Mika Braun: Assistant English Teacher at Hiyoshigaoka High School

For my CIP I volunteered at Hiyoshigaoka High School as an English teaching assistant. While I regretted not getting to use my language skills more, this was a valuable experience nonetheless. As I hope to return to Japan one day as part of the JET program, it was incredibly informative to see what the day-to-day life of an ALT looks like and hear about their experiences. Every Wednesday there are 5 ALTs at the school, which I hear is extraordinarily high number. Fortunately for me, I was able to talk to all of them about their time in the program and gained further insight into the experience. During one visit I sat in on a tutoring session where an ALT was helping a student with pronunciation differentiations. It was fascinating to observe how he described the mouth movements to better facilitate the sounds. I quickly found myself following his instructions and mouthing the words. I had never before considered the stark contrast between English and Japanese in terms of facial movements.

Since I go in the afternoons there is no fixed class, but an after-school, free-form English club. On Valentine’s Day there was big event where many students participated in themed, student-run activities. One such activity was こくはくreenactment skits in English. Students were given example situations in which to they had to こくはくsomeone (for example: on a train, at the beach…). This resulted in some high-quality acting and hilarious moments. Another one was a ‘speed dating’ activity, which I participated in along with the ALTs. We had to talk to the students and answer Valentine’s Day-related questions, which ranged from “What kind of candy do you like?” to “Should couples live together before marriage?” Needless to say the questions escalated realllly fast.

Engaging with the students was incredibly entertaining. One week we played an American pop music recognition game and they beat me with flying colors. Another week a student asked whether the McDonalds hamburgers in America were enormous in comparison to those in Japan. Unfortunately, the high school academic year started wrapping up last month and is now finished. I was unable to go in for a number of weeks because students were studying for and taking final exams. I wish I had known that this would be the case from the start of the KCJS semester and could have found an additional CIP activity, one that perhaps involved more Japanese practice. However, I hope to return at least once more before the end of the KCJS semester as the students return for the new school year.

2 thoughts on “Mika Braun: Assistant English Teacher at Hiyoshigaoka High School

  1. Wow! It sounds like you had a great time participating in your CIP! Reading about the Japanese students’ impressions of America was really funny and your Valentine’s Day experience sounded very interesting to say the least. Since you were volunteering with the English club, and not a weekly class, did you get to see the same kids every week? If so, do you think you were able to make any meaningful connections with them? Why do you think they were interested in studying English?

    Thanks for sharing! I hope you are able to go back and participate before the semester ends!!

    • Thanks for your inquiry! The club attendance fluctuated a bit from week to week, but there were a number of regulars. I committed their names to memory and participated in English learning games with them during almost every visit. Since the students all attend formal English class during the day, the after-school program provides them with a diversity of fun activities to keep up with speaking, listening and reading practice.