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Learning my Lesson 2: Attack of the Students

8th September 2009.

sunny 22 °C

I think its always a good idea to play some inspiring music whilst writing blogs, creative juicies flowing n' all, y'know. Right now "Radio One's Drum n bass show with Fabio and Grooverider" will be taking me through this entry. Highly recommend radio one's dnb show, obviously if your into that kinda thing, if not, give it a try...you might like it ;)

I might start spawning blogs more regularly....which might include mini-blogs, blogs about life, blogs about other travelling experiences from years back, and of course blogs about all things Japanish. If i do i'll try and keep the standard up, which shouldnt be too hard because i've not set the bar very high to begin with! Dunno if i will do this however, its just an idea in my head because I think iv got a lot to write about, although it might just be sensible to stick with Tokyotastic blogs, as writing about the past now might be pointless, should just write about the here and now.

I thought i'd use this entry to talk more about my life as a "teacher". So consider this a sequel to my previous "Learning my lesson" blog! I'll try and dissect my job with Shane, to give you a better insight in to what a typical week invovles, and for those of you reading who might be lost in life, offer a non-advertising-company esq perspective on it and try and encourage you to do it if your thinking about it! You might be thinking, "c'mon you teach, what is there to say!" Well....you are well and truely wrong. Even though i wasnt sure what exactly my job would entail or any of the fine details, its definetely not what i though it would be like...but in a good way!

Theres a lot of other words to describe a Shane English teacher; advisor, taskmaster, counsellor, interogator, friend, entertainer, mentor, guide, trainer, mysterious-alien....and generally source of knowledge and answers. Right so if your thinking i teach 30 odd kids in a huge classroom on a 9-4 basis and its exactly like a school you couldnt be further from the truth. Its more like....you know when you go to the GP's and you check in at the receptionist's and wait in the waiting room, reading a magazine, and then the doctor calls your name for you to be seen next??...well its exactly like that! A teacher will have kids and adults on their schedule, and when its your 'appointment' you will be called upon, so to speak. When you come in instead of the doctor saying "what seems to be the problem?", and the answer being "backache" or "dihorrea", the problem is speaking english, and the solution isnt a few pills to take twice daily, its a few books and some conversation to absorb once weekly!

Shane schools, are dotted all over, and can appear on high streets, up tall buildings, or in shopping centres. You cant miss them because of the huge British flag. Theres usually between 1-3 teachers in a given school, and a shane teacher works at up to 5 schools. Work on a week day starts at 1pm and can go on til 9pm entirely depends on the schedule. Weekends, (if you work weekends) can start at 10 and finish about 5pm (i finished at 2.30pm today), again depends on your schedule. As i mentioned before, students come in all shapes and size's, ages and abilities, its that diverse variety that keeps it interesting, i think.
The categories of Students are as follows. Regular students: These are the students that you teach obviously regularly, these are the students its essential to get to know, and hopefully like, because you see them every week! They can come in groups or as private. The majority of my regulars i enjoy seeing and teaching, there is of course a few expections.
Floating students: This only applies to adult learners, who either cannot manage a regular day because of other committments or they just want to rotate English teachers and keep it fresh. Floating students can be interesting, and if they like you will come back to you (im talking like theyre cats or dogs or something! haha, i might aswell say if give them a treat they'll curl up to you!), on the other hand, sometimes they can put a spanner in the works in you schedule and cut any preparation time you thought you had.
Make-up students: This can be kids or adults, basically it means if a student cant make their regular day and time, but dont want to fall behind, they pick another day and are lumped with whatever teacher is on the day they picked. Most teachers i know dont like make-up lessons, me included. They, just like floating, can mess up your day, on top of the you dont know the students, theyre not your regular students and sometimes you just dont care!
O2O students: These are students who are wanting to pile in as much study as possible and usually come more than once as week, theyre looking to study intensively as they may be going travelling soon, or make a presentation in English.
Demo lessons (Taiken): These are free 20minute lessons, in which someone can book a time come in and see if they want to sign up. In that 20 minutes your meant to talk for 10, asking progressively more difficult questions and gauge their level, and the 2nd 10, your take a quiz sheet for them to attempt depending on what level you thought they were. I enjoy demo lessons, you actually get commission on them if they sign up, not a lot mind you but still an insentive, its also good that im the one making the call on what level they are!

