After four months, I’m back in Japan – this time to live and work, although I will travel when I have the time!
First, let me talk a bit about my work. As most of you may know, I’m here teaching English at a language school (or eikaiwa). Japanese children start compulsory English education during elementary school (third grade, I believe), and continue studying through junior high and high school. Unfortunately, the majority of English taught through public schools is teacher-centered and heavily focused on reading and writing, but not speaking. As a result, the general case is that many Japanese people spend years memorizing the grammar rules of English but have trouble regularly conversing in it.
Language schools are therefore popular options, and the one I work at is student-centered and in fact aims for 80% student-speaking time in each lesson. Students can be anywhere from 1 years old to no limit really. Whichever class however, the goal is to teach grammar points through conversation and activities such as dialogue practice, role-play and group discussions.
Here’s one of the TV commercials my company put out this year:
Because we have such a wide range of students, initial training was essentially a gauntlet. It was really beneficial though, and the trainers were really patient and helpful while us new teachers learned all kinds of lesson types and instruction tips. That initial training was in Nagoya, located in Central Japan and a major industrial and transportation hub. I had training there for 11 days, and then moved to my branch school in Tsu, located in Mie prefecture and about 45 minutes outside of Nagoya. Tsu is actually right opposite Nagoya, with Ise Bay separating them.
I’ve only been in Tsu for five days, but it’s a pleasant little city and everyone at my school is incredibly nice. My first two days were mostly orientation and observing classes, while teaching a lesson or two, but this past Saturday was my first real test. Since Saturday is an off-day for all of our students, it is our busiest day. I had 7 lessons in total, each 50 minutes long. It’s a real treat to meet so many kinds of people, all learning English because they want to (although in the case of kids, it may be because mom and dad want them to!).
It’s also really rewarding when students are able to freely talk in English in class and come up with their own ideas and questions without (much) prompting from me. And the kids lessons are downright hilarious. My youngest kids are 6 years old, others in their early teens, but one thing is clear so far: the girls actually pay attention and speak English while the boys are bursting full of energy. I have to stop myself from laughing sometimes. The boys also have a habit of speaking in Japanese, a lot. I’m not allowed to use Japanese in the classroom, so I have to keep saying, “No Japanese!” or “English, dude!” (they really like the word ‘dude’). I also quickly realized that “Utsav” is beyond the pronunciation of 95% of my students, so I told everyone they can call me “Uta” instead. So now I’m “Uta-sensei”.
Anyway, it’s been a great experience so far, though with a lot of work. Preparation time for each of my lessons takes quite a while since I’m new, but the other teachers at my school answer all of my thousands of questions and are all funny. I’m definitely really lucky in that regard.
I haven’t had much time yet to explore Tsu, though I have walked around my surrounding area a bit. I live in an apartment just a 10-minute walk from my school. My first designated week of vacation is coming up in just six days – though I’m not sure of my plans yet. I will probably catch a (bullet) train to Tokyo for a few days to visit friends and my old host family, but I don’t know details yet. I might also go west to Osaka (only 1.5 hours from Tsu) for a day or two.
Thanks as always for reading, I’ll try to post as often as I can, though I doubt it will be as consistent as my last time here.