“Here’s your class, Miss Wormwood,” a mumbling, stilted voice manages to spit out. The screams of teenagers and howls of sensei reverberate down the halls as Miss Wormwood sedately takes her place at the front of the room.
The room is jostling with energy, convulsing with a convoluted cocktail of pent up angst and excitement. In typical Peanuts fashion, Miss Wormwood blurts out, “Mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa,” but nothing happens. The room is ablaze with energy. The other sensei slumps down in the far corner of the room, grinning all the while. She looks just like the cheshire cat, majestically moving in and out of reality without announcement.
Miss Wormwood tries to calm the class several times, but is at a loss as to what should be done. Shrieking does little more than excite the room. If she manages to silence one corner of the class, another erupts to fill the void. After a few minutes, the cheshire sensei appears and begins rapping students’ noggins with a felt marker to shut them up.
The student’s thought process is painfully evident after they are struck with a felt. They are initially stunned, thinking ‘did she just…yes, she did…what was I doing again? Oh yah, jabbering!’ And they take off again, conversing without breathing. Talking so excitedly that Miss Wormwood nearly expects them to launch out the window and into the stratosphere with elation.
“Urusai!” bellows the cheshire sensei. Miss Wormwood half expects to see a chalk brush materialize out of then air, striking one of the students upside the jaw accompanied by a plume of dust and some red, squiggly lines across their forehead. The noise of the classroom dies down to a gentle murmur. “Okay, you may begin.” And with that, the cheshire sensei returns to her seat, smiling as she fades into the background.
For those, like myself, who are familiar with the Peanuts gang, you may have wondered how it was that Charlie Brown made sense of Miss Wormwood’s convoluted speech. Personally, I never figured it out. If I knew the answer, I think my students would have a much easier time understanding when I teach alongside my cheshire sensei.
Those who are familiar with anime classroom scenes may have already surmised the surreal feeling washing over Miss Wormwood. I feel this way almost every day of the week. To be completely honest, I have seen the chalk brush flying across the room, albeit, not at the hands of a sensei. One time, I had my back to the room in order to write something on the chalk board only to hear the horrible screeching of desks and chairs being rammed out of the way by a student dragging another on their back, by the foot, across the floor like a massive Swiffer.
Unfortunately, the anime references don’t stop there. Kanchou (the infamous ‘thousand years of pain’ on Naruto) is a reality that must be avoided at all costs. Some of my fellow ALTs have reported having their breasts grabbed by other female students while us males have to watch out for the old ladies on the streets who go for the low blow, frontal assault. Having your butt smacked by your students isn’t altogether uncommon and many an uncouth thing is uttered by students in Japanese (as they assume you are a complete non-speaker) everyday. Rarely do classes go smoothly, and when they do, I wonder what mysterious force is at work and if I should up my life-insurance policy.
Regardless of these anomalies, I quite enjoy my time here. It’s easy to find things to complain about in Japan and this short entry has barely scratched the surface. Being a Miss or Mr Wormwood can be infuriating at times, but like many occupations, it has a silver lining. It allows me to live in a foreign culture, making friend’s with people I otherwise would never meet. It enables me to discover more about myself in a world that is utterly foreign.