Tag Archives: students

Happy New Year!

It was a little creepy, walking to the shrine at midnight a few days ago. The blizzard was blowing snow in my face and the wind was roaring and rattling the street signs. There was no sign of anybody else, except for the footprints in the snow ahead of me that hadn’t yet been wiped out. I could dimly hear the bell ringing at the shrine (it takes awhile to ring it all 108 times!).

Every year, I try and keep track of the people I meet around midnight, usually counting up to same number as the year. Last year, I didn’t get to twelve before the first ended, but this year the shrine priest’s wife lured me inside with alcohol, fruit, and a cat. The first 13 people of 2013 were: the cop directing traffic outside, the priest’s wife and her three assistants and two daughters, two of my junior high school students, the cat, the priest and his son, and lucky number thirteen – Nene, one of my preschoolers. Who was stunned to see me there, to the point that she actually stopped talking for once.

For all that my students see me shopping around town, I’m fairly sure some of them think I live in a box on a shelf in the junior high school.

I celebrated alone at home with TV specials and, of course, that most traditional of meals:

Fondue!

Fondue!

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I Love You

Or at least my students do. And they’d be happy to tell you so if you came here.

Like ‘hello’ and ‘cheese’, ‘I love you’ is one of the English words/phrases that all of my students, including the preschool ones, seem to know right off the bat. They learn it from TV or advertising or older siblings…and I’m not sure they understand quite how ‘strong’ a phrase it is. I mean, English-speakers regularly say things like ‘I love cheese!’ or ‘I love this dress!’, but ‘I love you’ is pretty much reserved for use between relatives and romantic partners. I mean, I have good friends that I love, but you probably won’t catch me saying ‘I love you’ to them. I have a hard enough time saying it to my little brother.

Japanese junior high schoolers are not like this. They will say ‘I love you’ to anyone they think has a chance of understanding them, especially if they are female. However, my male colleague down in Esashi admits that he gets it fairly often from his students, both male and female.

For example, when I studied abroad in Nagoya in 2008, my daily walk to the subway station took me past a city junior high school. The students would wave if they saw me and one day a clutch of girls caught sight of me across the street.

Girls: *waving frantically* Hello!

Me: Oh, hello!

Girls: How are you?

Me: Alright, how are you?

Girls: *nervous tittering*

Girl: I LOVE YOU!

Me: O_O

Now, I’m used to it. The eighth graders all wrote me Christmas cards last year and at least 2/3 of them featured professions of love (sometimes for my games, not me). Most of the correspondence I receive through the message system involves ‘I love you’ in some form or another.

And then there’s this:

???

???

Difficult to make out? It’s ‘I LOVE YOU’ stomped into the snow, on the path between the town gym and the road, behind my workplace. ::sigh::

Of course, I wanted to test my hypothesis, to see what my students thought the word ‘love’ meant. In class, I took one seventh grader and placed him at the front of the class and wrote a word on the board that he couldn’t see. The other students had to give clues in English to help him guess. With different students, I did ‘cat’ and ‘school’ and ‘October’. With the last girl, I tried to see what they would come up with for ‘love’.

Girl: I’ve had this.

Boy: I haven’t had this.

Boy: It’s big.

Girl: It’s pink.

Teacher: I think of it as being red.

Boy: This is how I feel about tomatoes.

Boy: This is how I feel about basketball.

The girl guessed correctly at that point, though she admits she was warring between it and ‘favorite’.

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