They Seriously Pay Me For This?

Yesterday, Aomori Koko was overrun by oodles of hopeful, eager junior high school kids taking our school’s entrance exam. In Japan, gaining entry to high school is much like getting accepted to college in America; it isn’t really based on where you live. Instead, you have to take an academic exam, and then based on your score, you’re either admitted or denied (womp, womp).

As Aomori Koko is the most prestigious school in the prefecture, lots of students show up to take the exam. (This also results in two other things: complete chaotic madness in the parking lot from all of the parents milling around and me getting more wide-eyed stares of “Wow, that is a tall 外国人!” than usual.)

The day after the exams is just one, big grading party. All of the teachers troop down to the library to set up camp for a long seven hours or so of checking exams. This is also one of the few days that more teachers are in tracksuits and jeans than not.

They also split up the instructors who teach subjects that don’t have entrance exams (like gym, calligraphy, music, art, etc) among the other ‘academic’ subjects. That meant that English teachers got one of my favorite gym teachers to help check the exams, and every time one of the other teachers would come ask me a question, he’d either a.) express amazement and refer to me as “the human dictionary”, or b.) insist that they should by directing all questions to him instead.

All the teachers shut up together in one big room for the day...
All the teachers, separated by subject, shut up together in one big room for the day…

My job is to just sit with the English teachers and answer any questions that they might have about the validity of some of the more creative responses. (For some reason, I can help check all of the normal exams for all three grades, but am not asked to help with the actual marking of the entrance tests.) This basically translated me into getting to hunker down and read, write, and wander around the recesses of the Internet for an extended period of time. Definitely not a manner in which I particularly mind spending my workday…I think my most meaningful contribution for the day was teaching my coworkers what a “spork” is.

I also love this day because all of the departments order in lunch. Last year, the English teachers ordered in these amazing 鰻丼 (unagi-don, eel rice bowl) that still make my mouth water when I think about them. I was hoping for a repeat of that this year, but instead we got bentou boxes instead. I didn’t really mean to, but I ended up eating all of mine, because it was so delicious…and then five minutes later, my overly full stomach started screaming obscenities at me. Whoops.

My lunch, in all its glory.
My lunch, in all of its glory.

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