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Last happy Bonze/Jerkface memory

Last happy Bonze/Jerkface memory published on

On Saturday, during the class wherein Jerkface spoiled HBP, we played an ABC flashcard game, where they had to come up with words for the letters. Bonze got “S”. He said, “S for Professor Snape.”

I can just imagine Bonze thinking all these very serious, conflicted, Bonze-like thoughts about Snape – he is honorable! But he is also mean! He shouldn’t be so mean! But Harry should be more understanding!

A while later, “H” showed up, and I said, “H for Hermione.” Jerkface said, “Ah, Hermione iya da!” I gestured threateningly at him, and he pretended to die, as is his wont. You know, maybe she doesn’t want to hang out with you either, Jerkface.

I will miss Bonze and Jerkface. And Ken’ichi, who was pretending to be a plague zombie, and thus not participating very well.

There was a change of plans

There was a change of plans published on

and my last day of work was today. I don’t think I can talk about this reasonably right now, but it involved an argument with the owner. I keep tearing up at odd moments, or noticing that my heart is racing for no reason. (I request that no one respond to this entry asking me what my plans are.)

Some things that made me feel better today – Mee and Conan and their parents. They were one of the three families I managed to warn before my last class with them that it was my last class with them, and only because Conan came in for an extra lesson a few days early. They both made me good-bye cards. Conan actually wrote her own message, which is a big deal for a five-year-old, though I think her Mom helped her with the content. (This was in Japanese, not English.)

Though it was quite sedate by Japanese-girl standards, Mee was embarrassed by her card’s contents, and ordered me not to read it until she’d left the building. I didn’t have time until just now, so I didn’t. She assures me that she will be studying English very hard so that she can shock me one day. I will not be shocked by any measure of progress Mee makes – she’s pretty hardcore.

Continue reading There was a change of plans

The Logic of Mr. Rat

The Logic of Mr. Rat published on

Despite his frequently inappropriate verbiage, Mr. Rat is very smart. He notices patterns.

Today, one of the exchanges we were practicing was “How’s the weather?” “It’s sunny/rainy/snowy/etc.” There was a worksheet illustration in which a boy was calling his friends in various places asking them about the weather.

“Wait, wait,” he complained. “He calls these people on the phone and they only talk about the weather? What’s with this kid?! And it’s sunny there, and it’s rainy there, and she’s got a snowman there! Where does they live that it’s sunny and snowy both?!”

This question had not occurred to me. I considered it, and told him that the boy was Australian and the girl with the snowman was his friend in America – it’s winter in America when it’s summer in Australia, you know, Mr. Rat. This was all in (very simple) English, and he understood it immediately, which should give you an idea of how sharp he is – he not only understood what I was saying, but was able to connect it to what he’d learned in school about the northern in southern hemispheres. The second part sounds simple, but most kids take a couple seconds to fit the pieces together if something they learned in one context pops up in another.

He grumpily accepted my explanation and finished the worksheet, but I was a little disappointed that he didn’t demand that I account for the time change.

Sometimes, however, his pattern-detection abilities lead him in… unexpected directions. Another exchange we were practicing was, “Where’s [someone]?” “She’s in the [classroom/music room/bedroom].” I asked him “Where’s Santa Claus?” and held up the card for “bathroom.”

“Santa?! Santa?! What’s Santa doing in the bathroom?!”

“I don’t know, Mr. Rat. It’s a mystery.”

“No! Don’t put Santa in the bathroom! It’s gross! I don’t want to go into the bathroom and find a present there! It would be too weird. It’s like, it’s probably got poop in it, you know?”

This idea killed me for about sixty seconds. He said, “What!? What!? You’re the one who put Santa in the bathroom!”

As he was leaving I pointed him out to the manager. “He was saying gross things again,” I said portentously.

“What? What did you say?” asked the manager warily. (He dislikes it when I talk to him in front of the students. Thus I do so frequently.)

“She made this sentence about poop presents in the bathroom!” he explained seriously, gesturing threateningly at me with his slipper. “It’s her fault!”

