Nicholas Han: Assistant English Teacher at Ohara Academy

At my home school in America, my university offers a language partner program with study abroad students. I had really enjoyed teaching others English, which is why when I came to KCJS and had to pick a CIP, I was very interested in becoming an assistant English teacher. Once I started it at Ohara Academy, however, it did differ a little from what I expected.

My experiences back home with teaching Japanese tended to involve the meaning of phrases, often for American slang. As a result, I came in with expectations similar to that. However, because the students at Ohara were elementary and middle school students, their Japanese was not that advanced yet. Instead, it surprised me that what they really focused on was pronunciation and forming basic conversations. However, it was still enjoyable, as I was able to meet and talk with many young Japanese students.

During my time at Ohara, I also encountered a couple unexpected cultural customs. The first that comes to mind is how at Japanese schools, everyone is required to completely finish their food with no leftovers at all. One day, after eating lunch, I left a few tiny bits of rice in the bowl. However, when the teacher saw, he told me that in Japan you couldn’t do that. After that time, I made sure to finish everything every day. Furthermore, another surprising aspect of Japanese schools is how cleanup is done by the students. It contrasts significantly with American schools, where students tend to care very little for the school’s cleanliness. One final unexpected thing was that every day each class had a student assigned to begin class. They would call for all the students to stand up, and then everyone would say “good morning” to the teacher, before sitting down and beginning class.

I think my experiences as a English teaching assistant wasn’t quite what I expected when coming into it. Despite that, it was a great opportunity to see a completely different perspective of how school is run. Because of that, I think that it was a very worthwhile and rewarding experience that I would definitely consider doing again.

4 thoughts on “Nicholas Han: Assistant English Teacher at Ohara Academy

  1. That sounds like a really great CIP experience! My mom works as an English as a Second Language Teacher in a Boston elementary school and I occasionally go to her classes to help out as an assistant. It’s a lot of fun! What kind of things did you do to help the students practice English? Did you have much freedom in deciding how to help teach the kids or did you follow a set curriculum?

    • I mostly repeated the words that they were learning, with an emphasis on showing clear pronunciation. I also did walk around and help whenever students were having trouble with tasks in class. During class, I mainly followed a set curriculum although typically we had sort of an introduction and Q&A in the beginning which meant that I did have some freedom on what I wanted to talk about.

  2. Hi Nick. At my university, I used to meet weekly with a foreign student to help practice/teach English, so I find your CIP really interesting! I’m also interested in the differences between American and Japanese schools. Because Japan tends to be very accommodating to the mistakes of foreigners, I find it surprising that you were actually corrected on the rice, especially when it’s such a small thing in America. Why do you think they cared so much that you finished it? Were there any other instances where teachers asked you to do something a certain way?

    • I guess the rice thing is just part of the culture. Japanese students are taught from the beginning that they have to finish everything, so it is sort of part of the culture now I think. Nothing particularly comes to mind about other teachers asking me to do something in a particular way that I didn’t already do.