It seems our new Ritsumeikan principal used to be a professor of robotics. That's fun. The new high school has been designated "SSH," which stands for "Super Science Highschool." (When I heard them talking about it, I thought they were saying "Super Size" until I saw it written down...) Their goal is to focus on math/science/international skills.
After that, the teachers had to move to their new desks. Luckily, my desk will be the same, so I didn't have to do anything. But my friendly neighbor teacher moved to another room down the hall, and I got a new neighbor. I got my username and password for my Ritsumeikan computer, so I tried logging in. It is, of course, a Japanese OS. It has the standard Microsoft Office programs, plus another program for creating and copying encrypted files. They seem pretty concerned about security...the two rules given so far concerning computer use are 1) Don't install any programs without permission and 2) Don't take any materials created on the computer home without permission. I assume they're worried about student records or grades, but the way it's worded means that I can't create a lesson handout and take it home to work on it without asking someone's permission.
It also appears to be connected to the internet. At least, I was able to access the University of Michigan's website, which is what I used to test it. The annoying thing is, they assigned me a user password of random letters and numbers, but I can't change it to something easier to remember. Several of the other teachers were frustrated by this as well.
In the afternoon, we had the English department meeting. The Ritsumeikan English teacher is doing half of the senior Listening course. I had been told at first that we would have to synchronize our lessons so that we would teach the same thing, but the policy has changed. Instead, we'll each teach our half whatever we want for one semester, then we'll switch and teach the same thing to the other half of the class during second semester. My team teacher for this class is one I've never worked with before. He insists he'll take no nonsense from the students, so they'll be forced to behave. The class meets twice a week, so he suggested that he take the main role in one class while I do the same for the second. That's a lot more balanced than it's ever been before.
After work, all the teachers and administrators and office staff went out to a restaurant for a "get to know each other" party. Each person was required to pay $40 for the food, which was buffet style. I looked at the offerings. Slices of bread...with meat paste on them. A plate of sliced fish and another of sliced meat. Pasta...with meat sauce. Pineapple...with ham wrapped around it. The only thing that I could eat was the salad (and I just had to hope it didn't have surprise!fish in the dressing). I was rather resigned to having bought a $40 salad. Eventually they brought out trays with potato wedges...on one half, and sliced beef on the other, so the potatoes were soaking in meat juice. I did my best to pick the dry ones off the top of the pile. Fortunately, that was enough to fill me up.
We took a break in the middle of the party for everyone to give a self-introduction. I did mine in Japanese. I should have kept it simple, but I decided I wanted to say something a bit lengthy so that the new teachers would know I could do okay with Japanese. I began, "Although I teach English, my specialty is really..." and I intended to say "biology," but I accidentally said "sexology." The whole room cracked up when I realized my mistake. (Hey...sex, genetics, close enough, right? The stories I could tell about what that potato pollen was getting up to in the greenhouse...)
Many of the other teachers' introductions were funny as well. I particularly liked the teacher who got up and said, "I'm interested in agriculture. Yes, agriculture. I have my own field, and I like growing things. And my hobby is...parasites. I've studied quite a lot about parasites. So if you ever have any concerns, you can feel free to come talk to me at any time."
And now the REALLY good news: We were handed out forms that we could fill out saying what our plans were for the rest of the week, and we could choose "home study." So that's what I did. I now have Spring Break until Saturday.
Sunday the teachers are all required to attend the Entrance Ceremony for the first year students. We'll get a vacation day next month in exchange.
Today I didn't have to go in to work (yay!) and it started out sunny, so I took a trip to Kyoto to check out the sakura. It's still a bit early and most of the trees probably won't be in full bloom until next week, but by then I'll be working. I got some pretty pictures of the ones that I found.