Sunday, February 18, 2007

Driver! ... Move! That! Bus!

Who needs U-hauls when you have students with perfectly capable arms and legs? Friday was Moving Day at Chatan High School as the temporary classrooms were moved into their own brand new building. The last two hours of the day were devoted to taking everything from "The Barracks" to the barely-out-of-hardhat-status classrooms.

I was told before arriving for duty in Okinawa that there was a new school being built. I didn't even really notice any building going on when I first showed up at school at the beginning of August. Quickly, though, a school began to take shape. But quickly, as shown by these pictures taken in August and October, a school began to take shape. Meanwhile, we were being cooked alive in metal barracks.




One morning I arrived a bit early to school and witnessed a morning meeting with the hard-hatted workers. They were doing synchronized calisthenics complete with music. Side bends, lunges, sweeping motions. Apparently, they were warming up for their day. Or perhaps they were still working from the day before and enjoying a cool-down. The rate at which this school was put up was amazing and I sometimes wondered whether the workers ever went home. They finished the main building on time, although the gym is still being built. It should also be completed in about a month and then they are going to tear down the other one.




So, anyways, Friday was the official moving day, by the time I returned from lunch, students were carrying their desks up numerous sets of stairs and while some were being very dramatic about it, most of them were taking the child-labor abuse with great stride. I wasn't sure where to place myself (no other teachers were physically carrying anything), and ended up on the top floor with the ichi-nensei rounding their final set of stairs. I cheered them on with Taiko and had a couple ask, "Sticker?!" And the funny bit was that their desks they were carrying were absolutely covered with my stickers that I've handed out since arriving.





The building was absolutely spotless and students felt guilty for wearing their shoes into the building. Each room has cubby holes for shoes and a balcony that looks out to the ocean. Perhaps the "rooms with a view" are a marketing tactic to get better students to want to attend Chatan. Every single classroom overlooks the water. My high school experience consisted of loose cows every once and awhile and "drive your tractor to school" day. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer learning in school to standing on a balcony looking at the famous Mihama ferris wheel.





We have one student at the high school who is in a wheelchair and his classroom was put on the second floor, instead of the third, as a concession to his disability. However, there is no elevator in the building. He used to be carried up and down the barracks stairwells by a couple of friends and it honestly broke my heart seeing it every time. I was upset that they didn't install a working elevator and Taiko and I discussed the legalities of this sort of situation in America. Apparently, they are installing an elevator in the old teacher's building when they renovate it. Then he can go up to the second floor in that building and make his way to his classroom via a crosswalk that will be connecting the two buildings.

After everything was moved from the metal buildings to the new school, students returned to scrub down their old rooms. There were rooms full of cleaned fans, windex being employed on windows, and a classroom with twenty boys on their hands and knees scrubbing the floor. Some of these rooms were in terrible shape, showing an utter disregard for public property. Apparently, they are going to tear down two of the buildings and renovate the others to make them into teacher's rooms in April until our building is done. Which means that there will be no air conditioning for the teachers. I already told everyone that they will find me in the library.




At the end of the day, students were summoned to the gym and were informed that someone had put graffiti on the western stairwall within thirty minutes of moving desks. The teacher asked those who saw it to volunteer information in front of everyone. He also went on to talk about students who were on the roof and others who had climbed out of windows. Even though it was past the end of school, students had to head to their homerooms and write down any information they had about the mischief that went on. Even though I am leaving Okinawa this summer, to know that some students are already defacing the building really disappointed me.

It was also a fairly momentous day for many teachers at our school. Every 3-5 years, teachers are rotated among schools and today was the day that new assignments were announced. Apparently new teachers who have finished their one year of training are usually sent to remote islands for a few years. Tomorrow I'll be able to find out where everyone is headed. There are at least four, possibly five, English teachers being moved this year, which is half of the department. The going-away parties will commence soon, I'm sure.

For now, Chatan will be enjoying the first days in a brand new building. And maybe the teachers who will be moving here in April will be feeling a bit better since apparently, being placed at Chatan High School is a let-down for most teachers. These students will be waiting for their arrival...

9 comments:

Carly said...

Wow. You've certainly had an interesting past few days.

We had a "drive your tractor to school day" too! Not that I had a tractor or wanted to drive it to school...

Rachel said...

I didn't have a tractor either... and despite plans to have a friend pick me up, I never hitched a ride to school in one either. :( And then there were the petting zoos...

Juhi said...

Its so weird, reading your blog while Extreme Makeover is showing on AFN!!
PS: My comp isnt tripping anymore for the time being!

Rachel said...

I was watching that too! Was it just me or did they not seem as excited as other families? :)

Carly said...

YAY! The pictures worked this time. (I forgot to mention that)

GAH! Who knew they had space in Japan for buildings THAT big.

And I like how everyone always gives peace signs. haha. :)

Carly said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carly said...

oops. I got click happy.

Rachel said...

Yes, for some reason...it happened with my Christmas entry too... my pictures disappeared, but it happened in the States before here. Strange.

The peace signs. You can try to resist. But in the end, you start flashing them too.

Lisa said...

Well, since I went to the same high school as Carly, it's pretty obvious I also experienced "drive your tractor to school day." I never took a tractor ... but my brother did. Those who brought a tractor that day were able to get out of school early in order to get a head start on going home. My brother, however, would just drive back and forth in front of the school. That was ... um ... special.