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English! published on

I thought Miss Hee-Hee had quit. Like, a month ago. Not so, it seems! She showed up today, to my utter confusion. The manager did not really explain this to me. Miss Hee-Hee is an extremely bright five-year-old who occasionally comes in with alarmingly intense body odor. It’s sort of a motor oil smell – I’m thinking maybe her parents feed her an awful lot of oily fish, because it reminds me of the smell of the fried salmon I get at the grocery store sometimes. Whatever causes it, it’s quite potent.

Uh, but anyway. She’s really smart. She’s in a fairly advanced textbook for her age, which I thought was a mistake on someone’s part at first, but it’s not – she breezes right through everything. She knows she’s smart, and she can be very smug about it – she’s sort of like Mr. Wow’s evil twin. She even sort of makes jokes in English sometimes. When she’s bored with a game, she starts giving me the wrong answers deliberately. I show her the green oval and she says, “It’s a green -” she gives me a significant look from beneath her eyelashes, and then says menacingly, “square.” Playing the “Are you a cat/monkey/elephant?” “No! I’m Miss Hee-Hee!” game, she declared herself a cat. She is quite catlike, I guess. Fortunately, she’s ticklish and likes playing tag, so I do have two weapons to use in the assault upon her dignity.

After Miss Hee-Hee was a moderately new class – Miss Ko-Omote (4), Miss Red (5), and Mr. Jiro (4). This is their fourth session. Mr. Jiro has great self-confidence, a very protective attitude towards Miss Red (their moms are friends), and very little interest in actually studying English. I’m hoping he’ll get used to the idea he’s there to learn stuff eventually, but for now it’s kind of damage control on his desire to spend the whole class running around.

Miss Red is really smart, and really, really shy. I think she has some kind of abandonment trauma. Her demo lesson she wouldn’t let go of her mom, and she cried and cried. I really think this wasn’t I-want-attention crying – for some reason, this was genuine fear-crying. She did not want to be left alone with a strange adult. Her first two classes, though, she was a little shy at the beginning of both, but things went generally well, and she smiled and talked and seemed pretty happy when she left. But then I didn’t see her for three weeks – Golden Week break, and then she got a cold and missed last week – and today we were right back to demo-lesson levels of clinging and panicking. It took ten or fifteen minutes to get her into the classroom, and she wasn’t really smiling until the last fifteen minutes or so of class.

Miss Ko-omote worries me for different reasons – I suspect she may be mildly cognitively disabled, and I haven’t seen any indication her family’s looked into the possibility. I mean, it’s not like I’m an expert on these things, but she doesn’t act like the other four-year-olds. Her attention span is much shorter, she doesn’t have a lot of energy, and sometimes she seems to have trouble walking. I guess it’s possible that a kid’s parents could be aware she’s disabled, and even have her in treatment, but avoid talking about it in public. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental disabilities in Japan, which expresses itself in a massive silence – I don’t even know what it sounds like when Japanese people discuss the subject.

Anyway, the ability gap between her and Mr. Jiro isn’t huge – nowhere near as massive as the gap between Miss Foo (who is her little sister) and the boys in her class – so I don’t think it’s going to be that huge of a deal, but her mobility issues definitely restrict what games I can play with this group.

After that came Kitty and Yuzu. They were fine while we were playing games, but got very obnoxious when I brought out the worksheet, as always. I’m not sure why I’m surprised by this, but last week I found out that Kitty and the Devil are sisters. (I knew they had the same last name, but for some reason had gotten it in my head that they were cousins. Maybe because they usually show up and leave separately?) This makes me even less impressed with the Devil’s mocking of Kitty’s weight.

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