Category Archives: Junior and Highschool Classes

Differences in Textbooks

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Today while using some of the junior high school text in class I noticed a couple of very interesting things. One thing is that when I was in junior high school and high school and I was studying Spanish and French we had similar textbooks. Usually it has a conversation in the beginning of the lesson and then a couple of grammar points and maybe some vocabulary. But when I study Spanish and French usually the conversations were where a student went to Spain or France on vacation or an exchange program and in the process of speaking French they learned about French culture. But in Japan I found that the opposite was true. The conversations all had foreigners coming to Japan and Japanese students explaining to the foreigners about Japanese culture and various traditions. I’m not an anthropologist so I cannot speak about what this reflects towards Japanese society and culture but it certainly is different. I’m sure if I asked one of the teachers why they would give me some kind of vague excuse that when thought about really made no sense. Perhaps it’s some kind of fear of other cultures, I don’t really know. But the conversations also tend to complement Japanese culture and traditions. Instead of saying this is sushi raw fish. They would say something like this is sushi it is very healthy and delicious. It’s much better than fast food. I think the context was that Japanese food is healthy but Western food is not healthy. That may be true but it’s like that for everything.

New Job

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Today I started my new job. I transferred from English conversation school to a local junior high school. Now I’m teaching teenagers. And let me tell you that my first day was terrible. Within the first hour one of the students attempted to put his thumb up my butt. To say I was shocked was an understatement. When I complained to the teacher just shrugged and smiled. No discipline, no punishment. This is insane. Back in America the student would’ve been arrested for sexual assault. I met five different Japanese English teachers today. They all had different varying degrees of English ability. Two of them had very good levels of English and could basically talk about anything. Two of them had intermediate level English. And one had very little English at all. Unfortunately my desk is next to each or that has no English ability at all. When lunchtime came around I went to go eat lunch at my desk like the rest of the teachers but Vice Principal told me that they expect me to eat with the children. That’s crazy. I feel like I’m some dancing monkey for the entertainment of the kids. None of the other teachers have to sit with the kids that they expect me to. Why? I went and tried to sit with some of the kids and no one spoke with me at all. I tried to start some conversations and again silence. But then towards the end of lunch when everyone had finish eating. It became joke and try to touch the new English teacher time. I felt like I was getting bullied all over again from when I was in junior high school. I can promise you that I’m not eating with the kids ever again I don’t care what the other teachers say. My last class finished at three and I had absolutely no work to do. So I started to collect my things around 4 o’clock to go home. That’s when one of the other teachers frantically came over to me and asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was going home as it was 4 o’clock and I had no work to do. She told me that traditionally in Japan teachers stay until 8 o’clock. I asked her what she thought I should do until 8 o’clock. She said just look busy. Again I was stunned. This new job might have been a mistake.

Teaching at a kindergarten

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Surprisingly enough there are many English teaching positions available to teach English at various kindergartens around the country. These classes are generally short. Usually anywhere between 20 minutes to 45 minutes. You will be teaching anywhere from age two to age 6. The class curriculum is generally very simple and the focus is obviously on making the classes as enjoyable as possible. A basic class would run like this. You would enter the class and have greetings with the students. A simple hello or good morning would be fine. Then you’ll have some kind of warm-up activity that you like to do every class and that the students more or less know by heart. I generally like to do a Type of Simon says game. Then you will move on to a set of flashcards. Maybe today’s flashcards would be animals. You show the fast cards you tell them the word and then they will repeat the word. Depending on the age you might insert a simple sentence with a flash card. If their young simply saying the word is enough. But if there are six or even five years old and you might say this is a dog. Then after that if you have time you might read this simple English picture book to them. Or you might sing in simple English song that will go over very subjects. And then perhaps you will play a game using the flashcards that you showed them previously. Teaching at the kindergarten has its ups and downs. The kids are so young that it is almost like playing in a room full of puppies and kittens. They’re all very sweet and cute. But be forewarned it takes an amazing amount of energy to teach these classes. It also takes quite a lot of skill to control the class of 15 three-year-olds. If you don’t have the skill the class will soon turn into chaos. This brings us to another problem. Whether the school allows you to conduct the class as you please which includes discipline and timing and pacing. Or are you an assistant to the young class teacher. In terms of having a good experience teaching kindergarten or not generally I have found that the most important aspect is discipline in the amount of control that you have in the class. You will have to make some of these children cry. You will have to send of some of these kids out to timeout and are going to cry their eyes out. You unfortunately have to become numb to this. Because if you let one child talk too much or not follow the rules then it’s going to infect all the rest of the children and you’re going to have absolute chaos and he won’t be able to get any setting that. Especially during the ages of say for and five at years old. Generally the pay for this type of work is similar to a normal English conversation school teacher salary. You obviously will have earlier hours and get off work slightly earlier. But again I warn you that you will be shocked at how much energy it takes to conduct these classes.

