Recreation or Non-Creation?
I perked up as best I could in my half-zombified state. Meetings have never been my forte, especially when they're all in Japanese, especially when one person drones on and on and on (as someone just had), but this was important. Grade 8 Outdoor School (uncertain fanfare) was only a month away, and we had to choose who would be in charge of what. The fact that I'd never taught grade 8 before, let alone participated in the yearly Outdoor School, meant that it was yet another new challenge.
Most members of our grade staff either already had a clear choice in mind or were the obvious choice themselves, so I kept my mouth shut as they went down the list. Most of those assignments weren't anything I wanted to deal with, anyway. But then something interesting rolled by.
"Shikiten?" asked the grade chief. "Who wants to do it?"
"What's that?" I asked.
"All of the ceremonies," I was told. "The opening ceremony, morning greetings..."
Potential! "Let me do that!" I cried.
"Okay. [Moody], shikiten. Next..."
I was pleased. I still had plenty of memories from my own Outdoor School, Boy Scout, and International Camp experiences. There were so many ways I could spice up those otherwise stuffy ceremonies without any trouble. At any rate, it was a good chance to have a bit of fun! But then...
"I'll do shikiten," said Ms. GN, the home ec teacher.
My dancing spirits froze in their tracks. Ms. GN was always a very strict, by-the-book type.
"I've done it before," she went on. "I still have the timetables and scripts from last time."
"Very well, Ms. GN," replied the grade chief. "You can be in charge. [Moody], she knows what to do, so just leave it to her and give whatever support she needs."
"Okay," I replied with all the enthusiasm of a lump of coal.
After the meeting, as the grade staff returned to the staff room, I went to Ms. GN and, without much hope, offered, "I have all kinds of ideas. I've done lots of camp events over the years, and there are some things I'd like to try to make it more interesting!"
She gave me her characteristic, totally-unreadable expression and replied in her characteristic, totally-unreadable tone, "There's no time. The whole Outdoor School will be on a tight schedule from start to finish. We have to follow the plan. There is a script. You can get a copy of it from the teacher who did it last year. That's what we will do."
Any enthusiasm I might have had for the damned thing disappeared faster than a beetle in a bullfrog tank. The other teachers clearly read that vibe, because Ms. HE then said, "Look, if you want to be creative, you shouldn't do shikiten. Tell you what; I'll help Ms. GN with that. Why don't you help Mr. WF with recreation?"
Ohhhh..... "Yes! Yes! Let me do that!"
Mr. WF seemed only too happy to oblige. He told me he'd let me be in charge of managing the campfire events, and he'd take care of the other activities. Once again my enthusiasm came back with a sonic boom.
Not long after that, they chose the student reps for the different duty roles, and the first meeting was held to discuss the campfire program. For some reason, nobody bothered to tell me.
"I forgot you were doing this," said Mr. WF sheepishly. "Everyone thinks you're doing shikiten."
"What about my suggestions?" I asked.
Mr. WF pursed his lips. "I wasn't sure, so I just suggested the students follow the usual program. They do pretty much the same thing every year, and I figured that would be easier..."
He showed me the tentative Program of Chronically Unoriginal Lameness, and I looked at it with dismay. It was bad enough that it was just a list of very patronizing, "Okay, children, let's do this! Okay, children, now let's do this!" It was worse that there was nowhere near enough to fill the entire hour without dragging things out to death. It was horrible; a nightmare.
"Look," I said, "I have years of experience with campfires. Why don't we try a little bit of American style?"
He shrugged and asked what I meant. I offered some ideas. I told him about the funny "claps" we did at Scout Camp. Maybe an easy call-and-repeat cheer. I suggested that each class choose members to do a skit or song. He reacted with both intrigue and disbelief at my descriptions, but he finally said, "The next meeting is on Wednesday. Why don't you discuss it with the student reps then?"
At the next grade staff meeting, I told my idea to the other teachers and was met with almost open hostility. "We're too busy!" they railed. "We don't have time for anything new! Besides, the program should be made and carried out by the student reps, not opened up to the classes!" I told them Mr. WF and I would discuss it with the student reps on Wednesday, and left it at that.
Wednesday rolled around, and Mr. WF wasn't at the morning meeting. Other teachers told me he was out for the day. I was also never told when and where the meeting with the students reps was supposed to be taking place. Stumped, I figured I'd try to collect them after school to discuss the issue. But then, after lunch break, Mr. WF suddenly came into the English room!
"I've been here the whole time!" he insisted. "Anyway, I met with the student recreation reps, and I told them your plan as best I could, but..."
He clicked his tongue and sucked air through his teeth, which is Japanese for, "This is probably going to piss you off, and I really don't want to have to deal with you, but..." and he said, "They think your idea is too much trouble. It's easier just to follow the usual plan. If you want to talk to them yourself, that's okay, but...they really have their hearts set on following the usual plan."
I sighed with disgust and contemplated launching into a tirade about how we didn't need committees, assignments, or people with brains, just instructional videos and trays to collect the drool, but I left it at a very black, "Got it."
There was no mention of it at all at the next grade staff meeting despite all the misgivings the time before. Either Mr. WF had worked it all out with them in advance or everybody just figured it was only natural that my silly, foreign ideas were ignored in favor of the "proper" plan.
Anyway, I have resolved to have nothing whatsoever to do with the campfire, and it doesn't sound like I'm needed, anyway. My job will be managing the fireworks they're insisting on doing on the first night despite the objections and the injuries that happened last year. Mr. WF won't be there for that, so that responsibility is on my neck..