Ok...so kids. Kids i said before i wasnt looking forward to. However now, i dont mind. The majority of them are well behaved, know whos runnin' the show and know not to fuck around. There are a variety of books for kids depending on age and level. Some are fast learners some really struggle, and of course most of them fit somewhere in the middle. I wont go into naming the books that they use, because lets face it, its not gonna mean anything to you! but i will say teachers seem to like some books over others. Theres some books i like working out of and others i think are a load of crap!
Usually kids are asked a few questions before they come in the classroom, the two main ones being "Whats your name?" and "How old are you?" classics, haha. However you can add whatever you like in, such as recently taught material questions.
My least favourite kids class is five, four year olds on sundays, not just because if ive had a few too many drinks on a saturday night, 5 screaming kids isnt the best hangover cure, but because its an hour lesson, and its really difficult to hold their attention for that long, their parents shouldnt be expecting miracles. But its best to start learning as early as possible apparently! The bottom line i suppose is, if you can answer whats your name and how old are you, then your on the path to english speaking stardom!
It is sometimes not clear to see the results of my efforts to teach as greatly as i would like as 95% of kids, have already been in lessons for years before i stepped in to make my mark. There is one kid though, i have him for 30minutes on a saturday, hes never been exposed to english before and never had a lesson...until me. So in this case, its good and and much clearly to see the results of my efforts, as im the only english influence on him, and hes actually a fast learner!
I enjoy teaching Junior high schoolers (12-15) because theyre at that age where theyre still young enough to throw a ball around and play games, but they like to chill out and are not running around mental. The kids can make you laugh sometimes, and its funny watching them learn and speak and pronounce things. Granted some of them have no clue why theyre there, and why this strange gaijin cant understand them, but maybe when theyre all grown up, and communicating in english in a business or social sense, they might remember a certain whacky scottish fella' as having an influence on their learning...
It must be difficult growing up in Japan, adults backhome always used to tell me when i was young, "enjoy being young while you can" which you only really understand when you enter the real-world and can look back! and in my eyes, i had a pretty dam good childhood. However in Japan, the kids are moulded by their parents and society into workers with skills and potential. Which is done in every country you might be thinking, but in Japan, kids go to school, and then go to after school clubs and then english lessons and then cram school in the summer...i get the impression, theres a lot of pressure to perform and genuniely a lot of stress for these kids, and not enough actual being a kid time!
I want to make sure im actually teaching kids something, but at the same time its important remembering what its like to be a kid, (weve all been there) and just have some fun, and not to make it feel so much like school.

Adults, oh the joys of adults as i mentioned in Learning my lesson the first installment. Usually on weekdays you will have an afternoon class, which is retired people, who are doing it as a time filler and as a hobby. I have 6 advanced adults, a middle aged couple, and 3 old women (all groups), on weds, thurs and fridays. All very interesting classes. Good thing is its a relaxed chilled atmosphere to learning, and the goal is just to learn a little and have them talk about theyre day to day activities than a goal aiming to pile through the nitty-gritty and put all the pieces of english together in a intense fashion.
The Majority of my regulars i get on with, and most of them are private students.
Students that stick out would be. Masahito. A 60yr old man, who has some mental health issues, and takes pills regularly for this, his wife died 12yrs ago and he talks about her a lot. He's pre-intermediate level, private student, and it can be quite unusual and trippy talking to him because he comes out with such random badly put together sentences, that leave you left bewildered. He sometimes writes a diary, in which its always a tale of woe, where he speaks of his sadness and depression and how he misses his dead wife! so it can make it hard correcting grammar, in what is near enough a suicide note. Ok ok, im exaggerating a bit, but its more of a counselling lesson than teaching, and when i ask him a question it takes a while for him to answer, nice friendly old man though!
Some businessmen, can be very interesting but the books they use can be bloody boring! Some girls can be absolutely gorgeous, but thats another conversation all together ;)
My 6 advanced students, are all very talkative, so much so you forget that english isnt their 1st language as they blabber to each other in english which is the main objective in groups to have student to student interaction and not have them looking at you all the time. They always have something new topics to debate, which makes for a relaxed interesting class.

My week, i currently work wednesdays to sundays, with monday and tuesdays off. It works out well.
I cant complain right now, which is pretty good. I live in Kanagawa (not sure if i mentioned that before) i work in Tamagawa district (pretty sure i mentioned that) i live like 40minutes on train outside central Tokyo, which works out well, its still built up where i live but you can get to the countryside, beach and city all in 1hour easily. I work in 4 schools, Shinyurigaoka, Kyodo, Tama-centre (twice) and Tama-plaza.
Sometimes if when teachers leave or for some other reason, you are put on a 'cover day' so you will be working 6day weeks sometimes, which sucks, this involves getting to schools out the way that you dont know and teaching student you've never met, but i suppose that was the case on my first day!
Also, the ever changing schedules, can be good and bad. Sometimes it works out with decent breaks to get food or prep in between lessons. Sometimes it works out with huge breaks where you get bored and end up spending yen on something useless.Or barely any breaks where they just pile in students one after the next! The schools have pretty good resources despite the fact some of them have taken a beating by kids. Resouces are like inflatables, balls, sticky balls, blocks, magnetic letters, big dice, puppets, the whiteboard, colour pens, and flashcards. Flashcards are different sized cards, with all sorts of pictures and/or words on them relevant to what your trying to teach.
Altogether iv got 42 regular students in my week, plus any other randoms thrown in throughout.
I've got a boss and an assistant boss, both of whom i get on with really well. Iv had 3 observations, which is to assess my progress as a teacher. All of them i think went well. Its strange that a month into teaching i was thrown into parents observation for kids classes, which was out of order, but i coped well, i didnt give a shit the parents were watching though, because i dont know them...Im of the opinion, the more i know someone the LESS i want them in my class observing me, thats why i dont like my bosses watching, ha! I still dont consider myself a "teacher" by any stretch of the word...but im doing my best to fit the bill!...

Ok. I hope iv remembered everything i was wanting to mention in this blog, thats it for the learning my lesson sequel. I will be writing another blog non-teaching related but still Japan centred next week, so stay tuned.
If you've got this far...your either really bored or your an idiot and have just wasted your valueable time!..............

Posted by RMS8 07:51 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo japan travel strange job english asia teaching

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