. (Mainly that 45 children is far too many for a foreign language class.)
We closed out the year by selecting and performing fairytale-type stories in groups. The children chose their own groups, and chose between one of five story adoptations, authored by yours truly of course. They practiced for a couple of lessons, and today was the performance (complete with simple props.)
I give you this background because I was surprised when a fight broke out in one of the groups over who would play Mama Bear from Goldilocks (whin co-worker kept referring to the play as Goldenlicks…) I mean, they could have chosen a play without gender specific roles (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff) or one I had done two versions of (The King’s/Queen’s New Clothes,) or they could have revised it to Papa Bear and Uncle Bear; it shouldn’t have been an issue.  But for whatever reason, these boys chose this particular play,  practiced it for a month, and starting crying over it TODAY.
Dealing with the boys and their fragile ego issues consumed me at the time, but now I’m more bothered by something else. 
What about all the girls in that class, who saw two boys literally come to blows and then dissolve into pouty tears for twenty minutes over having to play a fictional female role? This same role that they are born into.  Two teachers jumped in to talk to the boys, but what about the girls? What message does it send to them? Are we giving them any counter-messages to celebrate womanhood?

And what about me? Or you? We, who grew up at a time when people  threw around with abandon terms that equate being a woman with being fickle or silly or nonsensical or weak? How has that effected us? Are we damaged? Or has it, to the contrary, made us strong?

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Somebody explain this….

Things have been really quiet on the blog lately. That’s what happens when real life gets busy, I guess.

I’ve started working more mornings now, three or even four, up from one or two last year. Then Holy moly Mary and Josephine somehow I ended up being PTA class rep AGAIN, this time for the fifth grade. As if there weren’t 25 other mothers (and 26 fathers) and an exponential number of grandparents who are better suited for this than me simply by virtue of being literate in Japanese. Or so I assume (granted HRH, judging by his tendency to eff up paperwork, is iffy.)

Of course none of these jobs are through the same organization. That would be too simple, too normal. What’s the fun in doing anything if it doesn’t make life more complicated? (That’s sarcasm, y’all, in case you were unsure. The only things I complicate on purpose are grammar structures.)

I leave at the same time as the children, or will be since one of my teaching gigs starts next month, two or three times a week. And-lo and behold- thus far those leaving-at-the-same-time mornings go much more smoothly than the other mornings.

What is up with that?

Thought having said it, and worse, written it down, I now need to knock on wood, cross my fingers, throw salt over my shoulder, and stick a needle in my eye. (Hope that covers it.)

In other news, both of the little shits boys who were aggravating Me First last year are in a different class. Hallelujah, praise the lord! His teacher is a hard ass, which is exactly what he needed. They had shuji (Japanese calligraphy) class the other day, and the teacher got onto him about not having cleaned his calligraphy set since the last class.

Me First wisely chose not to divulge the particular details of his shuji set cleaning habits (as in he has never once actually cleaned it.)

As soon as he came home, he went right into the bathroom and started washing all the bits and bobbles. I was holding my breath, thinking there was going to be permanent shuji ink all over my g.d. bathroom, but who’dathunkit, I bought him washable ink last year. So cleaning up his cleaning up was not as traumatic as I was expecting.

Yay, me.

Me Too is coughing and spluttering, hopefully it’s getting better. Another reason I haven’t been writing much is because we’ve been on the sickness merry-go-round and who wants to read about that? Heaven forbid someone Google “asthma” and it lead them here. Bless your heart, I cannot be of any help there besides to commiserate. It sucks. Well, I guess actually it rasps and wheezes. I’ll leave the puns at that.

I need a good sign-off to write here at the bottom…. Ideas?

Panic

Yesterday, I went to pick the kids up from after care at school. (I had been in a PTA meeting all afternoon.)

And they told me Me Too wasn’t there.

Where to even start? I was horrified. I was mortified. I was livid.

