I realized I have not posted much about teaching. This week, I unfortunately have not been doing very much of it, as they have been having tests. I did however get my official engraved nametag at school today, with my name in katakana!“So fu i da na”
I usually teach 3-4 classes per day (there are 6 periods each day). I finished giving my self-introduction presentation to each and every class, and have now begun actual teaching. The team-teaching situation is slightly different for each of my 3 co-teachers, called JTEs for Japanese Teachers of English. Murakami-sensei is the head of the English department and very cheerful and smiley, but she uses a lot of Japanese in the classroom so a lot of the time I am not too sure what is going on. Watanabe-sensei teaches the most classes and makes my schedule. She is more serious and seems to be very into team-teaching and we do a lot of staged conversations together. Anzai-sensei is a comedian, he usually does slightly off-putting things like sit with the students when I am teaching and make jokes.
Anyway, the JTEs do the lesson planning, so I am left with little prep work, we usually do a little prep session for about 15 minutes the day before the class, where they tell me what will go down. They like to have me read all the “repeat after me” stuff (of which there is a lot), play all the interactive games with the kids, and walk around the room helping kids when they have to do writing exercises. I find the helping with writing to be particularly enjoyable, when I tell a kid “good”, “very good”, or “perfect” – the only positive adjectives they seem to know (if I stray to a “well done” or “great job”, they look at me perplexed), they grin ecstatically and tell all their friends.
That’s another thing that’s interesting about the classroom here, constant consulting is encouraged. If a student is asked a question, you can be sure they will consult with 2 of their friends for the answer even if they were quite sure in the first place. I guess this stems from the group mindset, to make every decision as a group, not as an individual.
An example of a go-fish type game we’ve played in class: students are given cards with things to eat, drink, wear and read on them, and each card has a point value. You then walk around the classroom and janken with people (rock, paper, scissors – which I’ve taught them in English) to see who will get to say, “I want something to eat/drink/wear/read.” To which the janken loser must say while handing over a card, “OK, I have something to eat/drink/wear/read. Here you are.” And janken winner – “Thank you very much.” And so you keep going around asking people for different things with the goal of getting the most points. The kids loved this one, though I think they just love anything involving janken.
It reminded me though that how the thorough politeness of the Japanese language is often completely lost when they switch to English –ie. the forward and pushy nature of the interaction in the aforementioned game, and in frequently used phrases like “You had better…”. My colleagues tend to say this when they really mean in direct translation, “Please excuse me but, maybe you could… if you want, if it’s not too much trouble…please forgive me for asking.”
So, I am enjoying the actual teaching, although what is harder is the tons of free time I have to hang out in the teacher’s room. I have asked the JTEs repeatedly if I could help them in anyway, yesterday I had to nearly beg Watanabe-sensei to give me some students’ homework to correct. It is quite hard to find teaching-related work to do at my desk. I’ve started keeping a detailed log of each class, and I’ve read and nearly memorized all 3 textbooks, and have researched tons of games to play in class. But this still leaves me with tons of time. So, I’ve been studying Japanese, and reading plenty of NY Times, Gothamist, and NY magazine online, to feel like I’m still connected to what’s happening in NYC. (Did you see the pic in gothamist of Bloomberg and Diana Taylor at Ralph Lauren’s party? So elegant! I made it my desktop background!) Yesterday afternoon I also spent about 3 hours researching the Condé Nast Traveler’s “Where are you?” monthly photo contest and by the end of the day I was so at a loss for activities that I planned a make-believe vacation to Banff and checked out fashion week shows in slideshow form.
Looking forward to when classes pick up again after the tests.