Junior High School Recitation Contest

(Written back in October 2019)

My area’s annual JHS recitation contest took place in the second week of October. Nine students  from my three assigned schools participated in the competition. During the past couple of months my lunchtimes have consisted of scoffing down my lunch and then tutoring students.

Each student has a different way of learning. But my “process” is to start off with them reading the text, checking their pronunciation and slowly building their confidence with the material. Then moving onto memorisation and intonation. And then finally progressing onto conveying emotion and body language. My assigned schools rotate on a weekly basis, meaning that I sometimes have a three week gap in-between visits to particular schools. But it’s always interesting to see how far students have progressed after each visit. Admittedly some take it more seriously than others, but on the actual day of the contest they all managed to give their best performance.

It’s a highly rewarding experience watching a normally quiet student dramatically perform Malala Yousafzai’s UN speech in front of a sizeable audience. That particular student managed to claim the top prize in the third grade competition and will be participating in the prefectural contest later this year. Her family and her school’s principal let out a hushed cheer as her name was announced. The win means that her school will retain the trophy and continue its winning streak. In fact, I actually tutored her older sister three years ago, whose name is still adorned on the trophy. Her mother thanked me and the principal shook my hand while enthusiastically saying something along the lines of “Same again next year, please”.

Out of the nine students that participated, four of them managed to get a prize. In fact all the top spots in the third grade contest were awarded to my students. Naturally, a few tears were shed by those that had missed out on a podium spot. But I was very proud of them all. And while their JTEs excessively thanked me for my contribution and tutoring, at the end of the day it’s the students’ own effort and determination that got them on the stage and speaking English.

Junior High Graduation

Last Friday was the Graduation Ceremony for the third graders. Throughout the course of the week the students had been practicing the songs and routines. The second and first grade boys had been causing problems and rage-induced rants from the teachers, as per usual. Anyway, on the day it was a mixture of emotions. There were tears, cheers and words of inspiration from students and teachers. Parents all showed up in suits with their camcorders at the ready. I received “Thank you” messages from students and was asked for numerous selfies. I’d only known them for a year but it was a pleasure to have taught them. I wish them the best.

Pikotaro Sabotaged My Students’ Tests!

For most schools in Japan, this week is “Final Test Week”. One thing that I’ve been in charge of conducting is the Interview Test. I’ve chosen a selection of questions from the past couple of months, and have been assessing each student’s responses. One of the grammar points that I’ve included is “I have ____”; “I have a cat. I have two CDs”. It’s pretty simple and it’s taught early on in the curriculum. But about fifty percent of student responses have been frustratingly ruined by a chart-topping song. Continue reading “Pikotaro Sabotaged My Students’ Tests!”

The Annual Migration of ALTs

The month of March marks both the end and beginning of the Japanese school year. As a result some ALTs (Assistant Learning Teachers) will decide to leave, meaning that new recruits will soon start to arrive. Understandably, various companies’ Facebook pages have been flooded with question about visas, training and suggestions on what to bring. But amongst them, as always, have been some bewildering questions or statements; Continue reading “The Annual Migration of ALTs”

Correcting the Teacher, as an Assistant Teacher.

As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at junior high school level (JHS), I work with a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE). There really are too many abbreviations in this job. Anyway, this invites a “team teaching” approach to our lessons that thankfully doesn’t make me just a human tape player reciting from the crappy textbooks. We’ll prepare activities, present dialogue to give students a better understanding of “naturally” spoken English, and attempt to create a more involved learning atmosphere. But like anyone who is studying or teaching a second language, mistakes are bound to occur. The students present their own range of challenges, as I’ve discussed, but the teachers also can create some unique situations in the classroom. Continue reading “Correcting the Teacher, as an Assistant Teacher.”

The Challenges of Junior High 2nd Graders in Japan

It’s that time of the week again, the day where I have to teach the second graders. Now, when I started teaching at junior high schools (JHS) this year, I really had no idea what I was going to get into. At my previous placement I had only taught at elementary schools (ES), a completely different domain. Occasionally the local ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers) would participated in International Days where we’d go to a JHS and do cultural activities based on our nationalities. I taught cricket once while my Irish mate showed off his hurling skills. But from these one-off events you’d get hints and glimpses at what students were like. Continue reading “The Challenges of Junior High 2nd Graders in Japan”