This whole train of thought was clearly perfectly natural to Mr. Rat. He found it incomprehensible that I did not see the logical outcome of Santa being in the bathroom.


English published on

My 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM hour today was on my schedule as a demo class with three middle schoolers. I didn’t recognize their names, but because the school’s presently doing a marketing thing where the juku students can get three free English classes, I assumed they were juku kids.

Twenty minutes before my last period started, as I was carefully drawing a homemade Chutes and Ladders board, Madonna and one of her friends, Cheese, burst in. “Hello! Hello! Can we come!”

I do not, in fact, know Madonna’s real name. She and Peter Pan and Jack’o’Lantern have continued their policy of lying creatively when I ask them their names. I know Peter Pan’s now because I got the manager to tell me, but I haven’t had a chance to make him rat out the others.

So I had two middle school girls, so I assumed they were going to be the demo lesson, and had gotten bored and shown up early. I got them to help me finish the game board, and then we played Jenga and formed sentences involving fruit (because the fruit poster was right over the table, and Madonna is for some reason eternally fascinated by the fruit poster). Some sentences involving One Piece also got in there, because Madonna’s taste in manga apparently extends beyond Saiyuki.

Then at 8:00, the manager showed up with not one unknown kid but three. “So, wait. Five students?” I asked him, pointing to the Jenga-players. “Should I take all five?”

Apparently not; he told Madonna and Cheese that they couldn’t stay in the classroom because I had to teach a class (oh, come on, don’t make me the bad guy here). “No! No!” said Madonna in English. “It’s cool! Let us! It’s cool!” Then, in Japanese, “Suzushii!”

Suzushii means “cool” in the literal sense. The juku classroom’s AC is pretty crappy, and the owner won’t let them turn it up all the way. The English classroom’s AC, on the other hand, is under my control, and he will wrest that control from cold, dead hands.* Gosh, you guys, it’s so nice to be wanted for my classroom’s air conditioner.

But they bowed to the manager’s demands and left, and I taught the demo. (It was fine, if not as cheerful as a demo involving Madonna and Cheese would have been. The boy had clearly been forced into this by his parents, and wouldn’t talk above a mutter until I started calling him Ponyo and got the girls to go along with it. Then his outrage gave him strength.)

* Sniping About My Bosses Corner, Do Not Read If You’re Not In The Mood For Morons: Continue reading English

Ijiwaru Sensei

Ijiwaru Sensei published on

Today, I was so mean to Miss Ko-omote that she died.

She had a plastic hammer and was banging on the floor with it, saying sorrowfully, “Work from dawn to dusk, I do!” (In Japanese.) She kept at this for some time. Whatever its merits, this activity prevented her from speaking English, so I took the hammer.

She flopped down on her back and turned mournful eyes to me. “Miss Ko-omote,” she explained in a melancholy voice, “Is dead now. She has gone heaven and you’ll never see her again. Miss Foo will never see her again, either.” (I had also taken Miss Foo’s hammer, but she didn’t die.) “It’s too bad you were so cruel to her before she died. I bet you’re sorry that you were such a mean teacher, but it’s much too late… Miss Ko-omote is in heaven now. Maybe someday, when you look up at the stars, you’ll see her smile…”

I’m not making this up. Somehow I feel that disclaimer to be necessary.

She probably got even more dramatic, but even my vast experience with shoujo manga wasn’t enough that I could keep up with everything she said. I left her to talk herself bored while I sneakily induced Miss Foo to say “in” and “on” by means of a game where she got to climb into a box. After a couple minutes, Miss Ko-omote decided to stop being dead and wanted to play with the marbles. (I still couldn’t get her to speak English, though.)

At the end of class, I went up to the board and drew a little angel flying over a cloud. I pointed to it. “Is it Miss Ko-omote?” I asked her. She frowned at it for a second, and then said, enlightened, “Oh! From where I died earlier.”


English published on

They put Mr. Wow in with Zuzu, Cookie, and Princess. It’s been a month now, and things are finally settling down. It turns out Mr. Wow is very vain? I knew that, and was mentally prepared for the likelihood that he’d be somewhat less cute in a situation where he’s got to share attention with three other kids, two of whom are capable of giving him some competition. Still, I’m a little sad to be disillusioned.

