Friday, December 24, 2010

Now I Know Why My Son Calls Me Krampus

This past week I was once again rattling my ping-pong ball brain around in my skull, trying to knock loose from my miserly sub-conscience another of his multitude of ultra-creative, neuron-growth-stimulating ideas for my Tuesday evening English class. Last month I decided to broaden my students’ vocabulary as well as their intercultural awareness by showing them photos of my recent trip to California. This worked well for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that it gave my students a way to feel they were fully participating in class without having to say anything more than ooh and ahh.

With the Christmas season upon us, and with Japanese society in general not having the slightest clue how to properly celebrate, I wanted to incorporate a Christmas theme into our ninety-minute lesson that usually ends up lasting no more than an hour because someone, like the teacher, is always late. Singing Christmas songs seems an obvious option, but after teaching that Beatles class earlier in the year I knew no one would be able to hang with a tempo any quicker than ‘Silver Bells’ and personally I know my sanity wouldn’t survive the class because they don’t allow spiked eggnog in the building. Last year I asked them to translate a children’s Christmas book; my preparation for this consisted entirely of plowing through all the Santa and Snowman and cartoon ‘Zheesusu’ stories my wife had borrowed from the library and picking out the shortest one. Two hours later my students were bleeding through their foreheads trying to translate the sounds Maisy the mouse, Tallulah the chicken-like thing, Charley the alligator and Eddie the elephant made as they walked through the snow. No disrespect to Lucy Cousins but I will not be trying that again.

This year I am arguably older and wiser, and I thought it would be interesting for my students and quite easy on my ping-pong ball if I put together a list of little-known facts related to Christmas. But when I sat down to a piece of white paper, pen in hand (my printer is broken, has been for two years and isn’t getting better), it occurred to me I know pretty much jack about Christmas beyond church and Charlie Brown (not to downplay the significance of either of these). So I turned on the laptop, made a cup of hot chocolate and folded an entire load of laundry waiting for it (the laptop) to warm up, then googled and scribbled down the most easily-explainable bits of Christmas history and trivia I could find before my son came in to demand I let him use the pc to watch Barney, one of the dozens of DVDs we have from the US that won’t play on our Japanese DVD player.