Victoria Tissot: Bazaar Cafe & English Tutoring at Kamigyō Junior High School

I never thought choosing a CIP activity would be a difficult task. From the moment I finished reading the CIP section of the KCJS website, my mind was set on teaching English. Since I have been teaching language classes as a hobby from middle school to college, I decided to continue my passion in Japan with the KCJS program and began to volunteer as an English tutor at a local middle school. When I started my CIP, just entering the school for the first time to introduce myself was an adventure in itself; from taking my shoes off and putting slippers on, to seeing children cleaning up their own school after classes were over, this experience allowed me to learn so much about Japanese culture.

To my surprise, teaching English to Japanese students was nothing like I expected it to be. First of all, I imagined myself assisting an English teacher and her students in the middle of class. Instead, I was asked to tutor students individually, a much more personal way of teaching that I was not familiar with, since I had been used to teaching a big group of students. When we first met, the students were just as nervous as I was, but after a couple of questions, and as I tried to be as friendly and carefree as possible, I was able to create a more relaxing environment and made sure the students understood that it was alright to make mistakes. Even though I had originally thought that teaching English would be an easy task for me, I was surprised at how difficult it actually was, both for me and my students. There was always some miscommunication, and the hardest part was making sure the students understood the way I translated some English words and grammar to them. The student and teacher interaction also gave me more insight on Japanese culture; I found it curious that, even though I tried to act more as a friend and student to them, all the students still treated me with a lot of respect and politeness, as if they were speaking to their middle school teachers. In the end, tutoring English was just as much of a learning experience for me as for my students. Every week, I would try to alter my teaching methods and find better ways of helping my students. For instance, instead of merely explaining certain words and grammar out loud in English, I would write them down on a paper and ask the students to read and repeat. This unique experience in Japan gave me a new perspective on teaching, especially since I am contemplating the possibility of becoming a language teacher in the future.

My tutoring classes unfortunately only lasted two weeks, and I was very sad to find out that the school would not be needing my help anymore, especially since the semester was already finishing by the time I started to volunteer. I then began a second CIP activity: volunteering at Bazaar café, a café located across the street from Doshisha University. Since I had always wanted to work at a café or restaurant back home, but never found the time or the opportunity to do so, and since I also preferred a more individual activity instead of joining a club, Bazaar café was the perfect opportunity for me. So far, my experience at Bazaar café has been phenomenal. Not only have I been learning so much about how to run a café, but I have also been practicing my Japanese as I interact with the friendly staff and make new friends.


6 thoughts on “Victoria Tissot: Bazaar Cafe & English Tutoring at Kamigyō Junior High School

  1. Victoria, I am glad to hear you also had a great experience teaching English! Unfortunately, I also was unable to help teach English for more than a few classes, but I really enjoyed the experience as well. Like you, I was treated with a lot of respect. When I tried to act more like a friend to the students, they were still pretty nervous but were excited that I expressed interest in what they were doing or individually offered them help. I hope the experience helps you decide whether to become a language teacher in the future!

    • Thanks Sabrina, I’m glad you enjoyed your teaching experience as well!

  2. Dear Victoria,

    I’m sorry that you didn’t get more opportunities to practice English teaching in Japan but it sounds like you learned a lot. From my experience working with kindergartners through 9th graders, I can tell you that teaching experiences can very a lot so keep your mind open about what teaching in Japan can hold in store for you. Also, as your Japanese language skills in improve, it gets much easier to communicate.

    • Thanks Jordan, I do hope I get another opportunity to practice English teaching in Japan.

  3. Teaching anything in Japan sounds like an adventure. Did you feel like there was a wall because of the high level of politeness? I can’t imagine staying formal with a tutor. But I can totally understand their not wanting to make mistakes. I think that hinders a lot of people, and Japanese in particular are under a lot of pressure to look good.

    Do you feel like teaching language to Japanese people has helped you understand how to better learn languages yourself?

    • Hi Samuel,
      Yes, it did feel like there was a wall between me and the students, but maybe there was such a high level of politeness because we were in a middle school. Perhaps if I had done private tutoring outside of school, they would not have been so formal.
      This experience has definitely helped me understand more how to teach languages, since it has been so different from my french tutoring classes back home.