First blog post!

I’ve finally gotten around to starting my blog! I guess now I actually need to use it. >.<

So for the sake of privacy and not getting myself into any sticky situations at work, I’ve decided I won’t use the name of the school I work for or my coworkers without their permission. But I’d really like to start by giving a description of what I do!

So in Japan, English is without a doubt the most in demand second language. Most people learn English as a standardized subject from about middle school, but some start as early as elementary. But while English education is fairly widespread in Japan, the value and depth of teaching in the Japanese education system is considered okay at best and often quite trivial. So many people look for a place they can get more in depth language tutoring for exams, work, or just for fun. That’s where I come in, working for an “Eikaiwa.”

Eikaiwa is simply an English conversation school. We have people of all ages walk through our door for private or group lessons at all levels of English proficiency. So what does working for an Eikaiwa entail? Basically, for children, it means working out of the assigned textbooks to create fun lessons that combine both listening to a native speaker and honing their English skills a personalized setting. That being said, the key word here is “fun.” While one is bound to have the occasional self-motivated and enthusiastic student, for the most part, the only reason kids show up to these school is because of their parents’ dreams for perfectly bilingual children. Which can be a lot of pressure when you’re only 10, 8, or even 4 years old. So some kids are either hardly speak from terror of failure or completely check out because they have no real interest in learning. So it really is important to use as many cleverly tailored games and activities as possible to get both the quiet kids and those that are “too-cool-for-school” feeling engaged and having fun.

For me, kids have been the hardest to teach. Despite my only real experience teaching being with kids in the past, the language barrier has added a whole new layer of difficulty. Surprisingly enough, being near-fluent in Japanese is not exactly helpful in a setting where you’re being paid to speak only English. But gradually I’m getting better at learning my students needs and maintaining authority when a class of six 6th graders get ornery.

What I was shocked to learn after coming to work at this Eikaiwa is how incredibly enjoyable teaching adults is. Basically, adult classes are facilitated conversations with the instructor and students, sometimes inspired by the textbooks, but often consisting mostly of free talk. And there are some real characters here at this school. While levels vary, adults are usually pretty confident when it comes to trying out their skills as well as motivated, because after all, they’re paying for it. What ends up being the struggle is when you get a class of maybe three or more people and nobody wants to be the first one to pipe-up, leading to some awkward silence. Or when one person won’t stop talking and soaks up all the class time for themselves. It’s a bit ironic that I should be put in this position of “professional talker” since I generally have a hard time talking to people I’m not close with. But I’m beginning to think this is good practice. It’s easy to write people off as “not interesting” simply because you don’t have the courage to ask them about themselves, so getting to know all these wonderful people has been a lesson to me about how get people to open up. I only hope I can apply it to real life in the future!

So finally, just as a note, my days usually start at around 2 PM, which seems like a dream until you realize that means you work until 9 or so. The reason for all of that being that school doesn’t get out until the afternoon and people are generally more busy in the morning with work and such. But in any event, I try to drag myself out of bed at a decent morning hour, and prepare to go to one of our many school locations. I technically work for one school, but we’re actually more of a local chain of schools, so rather than going to the same location every day, I rotated based on the demand and schedules of other teachers. It’s fairly consistent, though, and most schools are within about a 30-minute train ride from my apartment. Generally, I teach about 6-7 classes a day, with anywhere from one to six students, ages 4 to 80. So switching gears in my 10 minute breaks between classes can be a bit rough.

But hey, I might have been utterly terrified to set foot in the classroom my first week, but here I am, alive and well and getting the hang of things a few weeks later. Now I just need to survive another 17 months or so, and everything will be golden!

Thanks for reading and I’ll try to update with more interesting things soon. By all means, comment or send me an e-mail if you have any questions! It get’s a little lonesome in little Chiba. 🙂

All the best,

~Michelle

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