Saturday, September 17, 2011

Teaching in Japan: First Impressions

So, the question I get asked the most is, "What is teaching like in Japan?"

Well... I think it will vary from person to person, based on:
  • Placement (urban/rural)
  • Japanese language skills
  • Age group you teach (preschool, kindergarten, elementary, JHS, high school)
  • Number of schools
  • Teaching experience
  • ...probably many other things I'm over looking.

In my case, I teach in rural area elementary (6) & junior high schoools (2). I honestly preferred an urban placement, but I am accustomed to teaching in rural schools from my university days at Auburn. My Japanese is limited to the very basics, but I have at least gotten past learning Katakana/Hiragana~ now I'm learning grammar and endless vocabulary. My strong point is definitely my teaching experience. I never thought teaching would Pre-K prepare me for higher level grades, but it actually has. This job requires a lot of patience, flexibility, and thinking on your feet.

Fill-in-the-blank skit I made for JHS classes.

Since I am an assistant English/language teacher, I team teach with a Japanese teacher for each class period. At JHS, sometimes they just want me to read things out loud, help the students with their work, etc. It can be a bit boring but I understand they have a curriculum to follow and already have a set way of doing things. Some teachers welcome my ideas and ask me to plan activities, others do not. As I haven't taught JHS before this, I'm still trying to figure everything out.

Teaching materials for my self introduction lesson, which I've done over 20 times now.

While the course of study for JHS focuses on establishing basic skills of the English language, the ES course of study is more about exposing the children to the language & culture, getting them interested in it, and making things fun. As of this school year, 5th & 6th grades are required to have English, so we do have a curriculum to follow. It has been pretty enjoyable so far though, and I'm already planning my own activities for Halloween and other aspects of American culture! Here's hoping my plans for Halloween will come to fruition, since it's my favorite holiday and I love sharing it with everyone. ♡

Also, the principal and parents are somewhat removed from discipline, most of it heavily relies on the teachers. This can be good and bad. I have some JHS classes where the students are respectful and do their work, but then there are others that sit wherever they like and talk the entire time! It really isn't my place to discipline the students since I'm just an assistant, so I just ignore the bad behavior and give praise for those who are doing the right thing. Sometimes the teachers even attend community events just to make sure the students are behaving. For the most part, my JHS students respect me when I'm teaching. The ES kids are always excited since I visit them less often.

Overall, it's been very fascinating to finally work in a school system, which also happens to be in a foreign country! My job is something different every day, and I look forward to seeing all of my students' smiling faces. I'm very happy I teach English to children and adolescents within the schools, since I don't think working in the private industry teaching adults would be the right job for me.

This is what paradise feels like.

P.S. Our broken aircon has been replaced!!! It works a million times better. I really don't see how we've been dealing with the heat in here for so long. At first we just thought the a/c was old, and that's how Japanese units work, DEAL WITH IT...  but then it was only blowing for 5 minutes and then shutting off. I finally notified the BOE, and they promptly took care of the issue within 3 days!


  1. Those "students you actually got" look more fun to me! I'm glad you posted, I've really been wondering how it's going and what you do day to day.

  2. This is awesome! I am always looking for good 'intro' games. How does your bingo game work?? I liked how it incorporated your interests and nationality.

  3. This is awesome! I like how you incorporated your nationality and personality into your introduction game. I would like to use this idea, how does the game work?

    1. Sorry for not responding sooner! I would call out, "My favorite animal" or "My university" and if they paid attention to my introduction slideshow, they would recognize the picture. The students LOVED BINGO (as I'm sure you've gathered!) so it could be adapted to other games / concepts for sure.


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