Nam is chasing the sea gulls next to Huntington Beach Pier, on a fabulous afternoon in January. Justin is sitting on the pale sand smoking a cig, and I am taking pictures. This was exactly what we wanted to do on our Winter vacation.
Today the weather is excellent. The sky is a clear blue- the kind of blue you only see in the deepest reaches of the country when there is a stiff wind blowing. A good day to fly a kite, or to go sailing. And my work for the day mirrored the weather.
Soon all three hoikuens will become one, under the watch of the windmill. I have enjoyed working at the smaller hoikuens because I have gotten to know the little kids one on one. I am closer to the little ones than almost any other JET in Japan has ever had the opportunity to be, I think. So I am enjoying the last of our time together, before I must divide the time among all of the kids in a huge group as impartially as I can. My successor will never be able to connect with the kids as I and my predecessors before me, but then again working at only one hoikuen will make the job much easier. For me, the extra work was well worth the opportunities and experiences.
Today, we all played outside, everyone shoveling sand in a pile to build a huge mountain. Everyone pitched in, and we had a small hill built in ten minutes. I taught the preschoolers about volcanos and lava, by pouring bucketfulls of water in the caldera and breaching the side to let the slurry wash down a curvy channel, filling a lake. Thats what I did for work today- playing with sand and water- I mean, who else gets paid to do things like this? It's strange teaching English to such little kids because they are probably learning concepts and symbols in English at the same time or even before they learn them in Japanese. I only wish I could teach them every day...
At the shogakko, I made a huge mural with the 5th and 6th graders of Kumamoto city, complete with a street, buildings, cars, people, and anything else that they wanted to make. Giving the kids open reign on a large, communal canvas is a great way to get them interested in learning about things in English and you can feel their desire to learn English grow. Working interactively in a lesson really helps the kids to retain what they have learned well after it is taught, even without review. As of late, I have been more informal in class than usual, and this works with my students because we have developed a good balance between fun and learning, so that they make no differentiations between the two. Learning is fun, and fun is learning for right now. I hope that I have built up enough momentum in their interests so that they continue to pursue their current interests in English and the world outside of Japan.