Whizz for atomms

The pre-learning portion of term 1* is over and the school year proper has descended upon the students with a friendly but determined glint in its eye. Lessons have begun, and I have begun to teach them.

Timetabling quirks mean that I have only taught second-year classes so far, but the anecdotes are already piling up. Many of them revolve around namecards, which I have the kids write afresh each year because their class numbers and everything change. This year I decided to have the kids not only write their name (in kanji and roman characters) but also their name's meaning -- or, at least, a literal kanji-by-kanji translation of their surname; a possible reading, if not the specific original referent of the name.

For example, a student named 伊藤, Itou, can render it "Italian Wisteria" if they want to, rather than "branch of the Fujiwara clan that moved to Ise" (with embedded gloss of "Fujiwara" as "Wisteria Plain").

Of course, some of them still aren't happy. "'White Field'? That's all I get? That's so lame!" Another kid was so disappointed by his surname that he insisted on adding the meaning of his given name, which he rendered as "Fire Base".

Then there was the boy who boasted that he could also write his name in Hangul, but, when encouraged to do so, couldn't get further than 아 (a). Unable to complete it but unhappy with a rogue a on his card, he solved the problem by lassoing the 아 with a word balloon coming from the mouth of a hastily-drawn cat. But now I am haunted by the eerie idea of a cat that says "A" instead of "Meow".

Another thing I am doing this week, as a warmup, is having them all write one sentence -- just one sentence, but it has to be perfect -- in the past tense about their holidays. Most of them are transparently obvious variations on the example I give, "I went to Disneyland", but one girl came up with the mysterious, almost noirish "I watched him go out".

"You watched who go out?" I asked.

"You know," she said. "Him."

She looked like she didn't want to talk about it. I figured maybe it was some family or boyfriend thing and, since the grammar was correct and all, decided not to press it in front of everyone else. I was pretty curious, though, about what could have motivated her to write that sentence. Cry for attention? Coded message aimed at her friends?

But then after the class, as she was leaving, she confessed that it was actually just an example sentence she'd copied from the dictionary.

* Opening ceremonies, school entrance ceremonies, meeting-the-senpai ceremonies, hair and uniform checks, all-right-so-how-much-did-you-learn-in-junior-high exams, etc.

Popularity factor: 8


Wow. Who knew the dictionary was so mysterious.


No, way. I know him. He's the one who's ruining the ozone. He's the one that kidnapped Shamoo and put 'er in a glass tank. His name's the man, Matt. And there used to be a way to stick it to the man. It was called rock and roll. But oh, no. He took that too. I think this girl's hiding more than the dictionary. She's on to something. She's stickin' it to the man in all sorts of new ways.


"But then after the class, as she was leaving, she confessed that it was actually just an example sentence she'd copied from the dictionary."

Reality, it seems, is much more disappointing and lame than the imagined drama.

As for the man, being a Japanese student of English she sticks it to him every day ... by refusing to participate in said English learning.


Hey, this time last year a student took the opportunity of a self-introduction activity to tell me about her runaway mother... drama is the norm.

Shamoo is female?


I think there have been several Shamu. I want to say that male orca are less tractable than female, but, uh, I don't know. I imagine either could savage a child like a harbor seal if they so wished.


Matt! Can it be that on top of your many other virtues, you're also...


Meanwhile, re: a couple of days ago...

"Paparazzilated"? Is that a word? (Or rather, it is now...)


You learn something new (and gruesome) every day.

Diane: Yes! I used "Back in the jug agane" as a title last year so I decided to just work my way up the list.

And yes. It's a word now!


Today, one of my teachers called on a student as "Red River-san." I thought of you.

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