For my CIP I went to Ohara Gakuin every week as an Assistant Language Teacher. Once a week, immediately after class I would take a train and a bus to Ohara, then a short walk to the school. (On a related note, Ohara is a beautiful place during the fall and has a few reputable walking paths leading into the mountains. I highly recommend exploring the area after your CIP or on your own time. ) Part of my reason for pursuing this CIP was to determine if I wanted to apply for a JET teaching position after graduation. First, I would eat lunch with the students, and then I would either play games or assist with English instruction, ranging from vocabulary to reading comprehension. In addition, I was able to go to a school festival and watch the students perform skits and musical pieces.
I think the Ohara experience was unique in that I was able to interact with a wide range of students, from grades 1 to 8, going to different classes every week. This allowed me to observe how students of different age groups interact with each other and the forms of Japanese they use. I was also able to see the different teaching styles used by the English instructors depending on the age of the students. In respect to my participation, I enjoyed almost all of my interactions with the students and teachers. Although I was initially instructed to pretend to not understand Japanese in the presence of the students, I quickly realized that I would need to utilize my Japanese skills from time to time to coax the students into talking with me. However, this proved to be good practice for me to develop my language skills, particularly when helping students translate what they wanted to say from Japanese to English during our conversations. English Professors Kameda and Morimoto were also very easy to get along with and actively encouraged the students to interact with me during lunch and instruction time.
My main suggestion to students seeking to do this CIP is to have patience. You’ll be interacting with elementary and middle schoolers, with the latter group beginning to deal with the challenges of young adulthood. While a student may be difficult to communicate with one week, it might be a completely different experience the next week so keep an open mind. Additionally, the English instruction, especially with the younger grades, may seem too slow at times, but it’s important to remember that language instruction not just about communication but also about exposing students to a new culture and way of thinking; at the very least, just your presence can have an impact on their lives.