Sunday, October 16, 2005

Open School: Welcome to Starfish High

Yes. I know it's not Halloween yet. I figured this would be a good way to show off all the pumpkins we carved yesterday.

Today was Starfish High's Open School (v 1.0). Yep, I was slingin' English for The Man on Sunday. After all, Open School is one of our only chances to show prospective students what we're all about. With all the preparations leading up to today, this week has been what one might call "slightly stressful", especially if one's concept of "normal stress level" was dodging enemy fire on D-Day and "really stressful" was avoiding an alien attack like in "War of the Worlds".

You could say that people have been a bit "techy" all week.

I mentioned this in a previous post as well, but Starfish High isn't in the best of situations right now. Very few students, not that great of a reputation, shaky financial status...Scylla and Charybdis, my friends (see also: rock and a hard place). Good students at junior high schools don't even consider us; you could call Starfish High "Pasco" and the rest of the high schools in the area "the other parts of the Tri-Cities". We're looked down on by everyone else.

So today's turnout was not very encouraging. Today's Open School (v 1.0) was for prospective students in the areas around Muroran. We were hoping for around 100 students at least; we had maybe 60 students. Not a good sign. But, like the intrepid educators we are, we plunged forward, undaunted by dangers real or imagined, and kicked off Starfish High's Open School.

For the opening ceremony, Jack (the other native English teacher here) and I joined the school band to perform a couple of songs. Jack played bass on "Other Side", a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, and I sang on "Linda Linda" a song by Japanese punk gods The Blue Hearts. We had one of the exchange students videotape it so we could watch our performance later. Jack and I took a look at the tape in the afternoon, after things had calmed down a bit.

Wow. I really suck.

I mean, that intro was BAD. Ouch.

I actually had to run out of the room. I was that embarrassed.

I wish somebody had mentioned to me how awful I was on the know, before we had to perform live in front of a group of people!

But I think I was able to redeem myself once the song really kicked in, and the students seemed to enjoy it. We will have Open School (v 2.0) next week, and since we're performing again, now is not the time for fine tuning. Now is the time for a complete overhaul. Of the intro, anyway.


So after the opening ceremony finished, students started walking around the school, talking with our students, attending demonstration classes, or eating lunch. I had to teach three demonstration classes today, with respective attendances of...


...6, 4, and 2! Like I said, disappointing turnout.

One positive note was that I was able to wax nostalgic for the good ol' days of teaching English back in Shimane Prefecture, specifically the first three years when I taught at Hakuta Junior High School. Today's classes reminded me of how absolutely impossible it is to get a reaction out of junior high school students, especially third-years. There are tough crowds, and then there are Japanese third-year junior high school students. I'm a bit embarrassed to say this, but one of my students at Starfish High bailed me out of a tough situation by giving me an idea to motivate the class. His idea even worked!

I also realized how lucky Starfish High's students are. Being around Jack and I all the time, they have grown accustomed to foreigners (see also: strange-looking white men). We don't faze them at all. I think part of the problem today was that the junior high school kids just didn't know how to act around a foreigner. That, and it can really be tough to get a class of students you've just met motivated and excited about English in the span of 30 minutes.

All in all, today wasn't too bad. It would have been nice to have more students attend, but hopefully teachers will get out this week and do their recruiting jobs, and convince a lot of students to come to Open School (v 2.0) on Saturday.

I will be carving pumpkins again this week. But before that, I will be enjoying my day off tomorrow. The Lord may have rested on Sunday, but with all the English that was slung today, I will be taking my R&R tomorrow!


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