He has kind of a crush on Cookie, which is good, because it means he mostly does what Cookie does, and Cookie mostly does what I say. Unfortunately, I’ve still had to spend a lot of time keeping Mr. Wow in line, which means Zuzu and Princess have felt left out. Princess lets me know this by poking my boobs. Zuzu lets me know by means of fabulously sulky poses – slouching in the tiny chairs with her arms crossed, her legs jutting out, and her lower lip extended. I know, Zuzu. I know.

Thanks to Mr. Wow’s behavior and one of their classes falling on a vacation day last month, they didn’t learn all the monthly curriculum, which bugs me. Before, Mr. Wow could usually learn all the curriculum in two weeks, and Cookie and Zuzu usually had everything down by the third week – we can do better than this. It really is true about small class sizes. I think it’ll be okay this month, though I can see I’m going to have to be a little harsher on silliness than I used to be.

Continue reading English


Stuff published on

Alarming bits of language float around in a juku with an emphasis on English classes. Sitting on the manager’s desk today was a small piece of white paper on which someone had written “I have no regrets in life.” When I passed by again later, someone else had added a Japanese translation with some notes about the use of “in.”

People keep alerting me, in my official capacity as an American, to Michael Jackson’s death. I’m not sure what reaction I’m supposed to have. Should I moonwalk?

My life is already amply supplied with irritating things, so I don’t know why I spilled a glass of water on my laptop this morning. It just seems very unnecessary of me. Continue reading Stuff

That guy.

That guy. published on

My habit of getting online before going to work in the morning is in general a destructive one, but today it probably proved beneficial. Because if I hadn’t known about Michael Jackson when I went in today, I might have accidentally spoken Japanese when Goody Proctor told me he was dead. (Japanese like, “What?! Lies!”) She and the Devil have startled me into speaking Japanese once before.

(Goody Proctor felt the need to update me on this because Michael Jackson is on my list of names to use to make sentences with. (“Can I help you?” “Yes, I’m looking for Michael Jackson.” “What’s your sister’s name?” “Her name is Michael Jackson.”) The list goes: the students’ names, my name, the manager’s name, Michael Jackson, Taro Aso, Son Goku, Palkia, and then I start ad-libbing. Please do not ask me to explain this. My methodology was not rational.)

Zip and Zoh were extra-adorable today. I gave them a worksheet instead of their usual coloring sheets, and they swarmed me demanding coloring. (I’m unsure how it is that two six-year-olds configure themselves into a swarm, but it is a skill they all seem to have. A few very dedicated ones can actually form one-child swarms.) Zip may have attempted to climb. Having prepared for this, I had colored pencils for them. They did the worksheet with those, and obviously made every letter a different color.

I did discover that I shouldn’t make worksheets for the smallest kids using Helvetica. The lowercase a’s have the curly overhang, which I’d never really registered before. When I realized Zip and Zoh were carefully drawing out this unfamiliar letter not knowing what it was, I took the sheets back and drew in “normal” a’s for them. I luckily had time to redesign Mr. K’s before his class. Century Gothic appears to be the way to go, unless I can find some font specifically designed for kids to copy.

(Don’t ask me why, though my company is supposed to provide workbooks to go along with the textbooks, I have to make my own worksheets. I’ve been here five months and I’m still too irritated to talk about.)


Agh! published on

In speaking of Mr. Weepy, I caused him to manifest himself! I was walking back from the bank just now and saw him and his mom. They live a block away! I pass their house every time I walk to the bank or the mall! They were out in the driveway barbecuing, and Mr. Weepy was wearing gigantic safety gloves. His mom ran across the street to say hi to me, but Mr. Weepy stayed over by the grill and waved at me warily, very uncertain about my presence.

I kind of feel weird about it, too. Not to the point of taking a different route, or anything, but kind of weird. Despite my constant -ing about his classes, I like Mr. Weepy, but his parents just strike me as being pretty irresponsible.

