Because each visit marks my first time at the school, I start out my lessons with a brief self-introduction, where I try to get the students excited about English by telling them fascinating tidbits about life in "America" (I'm sorry, I've given up on being P.C. and calling it the "United States" - students have no idea where that is).
For example, I'll show a picture of deep-dish pizza and will explain that each pizza is made with a full pound of cheese. I'll then flash a picture of the Chicago skyline and will tell the students that the Sears Tower is one of the tallest buildings in the world. And I'll show a picture of my sister's wedding and will explain that my new brother-in-law is over 180 centimeters tall, which giant by Japanese standards (a big shout out to D. C. Dubya!).
I then give the students a few minutes to ask me questions. Most are pretty basic, which is OK with me because they're usually asked in Japanese. They typically range from "How old are you?" to "What is your favorite color?" to "Do you like sushi?"
But today, one little boy hit me with the following:
"What's your phone number?"They're learning pick-up lines younger and younger these days. I took a moment to think about my response. I decided against giving out my Japanese ケータイ number on the off chance that I'd have 40 first graders calling me over the weekend. So, I gave out my old Chicago cell digits. I apologize to the poor soul who inherited that number - you might be getting a few calls. All of the students whipped out their notebooks and diligently wrote it down, asking me to repeat it twice so they'd be sure to get it right.
"Okay...next question, please."
"Where is your house?"
When I told them that I lived in Maruoka, the next town over, they all gasped.
"What?!? You live in Japan?!?"
What I'm thinking: "So you thought I took the red eye from Chicago to teach your class today? Right. My private jet's in the parking lot, waiting to take me home this afternoon."
What I said: "Yes, I've lived in Japan for three months."
(Has it really been that long? Sometimes it feels like three weeks, at other times, three years!)
"Are there televisions in America?"
What I'm thinking: "Look, kid, I know Japan is the most technologically-advanced country in the world, but we're not that far behind you."
What I said: "Yes, we have TV in America, just like you."
Apparently, I sufficiently impressed the students with that last one. At the end of the class, they all lined, up, pencils and notebooks in hand, and asked me for my autograph.