Owen’s first grade experiences have provided many firsts – for him and for us. We have been very grateful for the prayers and encouragement for his adjustment; and also thankful for Owen’s ability to jump into this new rite of passage with great fervor and flexibility. Here are a few firsts:
1) The first two months of first grade in Japan are spent learning the Japanese written language of hiragana. Owen has faithfully done his practice worksheets sent home every night and we’ve loved watching lights go on as he has been learning.
Every night, his teacher has sent home a printed sheet that has their homework listed, their class schedule for the next day, and any announcements a well as what they need to bring the next day. I was so moved two nights ago when he pulled out his assignment book, and for the first time, HE had written out all of his assignments and class schedule (in formal settings, Japanese write from right to left, vertically):
Isn’t that awesome? Parents have to stamp with our name seal that we have read the assignments (bottom right corner- you can make out the red seal)…. I stamped with pride!
2) Owen is learning (still in progress) how to make his own playdates…Yesterday after school his good friend Sou. rang the doorbell and came in. Owen didn’t realize it but they had made arrangements (all in Japanese, of course) to play at our house yesterday. We rolled with it. This afternoon, Owen was sitting at the table doing his homework and his friend Y. came walking in expecting to play. Another surprise for all of us. So, we still have some work to do on this one…
3) No lunch ladies at Japanese schools- nuh-uh. Or, I should say, the kids themselves are the lunch ladies. Every other week, half of the class is responsible for picking up, serving, and cleaning up lunch for the rest of the class. Each day that week during lunchtime, they don their “uniforms” during lunch (the very uniform that has got me ironing!), including masks over their faces. A few of the kids bring in the long tray that has 30-person servings on it, some of the kids serve it out to everyone, they all eat, then some are on clean-up duty. It’s all very orderly, and quite impressive. Look at this handsome guy trying on his uniform for me:
4) School Janitors are also, in essence, non-existent. The kids all have cleaning duty. All kids have to take cleaning cloths to the first day of school! The sixth graders teach the first graders how to scrub the floors, the bathrooms, the toilets… even how to properly wring out their cloths. (now- can we transfer some of that knowledge to the home front??)
5) Today was a really BIG first. Owen had finished scrubbing the floor before lunch, and he was walking to the lunch pick-up room. Suddenly Y. from the other first-grade class came over to him. Their two years of Kindergarten they were in the same class…
when we left for the U.S. she gave him a frame photo of herself that he kept by his bedside wherever we went. She came over to him and planted a big one on him. On the lips! First grade, first kiss. Between cleaning duty and lunch duty. What a -sweet – learning curve!