I figure I’ll have many more stories to share as we continue on, so I’ll be bold and make this “Teaching in Japan Stories 1“. Let’s hope for many more to come, although I’ll try to exhaust a lot of my stories here in this post.
Post theme (no particular reason):
In my last Japan post I mentioned that there’s this 1st year girl who plays Senbonzakura on the piano extremely well. So here’s a quick story involving her.
One day she was in the school lobby playing Senbonzakura on the piano (we have 3 pianos, one on each floor of the school) during lunch break. I was walking in the direction of the piano towards the admin office (I’m friends with the guy that works there, and he’s trying to learn English so we chat a lot). But my friend in the office was busy, so I decided to just keep walking towards the piano.
The girl had two friends next to her while she played, that were just chatting. They notice me and stop talking. The girl playing the piano notices that they stopped talking, and then turns around and notices me watching. So she immediately stops, jumps up off the piano, and runs to her friends (remember the girls are really shy and this was maybe only 2 weeks after I started working).
Realizing she was too shy to play with me listening, I just told her “good job!” and walked away. As I walked away her and her friends were giggling and saying “good job!” over and over to each other.
Things just got real
At my other school, which is really small, the English teacher I was with gave me 20 minutes to play a game with the 1st year students. So I decided to start a game of “Criss Cross”, where you have a row of students stand up. You ask a question and the first student to answer gets to sit down. Continue until there is only one student left standing, and then the column that student is in has to all stand and the game continues.
Well, at first they didn’t quite understand the game, so we played until there was one student left standing in the row. Then I had the entire column of the last student stand up, and it clicked for them all at the same time.
All the students let out a “Eeeeeeeehhh?!” and started looking around. It was a funny moment because it was at that moment that things just got real, and the students who were sitting all realized “I might have to stand up”. Remember, students in JHS are super shy so they don’t want to stand up. They’d much rather sit and watch their peers have to stand up!
After that, students started trying to help the one in their row / column so they wouldn’t have to stand and the class got more lively which was great. The principal was observing the class and so when the back row had to stand, he stood with them and joined in which was also cool.
You tricked me!
At one of my schools we have a couple of classes for special needs students. In this particular class it’s just two students, one boy and one girl. It’s such a fun and relaxed class that it’s definitely one of my favourites.
The lesson for the class was learning the words “I think…..”, “What do you think…?”, “He / she thinks…”. I had made a powerpoint with a bunch of super zoomed in pictures of everyday objects that I stole from the internet, and they had to say what they thought each picture was.
They were having a lot of fun with the game, which was pictures of like a carrot, chocolate, et cetera zoomed in. Well, eventually we got to a zoomed in picture of coffee where all you could see is a brown liquid with bubbles on top.
The girl immediately got excited and shouted out “I think it’s coffee!”, and the boy agreed. Instead of revealing the answer though, I instead said “Do you think it’s coffee? Or… cola?”. She had to think about it, and then after a short while she decided that she thought it was actually cola!
After which I revealed that it was in fact coffee, she had this look on her face like “what just happened”, and the other teacher and I began laughing hysterically, which then caused the students to start laughing too. Was just a funny and fun moment.
Speaking of the special needs students, after class the teacher will let the two students pick a sticker from a stack of sticker cards. Things from colours to animals to foods to people, all kinds of stickers.
The boy always immediately takes a sticker of an orange circle, because he likes the colour orange.
But the girl is just so cute because every class she meticulously looks through the stickers searching for the perfect one. Every class. Several minutes. It’s just so cute seeing her so focused on picking the perfect sticker, be it a cute animal, or something else. Lately she’s been picking these funny stickers that are sort of caricatures of Japanese people, they’re really odd looking. So it’s not just cute stuff, I really don’t know what her selection process is but she puts a lot of effort into it and it’s adorable!
It’s just me
Since I’m just a teaching assistant, I’m always working with another English teacher. So I usually walk to class with them.
But one day, the English teacher had forgotten to print a bunch of worksheets, so she had me go on ahead to our 3rd year (grade 9 equivalent) class. As I was walking down the hallway towards the class, a couple students poked their heads out the door because the bell had already rung. They see me walking towards their class, alone.
Then I hear them saying in the class “Chris-sensei dake?” (“Only Chris?”). So I walk into the class and decide to roll with it, telling them all “It’s just me today everyone”. Everyone had a puzzled look on their face. So I decided to double down and told everyone to open their textbooks, but I couldn’t help but laugh which got the whole class laughing because they knew I was messing with them.
Typically the other teacher is the one that directs the class and leads the lesson and whatnot. I’m more there for pronunciation, activities, and cracking jokes. And I try to crack jokes frequently, either through my words or my actions.
Not one story in particular, but here’s an example of the kind of things I like to do to mess around with the students while in class.
One of the teachers I work with likes to play the audio for the textbook readings, even though I’m there. So because I don’t have to do the readings myself, if someone is absent, I’ll casually walk around the classroom and then sit down in the absent student’s seat. After that, the teacher will treat me like a student and target me for questions – usually asking me to translate things to Japanese, which he knows I can’t do very well. Usually gets some laughs from the students.
Another thing I like to do is mess around during the readings, which is where I read something, and then the students all have to repeat it.
One thing I like to do is lead them in circles if the reading allows it. For example, there was one reading where halfway through it went like “What’s that?”, “It’s a badge”, “Oh, I see”. So instead of moving on, I’d just keep going back to “What’s that?”, “It’s a badge”. “What’s that?”, “It’s a badge”. “Oh… what’s that?”, “It’s a badge”. “What’s that badge?”, “It’s a what?” and so on. The students always start to laugh when they realize what I’m doing.
Another reading thing I like to do is just get stuck on a word. For example, one reading had a character saying “What?”. So I just kept reading “What?” and gesturing like I didn’t understand what was going on. Remember the students have to repeat after me, so they’re at my mercy!
Alright that’s probably enough for this post. I’ve got more to write about too, so hopefully you enjoyed this sort of content! As the year progresses (although summer break is soon!) I hope I can get even more stories for you.
Messing with the students is my favourite part of the job, so I’m sure I’ll have many more fun stories of that nature to come in the future. I already have plans for the upcoming test day (entire school is taking tests) where I’ll have no classes to teach. I was actually hoping I could take some tests with the students but I don’t think the teachers will let me, so I’ll have to settle with my other plans.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading!