Volunteering as an assistant English teacher at Ohara Gakuin was a tremendously rewarding experience for me. While I had never taught in a classroom setting before, I had always wanted to do so and through the friendly and supportive faculty at Ohara, I learned many things about Japanese, English, and teaching overall.
Ohara Gakuin is a combined elementary and junior high school, so the grade levels go from first to ninth grade in one building. The classes are small, ranging from 6 students in the smallest and thirteen in the largest. But regardless of class size, the students were all friendly and energetic, and the small town vibe gave it a close knit air. Yet I felt easily welcomed by the students and faculty and after a few weeks some students began to recognize me in the hallways, and I started to recognize students I’ve taught before.
Fortunately since Ohara is a combined school, each week I would be in a different class, with the exception of the first and second graders who I met for a few weeks combined. This way I got a chance to teach at a variety of levels, but I have to say the lower levels were definitely the most fun because of the sheer energy.
Maeda-sensei, the Head English teacher at Ohara is a wonderful teacher and really knows how to get along with children, and how to get them to learn at the same time as playing group games and activities. When she told me how she was glad that I spoke in a loud and clear voice to the children, I felt immensely proud because at some points I wondered if I was shouting, the overall atmosphere in Japan being much quieter than the States.
I’m extremely grateful I had this unique and rewarding opportunity in the midst of such friendly and welcoming people here in Japan.