I think Miss Hee-Hee lives nearby, too – I ran into her and her mom Thursday. For some reason, before I started this job I never got into the habit of noticing family resemblances. I think I’m doing so now because now I need to be able to tell which mom to give which kid’s homework to. Anyway, Miss Hee-Hee really is a tiny copy of her mom, except for the smirk. Same with Princess, Miss Dolphin, and Miss Ko-Omote. Cookie and his little brother (nickname Cake) look so much alike that I’ve confused them a couple times – I’m betting I would recognize their dad if he ever showed up, because they didn’t get those bugged-out eyes from their mom.


English published on

I had Mr. Weepy by himself for a make-up lesson yesterday. It was actually a really good day for him! That means that he hit me in the eye with a plastic golf club – but only once. And he said he wouldn’t do it again. I guess when he’s by himself, he doesn’t feel the need to demonstrate to Mr. Clown and Miss Foo how much tougher he is than the teacher.

Goody Proctor also had a make-up. This is only the second time I’ve had her without the Devil, and it’s hard to get a handle on her this way, because she’s pretty self-contained. It’s not just with me; she’s like that around everyone. I was kind of surprised at first, because she’s a really flamboyant-looking person fashion-wise – kind of a compromise between a Fruits girl and the Japanese interpretation of hip-hop aesthetics. Now I think she’s kind of the shy type who tries to let her clothes speak for her. (Mr. K’s mom (who’s very young) is the same type.)

It’s hard to get her interested in just games when there’s only the two of us there. When the Devil’s there, they compete, but she doesn’t want to compete with me. I finally figured out towards the end of class that she gets more interested if I let her get really free-form in coming up with sentences, instead of giving her building blocks like I do most of the other kids. Like, to Ken’ichi, Jerkface, or Kitty, if I want them to come up with a sentence in the form, “Yuzu went to school yesterday,” I have to point to Yuzu and hold up the flashcard for “yesterday.” Any less and they stall and complain about how much work it is, and their turns take too long, and the games take forever. (Jerkface and Kitty are getting better about this, but I’m close to writing Ken’ichi off as doomed in this regard. He is not a child who enjoys having to take initiative.)

Goody Proctor gets much more interested when I give her one-word prompts, or no prompt. She started asking me for vocab she didn’t know. “What’s that?” “Garbage can.” “Okay. The Devil went into the garbage can today.” Aww, Goody Proctor. I’m going to tell her you said that.

(Mee is like this, too, but then she’s very dedicated to the craft of insults.)


Hm. published on

Apparently, if two new students get confused about when class is and show up at closing time, the school would rather send them home than have me work an hour overtime. (I leave at seven on Saturdays, but the juku teachers aren’t done until eight, so they wouldn’t have been keeping the office open just for the one class or anything.) I offered, but the manager said no. I’m kind of surprised, because they’re pretty paranoid about losing the newer students.

On one hand, I’m sad Mee missed class today, because, you know, she’s Mee. On the other hand, I had a free slot this morning. I just ended up using it to manufacture more paperwork for myself, though. My spreadsheets are thorough.

Ken’ichi has forgotten his homework notebook for two weeks running. He also has a skin disease and doesn’t sleep at night. I’m worried that he might be an alternate universe version of myself. Maybe I should warn him about the hats thing.

Nantonaku Mee

Nantonaku Mee published on

On Saturday, no one came to pick Conan up after her class. This is the third time this has happened, so I was annoyed, but not really surprised. I asked Mee, “Where’s Mama? No Mama today?” Mee said distractedly, “No. No Mama.” Mee’s class is right after Conan’s, so as I did the first couple times, I brought her into the classroom with her sister.

Mee enjoys having Conan in there, partly because I have to include her in some of the games to keep her happy – which means I have to dial back the amount of actual studying that goes on – and partly because she secretly enjoys showing off her little sister’s cuteness.

As I was getting out a coloring sheet and crayons for Conan, Mee and I had a conversation.

MEE: Sarah, Sarah. Heart, heart.

ME: “Hot.”

