Kids Say the Darndest Things: Japan Edition

I realized that recently my blogs have been somewhat depressing and not related to the reason I’m in Japan (which is teaching English, if you forgot). For this reason, I’ve decided to share some of the daily perks of being a teacher in Japan.

So first of all, like I’ve said a million times, Japanese kids are the cutest. My favorites are the first graders. The new school year starts in March, so there are quite a few new little kiddos I have yet to meet! I have had the pleasure of teaching the first graders at one of my elementary schools twice now though, so naturally we’re BFFs. The last time I was there, the kids asked me if I dyed my hair. When I said, “No,” one girl ask if I was the same Kori as last time. Yea. Then a boy asked me how to say teeth. I LOVE FIRST GRADERS.

I also love first graders in junior high, which are actually 7th graders. I know most of these weirdos already because I taught at their elementaries, but it’s been really fun getting to know them on a different level. Before I only saw them once or twice a month and now I see them every week! Sometimes three times! WOO! I’m probably way more excited about that than they are, though.

I have this one kid who went to a school that I did not teach 6th graders at, so he’s relatively new to me. The first time I taught his class, I read his name from the seating chart because we were learning the alphabet, and I used his name as an example for a word that starts with “R.” I don’t know what it is about kids, but they love it when you know their names. So, of course, when I said his name he instantly fell in love with me. I knew it was true when he started spelling “SEX” to me every time he saw me. (Side note: If there is one word Japanese people know how to spell in English, it’s sex. Who knows why.) Anyway, I ate lunch with his class recently, and he greeted me at the door with a big, “It’s KORI!” Then he told me to go sit by his desk, but unfortunately for him, the teacher gave me a seat near the front of the room. No matter, little R came over and sat in someone else’s seat. And of course he started talking about sex again.

I do this thing where I pretend like I can’t speak Japanese. I can understand it, but I can’t speak it. Sorry. This works for the older kids, but only because I’ve told them that from the beginning. The 7th graders, on the other hand, know me from elementary when they didn’t know English, when I had to speak to them in Japanese. They don’t like the non-Japanese speaking junior high me. So they all beg me to speak Japanese, and I sort of give in because they’re cute and actually talk to me.

Back to the story, little R was blabbering on about this and that and sex. I told him not to say that, and he asked why. “気持ち悪い!” (kimochi warui=gross or bad feeling. If I could choose one word to describe junior high kids in Japan, it would be this. Or KIMOI. It has a stronger feeling). Another kid asked me if I like milk. “Definitely not,” I said and asked if he wanted my carton. Little R did. Of course he did. So I gave it to him. The other kid freaked out and thought it was all a joke. But little R took my milk and lunch time began. The girls at my table were laughing and saying how weird little R is. Especially because he came back to my table, not once, but twice to try to return my milk. He even asked me from his table if it was okay to accept it. I insisted I didn’t need it, so I guess he drank it. Whatever. After the kids finish their lunches, they’re allowed to talk to their friends at other tables. Little R came back. He said, “It’s KORI!” again. This time I said, “Who are you!?”

He looked straight at me, with the most serious tone, and said, “コリ先生、英語わかんないって。日本語で言って。”

“Miss Kori, I said I don’t understand English. Say it in Japanese.”

Ok. I translated. “お前誰?”

I don’t know what I did, but he got (playfully?) mad and said I was annoying and that he didn’t want to talk to me anymore. He didn’t leave though. He stood and sulked behind the laughing girls who thought my response was hilarious. I said I was sorry, but he told me to never talk to him again. I said okay.

A little later, I caught him scowling, and I asked if he was mad at me. He said very. So I apologized, the whole time thinking this was hilarious. After the bell rang, I left the classroom and discovered him in the hallway. I told him we were friends, but he said we weren’t. SO SAD. We passed the naughtiest 7th grader, who I’m sure will make a reappearance, and we greeted each other. He told me little R said he loves me. I think I’ve officially broken my first Japanese heart.

Other than that, my most exciting moments probably happen when I teach the 9th graders. Most of these kids talk to me, and there are even a few who willing approach me to practice their English. What I like most about this age group is that they know the most English, and they like to practice weird things they’ve learned. One day a student I was thought was creepy but later decided was just pubescent told me, in English, that he’s married. A few days later, after I taught him the meaning of wife, he said at the end of our lesson, “My wife is a beautiful woman.”

I laughed. The grammar was perfect, and his random English outburst caught me off guard. The kids around him asked what was going on and he translated for them. Perfect. He didn’t just learn a weird phrase. He studied it and knew what it meant. He’s kind of up there on my list now. But mostly because he once talked to me for an hour after school in the teacher’s room.

Little things happen like that a lot now. I’ll be eating lunch with students and out of nowhere someone will say, “Do you know One Direction?” or “This dish is made out of fish,” and often a good English conversation follows. I’m seriously going to bawl when these 9th graders graduate to high school. I adore so many of them.*

I don’t know, maybe it just feels nice or whatever, but imagining being popular among junior high kids makes me happy. Even if it is a little weird. Could you imagine if I was this popular with junior high kids when I was actually in junior high. Man, that would have been great.

I think I’m going to start doing little weekly kid updates. Let me know if you like these! じゃね!


*Since starting this post, some of the kids have gotten a little weird. Recently, various body parts and bodily functions have become more exciting than boy bands and school lunch. I’ll keep ya updated.


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