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2004-11-30 7:37 p.m.

a day in the life

Whoa. I think I actually had a good day at the middle school today.

For starters, I actually had something productive to do when I wasn't in class (I average about two 45 minute classes a day). Wonder of wonders, yesterday Matchan actually assigned me to prepare a 20 minute lesson on one of the textbook readings for the second years. So I had that, and I was also working on writing a test for my high school kids on the lessons I've given them so far.

I knew this 20 minute lesson would be my opportunity to show Matchan that I'll put my money where my mouth is and that she can trust me with more teaching responsibility, and I was determined to do it well. And I did. Later Matchan told me she was very pleased with it; the students enjoyed it, actually learned the material, and also gained a little confidence in realizing that maybe they can do this English stuff, after all. She said she wants to use the lesson with the other classes, too. And that was, I believe, the first time Matchan has complimented me.

Plus, about a month ago the kids had all taken a day to go out to various places on the island and paint something for art class. All the paintings were then collected, and the art teacher gave awards for the best paintings (one of which was truly astoundingly well done), and then gave all the teachers (including myself) the opportunity make up our own "award" and give it to the painting of our choice.

I picked a painting that, honestly, kinda sucked. However, the kid used a painting style quite different from all the other kids (I suspect more through incompetence than inspiration) that somehow gave his picture a wavy, smudgy Monet kind of feel, as opposed to the straight lines and clear boundaries of the other kids' paintings. (Monet is my favorite painter.) So, yesterday evening I declared him the winner of the "Impressionist Award."

This kid was SO happy to have received an award for his painting (even if he doesn't know what "impressionism" is). He was beaming all day. It was awesome. (He seems to suddenly be more interested in English, to boot.)

But somehow, the most awesome thing that happened today was really trivial. Y'see, I have this pen flipping trick thing I do that I learned in high school and have been doing obsessively ever since. If you've ever met me in person, you know what I'm talking about. Where I grew up the technique wasn't uncommon, but in Vegas and here in Japan most kids have never seen it, and they're always fascinated by it and curious to learn how to do it. The thing is, though, it's one of those things that takes a lot of time and practice to learn, even though once you've finally gotten it it's as easy as breathing. Most kids try and fail for about five minutes and then give it up.

But today I caught one of my kids actually doing it! She's actually one of the first kids I met, the one who I nicknamed "Yankees" on the first day of class (I haven't given out any other nicknames). I congratulated her on her success, and she seemed pleased. I can't say why, but it just made me really happy to see it. I just couldn't stop smiling the rest of the day (which is a very rare state for me to be in).

Somehow I'm just gratified that SOMEONE learned SOMETHING from me, especially a skill so near and dear to my heart. I guess I'm easy to please.

Or maybe I've just lowered my standards.

I can see it on my resume now: English teacher, The Rock Board of Education, July 2004 to July 2006- Taught English to students of all levels. They didn't learn a damn thing about English, but under my expert tutelage AT LEAST ONE student mastered the art of American Mormon Sphere Style Pen Flipping.

(I'm still working on mastering the local style of pen flippery.)

(And I should say that honestly, I'm fairly pleased with the progress the preschoolers have been making in learning English.)

One article. It's an oldie but a goodie. Somehow it just doesn't seem like kids should have to live like that in modern America. It made me very sad, reading it. But their coping mechanism is quite fascinating. I'd be curious to learn more about that.

I definitely remember hearing about Bloody Mary as a kid. Oh yes, I knew all about her. One way I heard of summoning her was just to say her name three times in front of a mirror (preferably in a dark room), kinda like in the article. Another more elaborate method I remember involved splashing water on a mirror. Then, if "Bloody Mary" was said eleven times (it didn't matter if it was the same person who said all eleven or whether they were said one after another or just in the course of conversation about her), then at 11:11 PM Bloody Mary would come. By late elementary school I would have said I didn't believe it was true, but could you have gotten me to test it? Hell no. In fact, I'm not sure I'd do it now...

When people ask me what I'm afraid of, I have trouble coming up with an answer. Mirrors in the dark are pretty freaky, though.

I should wrap it up, but I want to knock out a few film reviews for ya.

Van Helsing. I liked it. I thought it did exactly what it set out to do. Though the aerial syringe passing at the end was a little too much for me; I like the action in my action films to at least SEEM like it might actually be possible. Anyway. 3 stars

Howl's Moving Castle. It was awesome. It was great. It was superb. In some ways better (or at least more thoughtful) than the book. It veers sharply off course from the book's plot about halfway through, though, and I wasn't always 100% sure what was going on. Gotta study more Japanese. 4 stars

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Visually very enjoyable, but I found the plot slightly uninteresting. I recognize that the overboard cliches were intentional, but that doesn't make them much less boring. However, it was still pretty cool, all in all. 3 stars

The Village. The surprise twist ending was pretty disappointing. However, I really liked some of the characters. So, 2 stars.

Tomorrow is December.

a little better all the time,