I trust these people with my children. It seems to me the very least they could do was ensure the children were where they were supposed to be.

Me First and I ran home, and thank god she was there on the landing. The poor little lamb had been waiting there for almost TWO HOURS.

There just are no words. The whole thing was beyond awful.

Psychodrama

So the little sh!t is in Me First’s class again this year. Even worse, they are in the same han, or group, and he’s up in Brother’s face all day long. He has been waiting downstairs every morning for my kids to come down, and walking to school with them.

I’ll admit a part of me was hoping this meant they were becoming friends. The two of them have been separated into a different class from the other boys in their posse, after all, so it wasn’t totally unreasonable that I-kun would latch onto Me First and actually not be an ass for, at least like half a day or something.

But this morning I overheard him telling Brother to run off and hide from Sister.

I performed an appropriate crazy-haired-gaijin-in-pajamas-screaming-bloody-murder scene from the landing, of course. But really, picking on a 1st grade girl is just beyond the border of what is even remotely acceptable in my universe.

So I-kun has a meet-the-lord moment coming next school day. I already have beginning of the school year parent-teacher conferences coming up soon. Whether to show up with the Emmet from Back to the Future hair or not is still under consideration.

In other troubling news, apparently Me First wrote someone a hate letter. Fortunately, he had enough sense not to sign it.

The recipient of this letter is the boy who, for the second term of second grade, used Me First as a punching bag. He also, sadly, seems to be a kid in need of special Ed type help that he isn’t getting. He asks inappropriate questions in class, refuses to sit down, etc., which results in the whole class losing their recess, things like that. He is mean to his classmates and hits them and kicks them, not seeming to understand that they are in pain or that his actions lead to his being disliked by, basically, everyone.

He also cries tender tears when he has to share something, or let someone else take turns being the leader. He really doesn’t seem to understand that everyone else should also have a turn. But then he bounces back in about .5 seconds, and starts punching people again.

Me First said he cried when he read the hate letter. And he feels bad about writing it and wants to apologize. But another kid who apologized for writing something mean on his desk got punched in the face for his trouble, so he was nervous about admitting he was the writer.

And then he got to the part where he told me that this incident happened three weeks ago.

So…. if it had been yesterday, I would have called the teacher and had Me First apologize. As it is? Part of me thinks having felt guilty about this for the past three weeks may be enough. I talked to Me Too about why he wrote the letter (he was angry because of something the other boy had said,) and how it made him feel when he saw how hurt the other kid was by it (bad.) Being mean to others doesn’t make our own pain go away. Usually, it just makes us feel worse.

For now, I’ve left it at that.

But… It really would have been nice to get through at least the first month of school without this kind of psychodrama.

Gaijin Stalker

I haven’t really written anything about Me Too starting school yet… I guess we’re still trying to figure our way around it. Most days she walks in the morning with her brother. If he’s being a punk ass (he’s nine, this happens at random, unpredictable intervals,) and I can manage to get ready in time, then I walk with her.

I’ve been picking her up in the afternoon. The kids only finish at the same time one day a week, and the other kids from our neighborhood are in the other first grade class. Plus the American in me still thinks it batshit crazy to have gaggles of giggling 6year olds walking home by themselves.

Today, for the first time, Me Too was walking with a friend when she came out of the school gates. I crossed the street with them, then told her I would meet her at home. I don’t want to cramp her style, after all. But she gave me a panicked look, and said it would be okay if I followed them. So I did.

That’s me, gaijin stalker.

Origin of the Sneezies

I forgot to blog about this with all the flu induced phlegmtasticness going on, sorry.

Two weeks ago, well actually like ten days ago, there was a PTA meeting at Me First’s school. For some reason that day, the classes were combined and the other teacher did ALL of the talking. Our class teacher, Y Sensei, just sat there, looking kind of pale.