MEE: Hot!

She opened the window, and stood there leaning out it for a second, peering contemplatively down at the side of the building. The classroom is on the the third floor.

MEE: <It’s good to go in and out the window… I didn’t come in the door! I came in the window.>

ME: Really? Well, please don’t jump out the window.

MEE: <It would be good if you climbed in the window – and then when you left, you went down a slide. That would be perfect! A slide would be perfect!>

ME: If you say so.

I didn’t think anything in particular of this conversation until class was over. Mee and Conan’s mom came stumbling in, out of breath and looking panicked. “I couldn’t come for Conan,” she wheezed. “The door was locked.”

“- the door?”

“The first floor door was locked!” She made a locking gesture for me, looking frantic. “Someone locked it! I couldn’t get inside!” Zuzu had come in with her, looking hot and sulky, very similar to an eight-year-old who’d had to stand out in the sun waiting for someone to let her in.

Mee and Conan were standing behind me. I would have expected Mee to ask a lot of questions about this, as it’s the sort of thing that would appeal to her imagination, or at least to make fun of her mom for panicking. Mee is the family’s sanguine temperament, and her mother is the melancholic. (Conan, who throws the foam ABCs at me and then cackles, is obviously choleric.) But she just walked calmly past us towards the manga shelf. Conan, taking her cue from her sister, followed her.

Mee-Mama, whose panic hadn’t worn itself out yet, noticed a sign on the wall about the mock-Eiken test and grabbed Mee’s shoulder. “Oh, Mee! I don’t think we’ve signed you up for your test yet -” I got the manager to help her with that, and applied myself to chasing Zuzu around the couch until she smiled. I guess Mee-Mama must not have had the school’s number in her phone, so she had to go look it up or something to call the office.

After they’d gotten themselves sorted out and Zuzu was safely into her juku class, I asked the manager, “How did the door get locked?”

“I don’t know. But it really was locked.”

I considered Mee’s claim of “No Mama.” I considered her abrupt fascination with the idea of entering and leaving buildings through their windows. And I considered her uncharacteristically quiet reaction to the news that her mother had been locked out.

“…Maybe it was Mee,” I said.

“Maybe,” he agreed.

English English English

English English English published on

Miss Hee-Hee was not in the mood to study today. She made claims.

Miss Hee-Hee: My turn!

Me: Your turn to what?

Miss Hee-Hee: *climbs into my chair* My teacher!

Me: Are you the teacher?

Miss Hee-Hee: Ye-es. I’m teacher!

Miss Hee-Hee communicates her ideas extremely effectively for a five-year-old. I’ve got sixth-graders who can’t get their mutinies across this well. I’m very lucky that she’s ticklish, or I would have few weapons to use against her.

Miss Ko-omote and Miss Foo asked me what color my car was. “No car!” “No car?! Do you walk to work every day?!” asked Miss Ko-omote, shocked. Their mother appeared very embarrassed by this information. Lady, I’m not living here permanently, I don’t have two kids to haul around, and I live close to the station – it would make zero sense for me to get a car.

Miss Extreme asked me today if Americans just walked around smoking pot in public like Japanese people do cigarettes. I acknowledge that I may have felt a brief impulse to say “yes.”

(It took her a second to remember the word “marijuana,” which is the same in Japanese. She said she’d seen it on TV, and that college students grow it in their rooms these days! She found this idea pretty shocking. (She’s maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight.))

Feminine problem

Feminine problem published on

My lipstick broke. (I own one (1) thing of lipstick. Sometimes I remember to wear it.) My attempts to repair it failed badly, so I got a new one at the grocery store today. My selection method was “Which brand is cheapest? I will buy that brand. In red.” There was an older lady standing there scrutinizing the lipsticks – I reached over her shoulder, took the one I wanted, and went to get my groceries. Having acquired my fish and pastries and gone to check out I passed the cosmetics section again. The woman was still there, studying the lipsticks.

(Yeah, I know, I can’t criticize. I do this with books and batteries.)

