They’re growing up so fast!

Today was the nyuuin shiki, or the “entrance” ceremony for the new students. It was like a reverse graduation, except instead of everybody walking up onto the stage and receiving their diploma/certificate and then hearing a lot of speeches about how they were the future and how they would be missed, they just stood when their names were called and then we heard a lot of speeches about how they were the future and how they were welcome.

The staff and 2nd/3rd-years (it’s so weird to look at these little kids and realize that they’re now the biggest kids in the school–I guess they hit their growth spurts as the year goes on?) spent the first half of the day was spent preparing the gym. I helped to wipe down the tarps that covered the gym floor, and had to keep tugging at my shirt to make sure it wouldn’t ride up as I crawled around. When I got to the end of the long tarp I was working on, though, I looked up and saw a group of several girls staring at me, wide-eyed and startled and not smiling for a change. “Sumisa!” one gaped. “Senaka!” Another chimed in with, “Senaka ga mieru!” I quickly apologized, trying hard not to grin at how scandalized they were by this, and tugged my shirt down again as I stood up.

And then, after lunch and the staff hurriedly changing into their nicer clothes, the ceremony itself got underway, and all of the kids–and I taught each and every single one of them in elementary school–filed in. It was weird seeing all these kids, who had been in either the more lax elementary school jacket/shorts/white-shirt uniform or just casual wear, in the blue/white (for girls) and black (for boys) of the uniforms of my junior high. I actually felt a little sad and thought, “Oh, man, they’re all becoming institutionalized now, the poor things…”

(I also got a huge kick out of the fact that no fewer than 6 of my 2nd-year boys were nodding off, and the kids sitting around them were trying as hard as they could to not openly smile or laugh.)

Near the end of the ceremony, the teachers all stood up and filed to the front of the gym as the vice principal introduced us. I hadn’t been aware of this, and if I had been, I think I would have taken more care in my morning rush, because I’d pulled on a pair of brown socks to match the more casual outfit I’d been wearing, and hadn’t even considered that I would be changing into my black suit and blue shirt later in the day. So there I stood, black suit, blue shirt, brown toe socks (with a hole in the big toe of the right sock–don’t ask me how it happened, I have no idea), and bright blue indoor slippers. Great. But despite my embarrassment, I got a chance to grin at all my kids. They’re such a great group, and it’s cool to know that I’m already pretty well acquainted with them all, which will make teaching a lot easier. (Now if only I could learn all their names…)

And they totally recognized me, too, and as I was walking out of school, several of them waved me over or ran over to me, positively beaming with pride at now being official junior high students, and apparently showing true happiness at getting to see me more often, too! I’m embarrassed to admit that if not for the bright pink and blue ribbons they wore in lieu of corsages, I would have mistaken them for my first-years from last year (and did indeed make that mistake with a couple)! But it was really sweet of them. And on my walk down the hill that my junior high sits on, the car of the mother of one of my now-first-year girls–one of the quietest ones, actually, who rarely smiled or said anything in class–slowed down, and the mother offered me a ride. I got the feeling that the daughter told her who I was, which was why she slowed down, and that just made my afternoon complete.

In other news, it’s spring, it’s been raining like crazy, the Yoshinogawa (River) is positively engorged (it’s even flooded a couple of particularly low-lying roads, which didn’t seem so low last week), and it’s as humid as Atlanta is in the summer. And it’s APRIL. I wish I had time for a shower before heading out to meet Yuri for dinner in Sadamitsu…oh well. Even despite all that, today was really a good day, and it has me in high spirits for this coming academic year.

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