To: newsletter
From: "Peter M. Rivard"
Subject: Professionalism

Hi, all,

       Well, I'm nearing the point of total acceptance--some of the last of the first years are finally losing their fear of me. At Manyo, we have a group of very tiny first year girls (a set of minute triplets, two of whom are nearly identical, and two close friends of theirs) who have been pretty shy toward me, long after most of their classmates have passed into goofy mock-shyness or joking around relationships with me. Yesterday, there were finally signs of movement among the triplets. They are Yurie, Marina, and Shiori (Yurie and Marina are identical but for size--Marina is a tiny girl, but Yurie is, when curled up, the size of a large cat--though Yurie has recently changed her ponytails so they are no longer identical to her sister's), and their friends are Sayo and Miyuki (for those of you who saw my video of Manyo, Miyuki is the girl who runs away from me in the hall, shielded by Marina [ponytail] and Sayo--Sayo's older brother is the boy who often addresses me using western women's names, usually "Jennifer" or "Jolene"). Anyway, earlier last week I accidentally called Marina "Yurie" (before Yurie's new hairdo, I couldn't tell them apart if there weren't other small kids around to set the scale), so when I wandered into a classroom after school and found both sisters together, they tried to persuade me that Yurie was Marina and vice versa. I asked a couple of other kids and the homeroom teacher, who was correcting papers at the front of the room, which was which, at which of course the three girls hastened to "remind" the teacher and their friends which one was which (I talk to these three about half in Japanese, so I don't know why they still assume I won't understand them--though maybe that reflects on the quality of the Japanese they hear me speak). When it became pretty obvious that I wasn't buying it and was only pretending to be confused, they broadened the scope a bit by trying to tell me that Miyuki was their sister Shiori. Very cute. I was thrilled that they've gotten comfortable (and friendly) enough to tease me. After I left, I saw Sayo in the hall, so I said (Japanese in italics):

Sayo is a little less shy and is pretty used to my teasing, but it must say something about the kinds of weird things kids expect of me now that she just sort of accepted the ridiculous self-assurance of my correcting her about who she is. Of course, I was thinking that 30 seconds later she'd walk into her classroom and say something to Miyuki et al. about how strange that Peter-sensei can be, and they'd explain it to her and all laugh. You can see how well my social life is going, that my chief entertainment is flirting with 12 year old girls.
       There are still two girls who are terrified of me. One (who doesn't stutter in Japanese) stutters several times before steeling herself to reply "I'm fine, thank you" when I accost her in the hall, and the other still runs away and hides behind her friends when she sees me coming. Because she looks truly frightened, I very rarely approach her (and even when I corner her, I stop after saying "hello" and skip the dreaded "How are you?"). Maybe after a few more months of "Hello" she'll be up to "How are you," and two years from now I'll be able to ask her what her name is without scarring her too badly. The boys, while on the average less enthusiastic about me at Manyo, are also much less likely to be intimidated by me.
       At Go-chu, as I've mentioned, it's the boys who are enthusiastic and the girls who are quieter. In fact, today I found reason to teach the Go-chu first years a new word: "pervert." One first year in particular is really excited about learning new and mildly dirty English (I'm sure he thinks it's scandalous; he actually approached the scandalous for the first time today); he must have an older brother who teaches him some of this stuff. In elementary school, when the other sixth-graders were saying things like "big size" and "penis big," he was the first one to come out with the slightly more esoteric "pubic hair?" After a few months at Go-chu, he came out with a new motto: "I have a watergun" (said while pointing at his crotch)--in fact, he said this so often that I've been thinking of him in my head as Tadafumi "I have a watergun" Kobayashi. Lately, it's been "Do you play sex?" While I generally don't respond much to this kind of stuff (and of course I never answer about "playing" sex ["playing" actually makes sense the way the kids are taught English]), I couldn't contain myself the first time I got the "watergun" line (encouraging response [in Japanese] from professional teacher collapsing in laughter, "that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard," which turned out not to be discouraging at all). Anyway, today, when I gave a nonanswer to enqueries about whether or not I "play sex," Tadafumi offered the insight that "Takashi plays sex every day." While Takashi, whose English is pretty good, began his assault on Tadafumi, Tadafumi expanded his observation: "Takashi play sex first time with sister." Frankly, I was stunned as much by his intelligibly putting together such a complicated thought (for a first year at his level) as I was by its perversity. I liberated Tadafumi from Takashi's headlock (Takashi understands enough that I may well have saved Tadafumi's life) and put him in one of my own, then dragged him from group to group, telling each group, "New word. 'Pervert.' 'Pervert' is 'sukebe' in Japanese. Kobayashi is a pervert." Needless to say, this attention also failed to discourage him. Mrs. Sugimoto, the regular English teacher (this was just before class), no longer wonders why Peter has a student in a headlock and is dragging him around the room. (Note: this is horseplay, not corporal punishment or felonious assault.)
       Anyway, this gives you a couple of mental images of what kind of teacher your old friend has become (I are a deddicaited perfeshunal).

O genki de,



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