The Hoikuen Experience

I love teaching at hoikuen, especially during the holidays. All three that I visit are completely different in regards to individuals, groups, teachers, learning environment, kyushoku (school lunch), etc… Today I went to Ubuyama hoikuen, after not coming for the two previous weeks (they were practicing for their Christmas-kai, a sort of Christmas festival unique to hoikuens as far as I know). This place is sorta like the Apollo theatre in the sense that if I do not give a fantastically entertaining lesson with lots of new games (this is harder than it sounds, as some kids are quite smart, and others can not yet talk or walk), the kids will get out of their seats and cause a ruckus, leaving a trail of detritus in the wake of their innocent wrath. In one memorable case, a kid stood up, got an Evil Ash-grin on his face, and banzai-charged me, socking me with surprising power and speed in the nuts. Constructive criticism noted, and “rebuttal” presented after a painful 5 minute recovery in the fetal position (but to clarify, this was at Nambu Hoikuen). Interestingly enough, the teachers at this hoikuen don’t really discipline the kids very much, so the stakes are high to put on a good performance. I know where they are coming from, and it pushes me to give 100 percent effort every day. A half day a week at Ubuyama hoikuen is enough for me, thank you very much. I can understand why some parents choose to put their kids on ridilin, although I think this is a huge failure of in our society on the parts of the parents as well as the educational and medical communities for recommending this drug liberally, in the majority of cases I have encountered. This is probably a reason why I love to frequently hand out candy in class.
It took me a few months to realise that although I was supposedly there to teach “English”, my time is better spent engaging the students in activities and games as the primary focus with English playing a supporting role, while creating an environment that encourages interaction. So for over a year now, its been all about having fun and designing an interface to exchange ideas and develop a dialogue between information and education, and in no way forcing the kids to learn but rather helping them to explore their interests and engaging them.
Today I came (un)prepared and it worked perfectly. I find that my muse strikes me with the best hoikuen lessons while I am actively teaching the class. Everyone participated, payed attention, and even remembered almost all of the English that I taught (this is highly uncommon at this large hoikuen, as some kids can’t speak Japanese yet), along with the gestures.
Ah, the Christmas lesson… No kids, its not all about a “special cake”, its about presents, more specifically toys. But it is important to remember that if you recieve socks, you must let the relative who gave them to you know EXACTLY how you feel. That’s right, a big uppercut to the crotchular area (your small hand sinks into the nether-regions, not unlike a phosphorescent blue Sting into Shelob’s underbelly). Now that’s the essence of cultural education.
Nah, what today’s lesson was about was Chrismas greetings, symbols, and presents (candy and stickers). After I leave, I know my kids will forever remember the various American holidays. When someone mentions “Halloween”, “Thanksgiving”, “Christmas”, or “The Fourth of July” to my kids, they will be hearing “CANDY and making toilet paper mummies”, “Candy and Turkey”, “candy and presents”, and “candy and fireworks”. And so I know that I have been a great ambassador for the United States through the JET Programme, and through sugar.
Another reason why I love teaching at the hoikuen: Kids love to ask me questions, and I feel obliged to enlighten them whenever possible, as I see fit. Today I was asked:
Hoikuen Kid: Adamu-sensei, unchi de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say shit in English)?
Me: Poo.
HK:Adamu-sensei, shikko de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say piss in English)?
Me: Pee.
HK:Adamu-sensei, chinko de Eigo wa nan desuka (how do you say penis in English)?
Me: (thinking…hmmm…these kids are damn good parrots when it comes to THIS English. Best to evade the question) Eh, henna shitsumon da. Betsu no sensei ni sonna shitsumon shite kudasai, wakatta (What? That’s a strange question. Go ask a different teacher please, understand?)?
HK: Ok, Poo sensei (ah, I am truly proud of you Saki-chan)

The kids are so friggin cute, and they remind me of myself when I was their age. They really didn’t want me to leave, and kept on telling me “Adamu dai-suki” (I really like Adam). Although touching, I wasn’t going to be late for the Chugakko, and I continued on my way, bulldozing anyone who was getting between me and the exit. Next they tried their usual “swarming fireants” attack (yes they tried to bite me with their mandibles of death, but only got mouthfulls of denim), but they were no match for my tickle and retreat counter-maneuver. So they stole my sweater (which they first stretched out by trying to climb the mountain that is me in order to get a piggy-back ride, and now it can fit Justin perfectly… hmmm… someone is getting a sweater for Christmas this year) and hid it, refusing to tell me where it was. Hahaha! Stupid kids, don’t you know that the best way to make an adult stay longer against their will is to steal their car keys and/or wallet?
In order to make sure that they remember that Christmas is not about a stupid cake, I left a pound of candy and a hundred stickers for the teachers to put in their construction paper stockings. I feel a sense of accomplishment somehow, knowing that I will not be around when the sugar rush sweeps over a classroom armed with lots of stickers.
As a fellow Boy Scout Sea Base instructor once told me “teaching kids is the best form of birth control”. Words of wisdom that haunt me to this day. I think everyone should be required to take care of other peoples’ children before they are allowed to reproduce. STDs are not scary enough to drive the “safe sex is not a bad idea” point and the “is having a kid right now a good idea” question home, but taking care of children, that’ll make you think twice about bagging the wang (although with plan will frequently backfire on those estrogen-crazed-white-fanged women who hear the call of the wild).

2 thoughts on “The Hoikuen Experience”

  1. “Pachinko, pachinko. You have no Chinko.” Sorry, this is one of my fondest memories from my visit to Japan. My host father (after a dinner party, I must add) is the greatest.

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