The other third grade teacher is kind of….how can I put this nicely….dominant and overbearing. That may not have been exactly nice, but I have heard with my own ears this woman screaming at her class and calling them stupid. She calls the other class teacher by his first name. This is such a no-no in Japan, even if the other teacher does happen to be just out of college and gets mistaken for the local jr high school boys in the summer because his school biz black pants and short sleeves look a lot like their summer uniform. So her running the show like a bossy pants was not all that surprising.

You know me, I’m an underdog fan. I’m not a trained public school teacher, but I remember what it was like having my own preschool classes the first year. I imagine it must be at least a hundred times harder for him, having to deal with the school side of it and the parent side. In my limited, experience, the teaching itself is the easiest part of the job! I think Y Sensei got off to a bit of a rough start, what with announcing to the moms at the first parents’ meeting that this was the first one he had ever been to in his life. Didn’t exactly inspire confidence, if you know what I mean. He’s come a long way, though, and I won’t hear anything bad about him.

But then….
on the way home, I overheard two of the mothers in front of me saying that Y Sensei wasn’t looking so good; let’s hope it doesn’t spread it to the children. I asked them what they were talking about, and they said Y Sensei had come in late the day before with a 40C fever. He’d been to the doctor in the morning, had a flu test that came back negative, then gamaned the rest of the week at school.

Insert major eye roll

I won’t even begin to get into how the lack of dedicated sick days and the imagined burden on coworkers lead to this kind of behavior being a problem in Japan. I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves!

Friday: 2 students absent with flu
Monday: 3 students absent with flu
Wed: 5 students absent
the next Monday: 8 students absent
Tuesday-Thursday: 7 students absent (please note these are now all new cases.)
Friday: 8 students absent

And a phone call last night from a classmate whose son developed a high fever after school. So let’s see….9 kids sick on Friday alone, plus 5 from the week before, plus 2 from the week before that= 16 children out of a class of 24.

How many of these kids have babies or elderly relatives living with them? How many have underlying conditions, or live with people with underlying conditions?

When you are sick, STAY HOME. When people who work under you are sick, LET them stay home.

Y Sensei, I’m sure, will be having a hard time trying to get 2/3 of his class up to speed on their studies. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he was influenced by bad advice or lack of knowledge regarding flu tests (which aren’t 100% accurate and have poor accuracy if you have had a fever for less than 24 hours,) and of course it is possible that the origin of this is not the sick teacher who was all up in their faces for three days with a high fever, but that feels like a stretch.

The other moms will tear him apart, poor lad.

But he won’t make the same mistake again.

The Obligatory Winter Vacation Homework Post

Winter vacation as a kid in the US involved a lot of staying up too late and eating too many sweets with people from the various churches my father pastored. He’d get lots of homemade sweets and, invariably, every year at least one giant tin of popcorn.

Winter vacation in Japan is… less vacationy. We have people over for Christmas (on which I let my kids stay home, rebel that I am.) We might go to one party at a friends’. But what really puts the damper on any fun one might have is homework.

It’s oppressive.

Not just because of the amount, which this year consists of 14 worksheets (2 per day,) reading, and caligraphy homework. It’s the fussiness of it all.

You just don’t do homework while lying on your bed, kicking your feet to the rhythms of New Kids on the Block while simultaneously admiring your new friendship bracelet. No, at the Hamakko house at least, it’s a big frickin’ production.

Today, Me First did his caligraphy homework with the PILs. He had three pieces of paper from school, with instructions to bring in the best one.

The in-laws start off by covering their table in newspaper (understandable,) then propping Me First up on several cushions until he is 3/4 inches higher than he was to start with. Then giving him a blanket. (?) After that, they made him practice several times before letting him use the paper he brought from school. Then coached him on approaching the blank paper with proper feeling. And some yelling about sitting up straight.

All in all, this particular fiasco cost an hour and a couple of tears.

And people wonder why I don’t get the Japanese relatives to help with homework…

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