Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teaching....the Joys...and the Pains :P

I have now been in Japan for almost two weeks! The culture and language surround me, which I hope will help me learn about both quickly. The food is very good—I especially enjoy udon noodles. I started teaching yesterday, which was a little scary. I teach fifth and sixth grade students at two different schools. I teach four classes in a row at these schools, which is a little tiring, but fun. I have decided to eat lunch with the students in order to get to know them better. The students are all very sweet and like to practice their English when they see the “Eigo no Sensei”.

The past two days of teaching have helped me begin to understand how the Japanese learn English. Oftentimes they speak “katakana English”. In several classes the teachers would have the English phrase “How are you? I am fine.” written on a flash card with katakana above it to help their students pronounce the greeting. While this is initially helpful, it can sometimes be detrimental due to the fact they keep the katakana accent. In addition, many English words, like cake, soccer, TV, etc, are in the Japanese language as katakana words. So when I hold up a flashcard with a picture of a cake on it, they all say “ケキ”. The challenge is getting them to hear the difference between “keki” and “cake”.

In fact I taught all day on that very topic. I had flashcards for words they had already studied, such as fruits and sports. I picked words they commonly mispronounced, such as soccer, lemon vs. melon, cabbage, juice, milk, etc. Flashcards are pretty much the lifeblood of elementary school teaching. I try to use the flashcards in a fun way to avoid boredom, since they usually are already familiar with the words. Luckily I have been taught many flashcard games in training, and today all of my classes were very fun!

The typical layout for English classes is to drill the vocabulary quickly, have some kind of activity to practice the target language/sentence, and then play a game that brings the words and the sentence patterns together. Playing games that allow all of the students to participate are the most helpful. Also, after leading the game long enough for the students to understand the rules, I like to make a student a “sensei” (teacher) and have them lead the games using English.

All in all today was a lot of fun! While yesterday wasn't bad, it was a little scary and so I was a little more reserved. Today I made it a point to be crazy happy and so I made them get up and dance as they repeated vocabulary words and just had fun! The kids seemed to have liked it, so mission accomplished. According to my company my job just to help the kids develop, and I quote a "Zest for Life"! So that is what I'm trying to do!! And it is pretty fun, if I do say so myself.

Of course, I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo looking forward to the weekend!!! The last few days have been EXHAUSTING. Up planning my lessons until 11pm or 12am, up at 5am or 530am in order to finish things up and be there at least ten minutes early. See, I live in Fuchu, and my schools are in Mizuho....which translates into a lot of traveling! Here is my basic daily travel run down:

Get on the trains at Tama, switch at Musashi-Sakai, get off in Tachikawa, switch to the Ome line and get off at Hamura station (travel time = about an hour), then take the bus for fifteen minutes! Of course, the trains only come at certain times, and if I miss the train from Tachikawa to Hamura, it is a twenty minute wait for the next one :(. So I always freak out and make sure to leave early enough so that if I miss the first one, I will still be on time if I catch the second one.

It makes for rough And a thin wallet! I spend over 1600 Yen a day on travel--just from home to school! That is about 17 USD....which pretty much zaps the money way. Luckily my work will reimburse me work related travel costs....but only at the end of the month. Until then, I live on noodles, potatoes, rice, and eggs! Lol. It could be worse!

Oh, and tomorrow night I am supposed to get the groceries my mommy bought me for my birthday! Lol. There is a costco not far from where I live, so she bought some things from them online and they should be delivering them to my house tomorrow night!!! Then I will have some more real food and some snacks! Yay!

Ok, all for now...I have to prepare my first lesson for my second school....tomorrow should be interesting!!!

Love you all,



  1. I'm sure you're an amazing sensei!:) Sounds like an amazing experience. I still need your address so I can write you letters! :)

  2. Wow, So how much do you teach in your classes? Do you have the whole class time? I team teach with the teacher at one school, and I think they all will be like that. (Team teach as in i do one part the teacher does the other part, this school district takes assistant language teacher serious, that is all I do, assist.)

    Sounds like you are really busy! I think all this week I have gone to bed at 11ish and gotten up at 5:30am. Last night I couldn't stay awake, so I went to bed at 8pm.

    Travel sounds like a lot of fun, too. The longest it takes me to get to any school is about 45 minutes, and it is on an island. I haven't been there yet, so I am not sure how long it will take.

    Well, good luck!

  3. It's fantastic how genki you're staying! I... am going through immense culture shock and homesickness. So, reading your post made me actually crack a smile. :) Love you, Brooke!