When I taught in Japan, I taught at 2 schools. My host school was an
academic boys senior high and my visit school was a fisheries school.
I taught between 2 and 4 classes a day, with the rest of my office hours
spent developing the English communication course or studying Japanese.
A normal day would start at about 7am, where I would stick on the rice-maker
and get myself dressed in a short sleeved shirt that would probably prompt
at least 5 times the concerned question "Aren't you cold with such
a thin shirt?" during the following day. After taking a bit of rice
for my lunch I'd hop on my small green basket-bike or Mamachadi and head
off on the half hour cycle to my school for the day.
On arrival I'd stick my footwear in my locker by the door and put on the
(slippers that everybody must wear inside the school), say good morning
to the office staff and then head to the Staff room. In Japan, instead
of the students going to each teachers classroom, like we might be used
to, the teachers go to each class's classroom so the teachers do not have
a room of there own. Because of this, staff rooms in Japanese are not
the relaxing spaces that western staff rooms might be, but are more like
a chaotic library of reference and study material, crammed with teachers
and their individual work places. The only person who has his own office
is the Head teacher.
At the ring of the bell at 8am, everybody bows, says "good morning"
then the head teacher or deputy head makes the mornings announcements
then those teachers with home room classes head off to take registration
while everybody else sits and gets about their business.
I would start by reviewing what classes I was having over the next few
days and start planning the lessons. I always tried to make the lessons
as practical as possible and involve props as often as possible. So with
an outline plan I would go over to the team teacher and check to see if
there was anything he wished to change which there normally wouldn't be
and I'd then get making props and handouts etc.
When it came time for my class, I would be collected by my team teacher
and we would head off to the classroom. On arrival, the students (if they
weren't asleep!) would stand to attention and we would bow to each other
and the lesson would begin. I preferred to start the lesson with some
sort of game like Criss Cross, hangman etc. to waken them up and become
used to thinking about English. The class would then start with a run
over of the grammar and vocabulary they would be using in the activities
for that lesson followed by the lesson itself then a warm down. Sometimes
the students reaction would be excellent, but often the students had no
confidence in using English in front of their other class mates for fear
of making a fool of themselves. Often this would spread through the class
and leave a silent class, especially at the end when asking questions
about the activity they had just done. It was often hard work to keep
them relaxed enough to speak in front of each other and I used humour
to combat this as much as I could.
Finishing the lesson with more bows, I'd head back to the staff-room and
study a little Japanese before lunch and then head off to the cafeteria
for a bite to eat. I liked to time my arrival with the students lunch
break. The reason for this was that I was far more likely to get enthusiastic
English usage while they were relaxing over lunch than in the classroom!
If a conversation was struck up I'd be asked all sorts of things that
teenage boys were interested in. Did I like Japanese women, did I have
a car, what did I have for breakfast, could they see my house, they asked
how big I was, did I have a girlfriend, was she western or Japanese etc.
Out of common courtesy I returned most of the appropriate questions of
course. I really enjoyed this time with the students. You get more back
from them when they don't think that they are being forced to learn something.
After lunch would be more of the same kind of work I did in the morning.
Sometimes I would get chatting with the other English teachers or would
go and research material for Japanese language or English teaching on
the internet then at about 4 or 5 pm my day would finish and I'd head
back home on my mamachadi.
I was very sad indeed to leave the schools I taught at. I had unawaredly
become very attached to the students. All the classes signed their own
class plaques with messages and presented them to me on my leaving day.
Some kids were very upset indeed. I still keep in contact with some even
3 years on.