I knew something was up with Kamei sensei from the moment he greeted the class. I've taught with Kamei sensei for a year now, and, as we would say in English, "he wears his heart on his sleeve." EXTREMELY unusual for a Japanese man. First case I've witnessed, to be honest. I've learned, for instance, that if Kamei sensei greets the students in his ultra-genki voice (read "yell"), they had better be on their toes.
That's right, folks. Kamei sensei is in a mood.
And so, last Wednesday, I knew things were, shall we say, amiss. I ploughed through the material, keeping his impending explosion in the corner of my mind. The material was quite easy, really. Easy and interesting. Ten simple facts about how I spent my vacation in Canada. Ten simple sentences that the students needed to follow on the board, and "repeat after me."
And so it went... Kathy: "Repeat after me: She went to Niagara Falls." (only a minor lie)
(Half of) the Unfortunate Students: "She went to Niagara Falls."
Kathy: "She enjoyed her sister's hot tub."
(Half of) the Unfortunate Students: "She enjoyed her sister's hot tub."
Kathy: "She played volleyball on the beach."
(Half of) the Unfortunate Students: "She played volleyball on the beach."
Kamei sensei: "Excuse me, Mrs. Epp, but can I interrupt for a minute?"
Kathy: "Of course, Mr. Kamei. Go ahead." (Unspoken message behind my smile: "Shit! Head for the hills!!!!!!!!")
And then, ***WHAM!!!*** Kamei sensei's fist on the blackboard, and a series of: "なんだよ！" And many more Japanese-style "blah diddy blahs" which I did not fully comprehend. (But fully enjoyed!)
What I did understand was that he was not impressed with their lack of enthusiasm. WOW, and I thought this was just the norm. I know this is a pet peeve of Kamei sensei's, since one of our most commonly used Japanese expressions in class is, "大きいこえで，ください。" (In a loud voice, please). He proceeded to give them a series of directions which I didn't understand, and then he abruptly left the room. I understood that they had 10 minutes to do whatever it was that they had to do.
After some interaction with the bemused and confused students, I figured out that they had to memorize one of the ten sentences on the board. None of us knew why.
Ten minutes later, a jaunty Kamei sensei re-entered the room. He looked about a bit, and then proceeded to the balcony (which directly faces the teacher's room). He then yelled the-dear-Lord-only-knows-what to the heavens, at the top of his voice. I started to earnestly concern myself with his sanity (as well as the astonishment of the teachers in said teacher's room). He then spouted off some instructions to the students and, once again, left the room. The students responded with the near-famous Japanese chorus of "eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhh??????" (read with super-rising intonation) as they looked at one another. And then they went outside.
I followed. Confused, and bowing my apologies to a surprised (and also bemused) Kimura sensei in the hall. We went outside.
The following events took place in the morning of August 31st: We went outside; Kamei sensei stood in the middle of the field; a mini stage was set up near the school (there for our upcoming sports' day). And yes, 10 unfortunate losers of jan-ken (paper, rock, scissors) had to stand on the stage and yell their chosen sentence at the top of their lungs. Once again, our location was in uncomfortably close proximity to the teacher's room and I was left wondering what was being said about our newly inspired pedagogy. Yikes.
Kobayashi-kun went first. He was fantastic. I am sure most of the neighbourhood heard him scream: "SHE WENT TO NIAGARA FALLS!!!!!" The rest of the students were less inspiring, but humorous nonetheless. I never knew my summer vacation would be broadcast for all the world to hear.
After much yelling and general confusion, Kamei sensei came back to the group of us (I had been trying to encourage the students in any way I could think of), spouted off more directions, and, once again, charged away from the scene.
The students all looked at me and said, "Kyashi (their form of Kathy) sensei, どうする？”(rough translation: what the heck are we supposed to do now?" I responded with, "ぜんぜんわかりません” (rough translation: damned if I know). And then we proceeded to sit around, practice dance moves for the upcoming sports' day, play 'see-see my playmate...' whatever came to mind.
At one point, I realized my next class was also with Kamei sensei, teaching the same grade the same lesson. I envisioned myself once again coaching students on their yelling technique while sweating buckets in the disgustingly humid Japanese heat. I exclaimed a loud “やだ！！！” (rough translation: this SUCKS!) and the students all laughed at my expense.
But I was saved. Luckily for me (and all other parties involved), by the time I made it to the next class, the rumour mill had done its job, and Kamei sensei and I were both greeted with a super-genki "GOOD MORNING!!!!!" And so the class continued, without a hitch.
The next chapter in the story of Kamei sensei: