This week heralds the first in which I have been at a high school during exam week, and not been hovering constantly on the edge of hyperventilation/heart attack/incontinence due to attacks of nerves. This is, of course, because I am no longer on the receiving end of those exam scripts, that metred time, those red pens. My heart goes out to those who still are subject to that certain stress (my dear sister, my wonderful friends, suffering still at the hands of the Gods of Law, who do be vengeful gods), but I do feel an unmitigated smugness as I construct the marking schedule, find my median, and moderate according to personal whim and the unpredicatable scale of my own desire for a cheeseburger. After all, I was made martyr to Exam Week for most of my life - I remember one exam period during high school where I spent no less than 12 hours in English exams alone - it is only fair that I should extract pleasure from the same circumstance where I may. Because where Exam Week means tears, and sorely smudged fingers and possibly dashed hopes for the average student, for the English teacher so new that her shoes are not yet worn in, it means something entirely different.
It means a 10am arrival at school, as opposed to the usual 8am requirement.
It means a casual dress code, whereby I am currently clad in yellow tights and a short skirt with flowers in my hair.
It means SNACKS. I have so far been presented with a large mocha and a chocolate orange. It means the constant intake of said SNACKS throughout the day.
It means a day spent SITTING rather than STANDING.
It means no lesson preparation, no sleeping students in class, no swollen feet and no liberally chalk-dusted shoulders (I have an unhealthy attachment to the pink chalk, so always end up looking like have particularly violent strain of dandruff).
It means smilingly bypassing every one of the numerous and deadly landmines of the Japanese classroom.
That said, it also means facing the reality that despite 6 weeks of slavish dedication to the furtherance of the English skills of some 120 promising young students, the majority of them still believe the past tense of 'ski' to be 'skyed'. But one cannot win all one's battles.
Today has therefore been spent, armed with red pen and coffee, facing 120 literary masterpieces on the subject of the imminent winter vacation (in 60-80 words) (or in one student's case, 9). From what I have read, many of them will be studying. Still more will be skying. One student faces the interesting prospect of the purchase of 'food hall' shoes. I wish him all the luck of the Irish. Japanese students are unerring polite, so many will conclude their essays with 'Thank-you', which makes you feel a little mean-spirited for presenting them with a grand total of 4 marks out of 20 (two of them gleaned through the ability to double-space, one through the admirable ability to count words written (23)).
Despite recurring incomprehensibility, dramatically bad spelling and a cliched adherence to 'r's over 'l's ('I was rearry tired'; 'I will be grad when it is holidays'; and, from one contradictary soul, 'It was rearry scaley' (scarey, for those ill-versed in Engrish)).
One might think that this would be a great trial for a FOB English teacher with a genuine love for the language she disseminates, but really, it is a joy. Once you have inured yourself to the predicatable repetition ('This winter vacation I will read books. I could not read books in my summer vacation because I was busy. So this winter vacation I will read books, because I am not busy') and distinct aversion to double-spacing, you can enjoy spotting, and rewarding, the original, and the idiosyncratic.
To the student who wrote 'Do I like studying? Not so much' I give you KUDOS, for that sentence could have come from my very mouth.
To the student who wrote 'I will become a crever girl!' CONGRATULATIONS for making me choke on aforementioned chocolate orange.
To the girl who spelt 'shoes' with three 'o's, no one will ever fault you phoenetically.
And to the esteemed author of 'I wont to study herrd at school because I wanting to Engish teacher be it', good luck. Methinks thou shalt need it.