Teaching at a junior high school or high school

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One common job in Japan or in Asia is to be an assistant language teacher. Basically what this means is that you help and assist a Japanese English teacher at a local junior high school or high school. These types of jobs generally pay about the same or occasionally more than a teacher’s job at an English conversation school. But where most English conversation school jobs are more or less the same regardless of the company or the location this cannot be said for being an assistant English teacher. Often times you can find yourself at a great school where all of the Japanese English teachers have great communication skills and they can speak English well and everyone tree to very nicely but on the other hand you can easily be placed at school where no one wants you there and no one wants to communicate with you because they are embarrassed by their lack of English ability. Often these types of jobs are also located in rule areas so the amenities of life can be very different than you’re used to. I know of a friend who is teaching in a village as a junior high school assistant English teacher and the village has in total 2000 people. There is only one convenience store the closest supermarket is a 20 minute train ride away. He is surrounded by mountains and almost no one except for the local doctor speaks in English at all. The people of course are very friendly once they got to know him but it took a little time before they warmed up to him as well. This type of job really can be rewarding if you get a position that allows you to try and use your intellect to better teach the children and help the children. But you can also unfortunately become a human tape recorder. This is a term that you will often hear in Japan and it basically means what you think it means. The Japanese English teacher will not use you in the correct way, in fact they don’t really have any idea of how to use and assistant English teacher so what they end up doing is simply asking you to read various sentences or conversations that are found in the textbooks. And then basically that’s it. She might occasionally ask you to make up a game or an exercise. She might ask you to give a quick speech about where you’re from. But you certainly are not going to be taxed mentally in any of these activities.

There’s also one more thing that we need to talk about with these jobs. Back home the image that we have of Asian schoolchildren is one of ultracompetitive very well mannered and behaved children all sitting straight up and listening attentively to everything the teacher says. This is not the reality. In fact I think most people back home would be shocked at the type of behavior that you can see in various schools. Again it always depends on which school you’re at but I have seen very often students sleeping in class with her head down on the desk and the teacher completely ignoring it. I have been in classes where the majority of the students were sleeping in class. Most of the students will have their cell phones out and will be using them and not hiding the fact very well. If you are a woman teacher there is a very high likelihood that someone will attempt to touch your breasts or other nether regions and if you are a man your own was guaranteed to be felt up in the same areas by the same students. There is also a game that many students play called “kancho” , this game involves friends sneaking up behind another friend and with both hands class together and only your index fingers jetting out attempting to insert said index fingers into your friends anal cavity. It does not feel good. And you would think that teachers would be immune to this. But I have heard many stories where foreigners have been subjected to this type of bullying. So if you are going to come and teach at a junior high school high school you need to set aside all of the stereotypes that you have of Asian students. If you don’t you’re going to be in for a rude surprise. I am certainly not saying that Asian students are bad. What I’m trying to get across to you is that they are normal. Normal teenagers are not the best behaved in the world.

Teaching English in Japan

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For our first post let’s talk about the differences between teaching English here in Japan and most people’s idea of teaching English back home. Most people back home probably think that it’s a very formal and structured classroom where we are going over various grammatical patterns over and over, we are probably teaching them the alphabet and how to read and write. But for the most part this is not what we do. It depends on the situation that you find yourself in but if you are working at an Eikaiwa which is an English conversation school you most likely will be simply talking with your students most of the time. You are in effect offering them an opportunity to practice English that they already know with a live foreigner. Some schools will give you a textbook for the more beginner classes but the textbook is very simple and it was created for teachers who have little or no experience at all teach English. The sex books lessons generally will choose one subject or theme such as likes and dislikes give an example conversation where that subject is being used provide some kind of vocabulary practice and then provide some practice so that you can write out the sentences you just learned in this situation with it would be, “I like apples” or “I dislike oranges”. Then after that you will probably see some kind of exercises that the students can do with each other or with the teacher that practices are gives the students a chance to use what they just learned in a conversational setting. So that exercise might go something like this, the students will have a piece of paper and it will say go around the classroom and find someone who hates apples. Do this by asking people “do you hate apples?”, If you find someone that does hate apples right there name in the box. Then the next one would be fine someone who likes vegetables, you go around the class asking everyone “do you like vegetables?”. We start off simple and then once they have the hang of that particular sentence structure you start adding more to the questions or add follow-up questions. So this time you go around asking “what is your favorite fruit?”, Then when someone answers “my favorite fruit are apples” the student must ask a follow-up question like “how often do you eat apples?”. This is a very simple example and there are many different types of exercises but this is the general idea.

Introduce the subject or theme of the lesson
read the example conversation with the students or have them read the conversation
ask comprehension questions about the conversation
explain the key words or key sentences in the lesson on the whiteboard
have the students to the practice questions
have the students do the exercises where they take everything they learned and use them in a conversational way

There are many reasons that lessons in Japan are like this. One of them is that most Japanese already have a relatively good grass of English. And when I say this I don’t mean that they can communicate necessarily well but they’ve already studied grammar patterns 4,7,8 sometimes 10 years. They can read English very well and they can write English relatively well but it is in conversations and having a conversation where they are at a loss. There are many reasons for this and we will go over them in a later post.

Another reason that we have the style classes is because most students are studying English as a hobby and not for business or for school. Even the school students who come to our schools to study English are most likely studying conversational English and they will go to another type of school to study grammatical patterns and vocabulary that they will need for a college entrance exam. These types of schools are called “Jukus” and roughly translate to cram schools in English.

So with the English conversation schools the companies and schools are mostly looking for young energetic college graduates who will come in and stay for a year or two and teach other schools. There are not looking for certified English teachers or older people who might not be so energetic. They also do not necessarily want you to stay in the job for that long because many foreigners who do burnout and they are not able to give the students the right “experience”. Other strange occurrences are that in Japan at lease and I think for other parts of Asia as well the schools prefer your stereotypical foreigner which means American, blonde hair, blue eyes and of course white. This doesn’t mean that they will not hire other country people or that they will not hire other races or ethnicities but there certainly an unspoken secret that they prefer the stereo typical white person. We will certainly go over stereotypes that we have found in Japan in the later post but for now just understand that they exist and most people out here do not understand that they are stereotypes and that these stereotypes can be harmful. So that’s your basic set up for an English conversation school in the next couple post for going to go over some different types of schools that you might find yourself working for and how they differ from an English conversation school.

 

Here is another English teacher’s take on Japan