How I Spent My Day

My head English teacher has a reward system that utilizes stamps. She has a box of rubber stamps and if you do your homework or answer a question or are one of the first five in the dictionary game, you get a stamp. You can also do extra credit work by copying out English words. Each page of words earns a student one stamp. Each kid has a sheet the stamps are kept on, and that is one of the ways the teacher monitors their progress when report cards are due, by asking how many stamps they have.

One of the ways in which the head English teacher allows me to help her is by decorating certificates that are awarded when kids complete a stamp sheet. The teacher who helped her last year came up with a template, and there are a stack of photocopies ready to be decorated.

The Japanese school year begins in April, and now, about six months in (if you take out the six weeks for summer break), the trickle of awarded certificates is turning into a gush. I awarded five on Wednesday alone. I’ll be at my school next week, but then I will be helping with English camps for sixth graders, meaning I won’t be around for two weeks. Thus, today I preemptively decorated 8 certificates so the teacher would have an easier time of it when I’m gone.  

This first pictures is one I did for Wednesday. It’s pretty typical of my style. The character forming the “O” in job is Anpanman, a beloved character in Japanese society. “Anpan” is a bread filled with red bean paste. Anpanman is a super hero who flies around feeding hungry people by ripping off pieces of his head for them to eat. When someone first told me, I thought they were joking. But there was no trace of a smile, and the Japanese are not known for their sarcasm.

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So is this one:

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#3 I’m proud of because I utilized the red pen on my desk for extra effect.

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#4 was Halloween inspired.

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#5 was Christmas inspired. The paper’s base color is cream, and I wanted more of a snow white. I managed this by dousing the “Good Job” in white out. The stars have #4 written in them because this is the fourth certificate that this girl has earned. She does a LOT of extra credit.

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Anyone who knows me knows I don’t really like crafts. The process definitely got tiring, but I am really happy that I was able to stay motivated and get these done. 

Here are the eight I cranked out today. The first five are all done in colored pencil. Today’s work was mostly done in crayon, with a minimal amount of detail done in colored pencil.

 #6 is clearly rainbow inspired

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In #7 I’m playing with the effect of shading in the dark parts of the schematic. Here and in the next one I’m working with colors that compliment the picture on the sticker down at the bottom left corner of the sheet. This particular combination happens to remind me of a young hipster’s living room.

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#8 is the same concept as #7, except you can see I added even more stars. 

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Here I’m playing with colors. I experimented with using the neon crayons and decided to adapt by limiting the palate to three and making the third color a strong neutral color. Admittedly, I use unconventional colors as “neutrals”. 

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This is one of my favorites. I took my inspiration from the painting on the sticker and instead of eradicating all traces of the cream background, let the words be a back drop to an entire flower garden. 

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#11 is my other favorite. In case it is hard to see, I basically took the sticker and made a larger copy of the painting on the certificate. I also like how the silver border adds to the elegance of the picture without distracting from it. Artistically, I’m sure it’s better than the coloring sheet idea that is my typical work. What I’m not sure of is if I was supposed to turn this certificate into my own personal art work. 

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Unsure of how my landscape impression would be received, I returned to the standard for work #12.

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#13 And the last one. Balloon inspired. Growing up, I made birthday cards for my grandparents that either had rainbows, balloons, or flowers. Sometimes all three. That trend is clearly evident in today’s work. 

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 I’m here in Japan to be a missionary. Some days that means I get to love the Japanese up close. Other days, that means I spend four hours decorating certificates. It’s loving them, just in a different way than I used to. Because in the end I know this really does help the teacher. And just maybe the students see how much work these are. And maybe they will feel loved by that.

I’m posting this because I’m choosing to take pride in what I did and how I spent my day. It’s not my preferred method of loving someone, but here I’ll take what I can get. 

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