C U NXT Year ; -)

When it comes to spelling and grammar, I am usually a snob. I turn my nose up when “over” and “more than” are used incorrectly, and I die ever so slightly if I read, “there” when I should be reading, “their.” Further, if a friend texts me, “THX UR AWSUM,” or, “UR A QT,” the relationship is immediately over.

However, with my students, I value understanding and enthusiasm more than grammatical ability. As a result, I did the unthinkable. For my last lesson with the first-year students, I taught them obnoxious cell phone lingo. OMG. I KNO. IM SRY : -( PLS forgive me.

When I arrived in Japan, I soon learned that a new realm of emoticons exists. From “simple” happy and sad faces—(^o^) and (-_-)—to more elaborate faces such as (*^◯^*) or even impossible faces such as ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆, I was not only illiterate when it came to words, but also emotions. For my students, “English” emoticons such as : -), =0 and : *( were equally novel. After teaching abbreviations such as “GR8,” “ASAP,” “@” and “WKND,” they played a matching game using the new words and faces.

Some students even started writing slightly inappropriate texts for their friends. For example, “let’s XOXO ASAP” and “CU soon to XOXO,” but—whatever—it’s English communication, right? Finally, every group wrote me a farewell text. The messages were absolutely FAB. Check them out for yourself and you will realize why I LUV these students.

My daily dose of English

The English I am exposed to on a daily basis would surprise you. When my students have exams or holidays, I am left in the staffroom to plan lessons, make games, write blog posts or simply look busy—which means limited contact with my precious students. On certain days, I could talk to my fellow English teachers for hours or hilariously converse with teachers outside of the English office. However, on others, I am left on my own to get my daily dose of interaction.

Although my Japanese is slowly improving, my students are still well aware that their English prevails. Therefore, even those who struggle with English find it entertaining to communicate with me. For example, this morning a group of first-year boys sat near me on the train. After getting my attention, one student confidently proclaimed, “I have a watch.” Me too homie. And, so does Flavor Flav. Another, has recently concluded that my name is conveniently similar to the word ケーキ, “ke—ki,” the Japanese word meaning “cake.” His new favorite hobby is saying, “I like ‘ke—ki.’ I like Katie.”

Further, to add to the day’s eclectic English, this afternoon, as the spring breeze was blowing into the window, so did the sounds of Queen’s, “We Will Rock You.” With further inspection, one of my favorite teachers and I realized this throw-back jam was pumping from the gym’s sound-system. The students were jamming in P.E. class. Nothing readies one for success quite like Queen.

Hearing the gym’s speakers reminded me of practicing with the girl’s basketball team. I don’t practice with the team often, but when I do I can always count on listening to some solid jams. As the team prepares for practice, the managers act as deejays. Being 16- and 17-year old girls, of course, they love boy bands. Being Japanese, of course, they are on a slight delay in regards to American pop-music. So, during one practice, instead of singing Justin Bieber songs, I was taken down memory lane alongside The Backstreet Boys. With fond middle school memories of Brian, Howie, Nick, A.J. and Kevin, I felt the need to tell this favorite teacher of mine about said basketball practice and my love for those backstreet boys. I sang him a little “I Want It That Way” and told him about the rival band, ‘NSYNC.

And, how do you think he responded? After hearing the word backstreet, with a smile and big eyes of understanding, he said, “I suppose you liked them because they were bad boys with good hearts.”

Watches, cake, Queen and a personal love analysis? I think today’s English interactions were a wild success.

You’re wearing that?

There are some things in life that absolutely no one grows out of: an addiction to cherry-coke ICEEs, the joy of catching and putting lightning bugs in a jar, the confidence to occasionally rock pigtails, a dangerous passion for those spinning things on old playgrounds, and an ardent enthusiasm for playing dress-up.

Recognizing these steadfast rules of life, I adapted that last one for a warm-up activity in my classes. My students’ sidekick of a textbook had chosen to highlight vocabulary for describing clothing and physical attributes. Don’t ask me why adjectives such as plaid, checkered and striped are essential vocabulary, but they certainly make for an exciting activity.

Basically, I divided the students into teams. Each team selected one member to be the “model.” Another student drew vocabulary words out of a hat. A third student searched for the items in a massive pile of clothes and the final student dressed her team’s model.

There you have it ladies and gentlemen–a simple, yet epic dress-up battle.

Prior to this activity, I could have never fathomed the enthusiasm 15- and 16-year-old boys would display when asked to wear skinnies or a dress. I also did not anticipate that all my 15- and 16-year-old girls would adore cowgirl boots and aviators. However, needless to say, my students approve of my wardrobe–and, to top it all off–they can name and describe each accessory and article of clothing.