I saw one of my students outside of class for the first time on my way back – it was Mr. Wow, walking home from school with some other six-year-olds. I was across the street, and he was wearing his little yellow safety helmet very low over his eyes, so it was hard to see his face. But I thought I recognized the way he walked, so I waved at him.

I was correct. He stopped the friend he was walking with and waved back. “Hello!” he said in English. He stopped the friend he was with, so as to demonstrate his great Speaking English To The Gaijin Powers. “Sarah, hello! Hello!” He waved a little more, then got out his Pokemon thermos and waved that at me. “Hello hello!”

I worry that Mr. Wow’s cuteness may be used as a weapon by evil men.

Dame-dame! Zettai dame!

Dame-dame! Zettai dame! published on

Today was full of loud, obnoxious middle schoolers. But they were all loud and obnoxious in ways that managed to be cute, so I forgive them.

The windows were all open because it was hot. Naturally, Mee threatened to throw my stuff out them when she lost games. (She never actually did because she is sometimes kinda responsible.) We played a game that used the paper faces – I’ve never made one of Conan, but today I decided to use the Devil’s to represent her. Mee saw immediately that the face was not really her sister: “Conan’s cuter than that!” This is from a young lady who frequently repurposes her homework writing assignments to the important work of maligning her sibling.

Jerkface was finally back today. I was worried that I might have traumatized him, but apparently he was worried he might have ticked me off irreversibly – he was extra-good the whole class, all whispering Ken’ichi and Bonze words they couldn’t get and helping me clean up.

He was still loud and quickly-distracted, because he can’t help that, but he didn’t try any wrestling or shoving the whole class. Maybe I’ve finally gotten through to him on that?

He was asking me a bunch of questions – all in Japanese, of course. He wanted me to explain Alaska to him. This is difficult given his limited English vocabulary. (His problem with Alaska is that it is really big and is not attached to the rest of the United States on the classroom map.) He also asked what my “English name” is. It’s Sarah? You know my name, dude. “No, no, your long name.” It is, indeed, long. I repeated it for him, and added a “the third” to the end. “Whoa! That’s too long!”

After their class (which is my last for the day), the manager came in and asked me to come keep an eye on Leo, whose parents were late picking him up again, requiring that he bug the juku teachers and make a lot of noise.

I can now add Leo to my list of kids who cheat at cards. He lied pretty much constantly when we were playing Go Fish. When the stack was down to six cards and he hadn’t admitted to anything I needed for like seven turns, I said, “You know, if there’s only two players, you shouldn’t bluff at Go Fish.”

“I do not lie,” he informed me indignantly in English. He was, of course, lying. (He doesn’t have what I would identify as a Russian accent in English – he sounds pretty Japanese to me.)

Me having been defeated by his treachery, we switched to Old Maid. When we were down to two and three cards each, he had the Old Maid, and refused to let me draw any other card from his hand. He wouldn’t let go of them. You are subtle, my friend.

In non-middle-schooler-related news:

1) Conan taught Mr. Yodeler the Proper Way To Draw A Melon. There’s only one right way! You’re a bossy child, Miss Conan.

2) Zuzu accused me of being in my thirties, which, obviously, made it necessary that I stop class and write my actual age on the board. (I said, “No, no, no! Twenty-three! Now be quiet!” Cookie observed accurately, “You’re the one who’s being loud.”) Apparently I don’t care what she suggests about my gender, but I do care about the age thing? You’d think it’d be the other way around.

Anyway, youngest sibling – next time you see History Teacher, tell him I apologize for the thing where we thought he was like in his late thirties to early forties.

3) Mr. Sleepyhead is just as bad an ambulance driver as he is a doctor. He stopped to say hi to some dudes. I think he bought some juice, too.

Doctor Fish

Doctor Fish published on

Miss Extreme, one of my adult students, is into rock climbing, skiing, and other dangerous leisure activities. This weekend it was too wet for her to go rock climbing like she’d planned, so she did this instead.

Apparently it tickles. She showed me a picture of her feet being swarmed by flesh-eating fish. “I don’t recommend it,” she said. “I’d wanted to try it for a while, but…”