Monday, 13 November 2017

The futility of teaching (on rare occasions), the joy of teaching, and new winter threads

Here we go with the second instalment. If you like it, go back and read the first. You may like that too. You may not like it, if not, thank you all the same. As I said in the post I have yet to work out how to pin to the top, this is merely a recording of what I do to remind myself in years to come, which I am offering to you for perusal. Comment if you feel the urge.

The futility of teaching (sometimes)

Today I went to a nearby elementary school where I fill the role of English ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) most Monday mornings. I've been doing it for three years now.
Before we start, I won't bore you with an expose of what is wrong with English education in Japan. There is plenty wrong with it, and you can read about it here, here, here, here and ,here. The last one is quite an academic approach if that floats your boat.
Anyhow, my problem is with motivation. I have students who, by and large, enjoy my tutelage and finish feeling they've learnt something, I hope.
I am running through phonics with them, as it is criminally neglected by the public school education system. I have a laugh. I bring some prior knowledge into the game, I make it contextual, and I give it a good nudge basically.
Fifth grade is cool. I have two classes of about 25 in each class. I know what I'm doing. I'm qualified and experienced in it, so cool.
Sixth grade is the issue for me. For the first two years, I had two sixth grade classes also. This year, however, the bean counters at the local Board of Education have decided to combine the classes. I have about 40 in the class and find it impossible to engage those who need a bit of a push to get engaged.
Furthermore, the lesson plans have been taken from me and now the lessons are laid out by someone who doesn't have experience in teaching English, and can't speak English.
I don't blame the teachers. They are doing the best with what they have been told to do. What takes the jam out of my donut is the corner cutting.
For me, if you are going to teach a language, do it properly. You can't do it half-arsed. If you try to do a half-pie job, click on the links I referenced above to find out the result.
Rant over.

The joy of teaching

Two Mondays a month, I teach at a special needs school in a nearby town. It is very small, and very informally organized. The kids come and hang out and do different stuff. They have a range of different learning and behavioural issues which I won't try and identify, as I'm qualified to say. They just run around and yell and scream, and have a go sometimes.
I don't know much about the system of trying to integrate the students into the mainstream educational system, but I don't believe it is done so much.
Anyhow, the whole scene always offers such contrast to the morning at the elementary school. The students are just running around inside and doing their thing. Are they learning? Don't know. But then again, what is learning? It's not book learning for them, it's learning how to cope with the world around them that throws up all these crazy things.
I love trying to connect with them, and try and show them a bit of my world. Always difficult when they speak nary a word of English.

New winter threads

Just a quick reflection on my new winter threads, the joys of living in a population large enough to afford economies of scale, and the common misnomer that Japan is expensive.
I needed a few new pairs of warm socks for the upcoming winter. (It will begin to waggle its icy finger at me the day after tomorrow looking at the forecast). I also wanted to get a set of fleece clothes to wear in the house. Our house is very old, and heated by kerosene heaters, so a good warm set of clothes is nice in the house.
My first stop for clothes (and I daresay usually my only stop) is of course Uniqlo.
I always marvel at the quality and price of the clothing
Where I grew up, the population is a fraction of what it is here, which means stuff is more expensive. The economies of scale I mentioned. It makes things better for the shopper. It of course shuts down all the old mum and dad shops, but that's another discussion for another day.
Finally, the cheapness with which I can buy clothes, food, drink, and dine out, often makes a mockery of all the talk I hear of Japan being expensive.
Sure, if I go into a trendy pub in the middle of the city I might get stung for a bit of cash, but otherwise I'm finding life here as cheap as chips.

Thanks for getting this far. Ask questions or leave comments if you want. I'd love to hear thoughts.

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