From: Peter Rivard
Date: Tue Apr 8, 2003 11:51:41 PM Japan
Subject: Things you can learn about me on the back wall of the language classroom
Peter's News Paper!!
by Yuki, Misae, and Miki
Peter Riverd born on 1968, March twenty-second at Boston. He is 34 years old. He likes food Sashimi in Japan, and French food in America. He doesn't like small smelly fish. His hobby is take many pictures. English and math and science are his favolite subject. He is good at ski. He likes singer.
School in Boston
junior high school is start at eight. School is over at 2:30. They have three minutes break between classes. Students don't have any club activities. They have English, Mathematics, science, social studies, and Catholic class religion. Teachers are nuns and strict. They have many homework and it takes three hours to finish it. Students in the seventh and eigth grades go to junior high school. Students in the ninth grade go to high school.
Peter's Love storry.
His first love is thirteen. The girl is Missy. She was very shy girl. He didn't have much money. He couldn't date her. He kissed her when he was thirteen. First kiss was in a closet. -END-
Peter's a week!
He gets up at about seven. He goes to school at eight. He teaches English about four classes. After school he makes fun of student. He gets back home at about five thirty. Before go to bed he plays internet and e-mail. He goes to bed at about twelve.
Now ten o'clock. I have breakfast. Sometimes he goes shopping with his friend. He eat Sushi in Shingozushi. He goes home at twelve. He exchange e-mail. He goes to bed at about two.
(end of kids' newspaper)
OK, so now ALL my secrets are out. This was based on extensive research--a lengthy interview by Miki and Yuki transcribed by Misae. I think Miki and Yuki made Misae the writer just for fun--she's bright but has never been enthusiastic enough to pick up much English, which made her attempts pretty amusing to the other two. This was condensed from a good half an hour of interviews; it's a good guide to what three Japanese girls thought was important. I think you can imagine which part, however short it ended up being on paper, held the most interest and the most questions during the interview (what the hell was I thinking telling these girls this stuff?). I got even by teasing them mercilessly about their own still-to-come first kisses. "How about Yoshitsugu?" (pointing across the room to one of my favorite boys). "Yoshi's pretty cool. Hmm, Yuki?" They seem to have gotten even by asking the regular teacher (in Japanese, of course), "How do you say `make fun of' in English?" Another group also decided, without asking me, that "his hobbies are taking pictures and making fun of students." Indeed, one of my favorite pastimes in school is making fun of Yuki, Miki, and Misae; Yuki is especially bold about making fun of me, too (she's the only current student to address me as "Pi-san" when there aren't any other teachers around [I imagine before I leave she'll have graduated to the cutesier and more intimate "Pi-chan"]).
In case you're wondering about levels and general English proficiency, I'd guess that the effort above falls around the 70th percentile of what students at Manyo can do after two years of study (maybe around the 80th percentile of students in Japan at the same level), but nowhere near what the more enthusiastic students can turn out. Note that although there are a lot of small errors, it's pretty easily understandable. Yuki is enthusiastic and quite clever, but mostly about teasing me, and she can communicate in English pretty well when she chooses; Miki has for some reason inspired me to tease her for the last two years, which seems to have brought her motivation and ability to a little above average; Misae... well, I think Misae's banking on the whole "cute" thing somehow working our in the long run.
For some reason, another kid I really like, another one of the former misfits I've been encouraging for a long time, was really fascinated with the American system of optometry. She asked my glasses prescription and how that equated to the Japanese system, tried out my glasses (versus her own) in quantitative tests, and spent a good ten minutes asking me about how eye charts and eye tests work in America. In the end, her and her partner's report on the ALT was largely an illustrated exercise in comparative optometry. Odd what can grab some kids' interests. Yoshitsugu and partner's report mostly focused on my explanation of my favorite sport, ice hockey (sumo's pretty cool, but I'd rather see a solid hip check into the boards any day). In the information gathering stage, I enjoyed demonstrating a hip check on Masaya, one of Yoshi's partners, more than I did sketching eye charts, although I was fairly amused by the strange depth of Asuka's interest in the subject.
Obviously names (and more) will be changed before this letter ever hits the internet. As weird as this bunch may seem, I'm pretty fond of all of them, and I wouldn't want to embarrass them in front of too large an audience.
I've just started a new academic year here, with my old third years gone and a new crop of first years. I've been really conscious of having only a few months to get to know the new kids, and only a few months left with the older kids I've become so fond of. I don't know what's coming next, but these three years have been the most rewarding and enjoyable job I've ever had; leaving Manyo and Go-chu isn't going to be easy.
O genki de
p.s.: I'm sorry, Missy, wherever you are! Is it still too late for us?