Zoey Peterson: Volunteer English Teaching

I spent my CIP project volunteering as an assistant English teacher for an informal English class held in the house of my host family once or twice a week. Every Monday and Wednesday, two classes were held and taught by my host mother’s daughter (who is an adult with four children of her own). One class was for 5- and 6-year olds; the other was for 7- and 8-year olds. The teacher’s 3-year-old daughter also participated.

I love children, so an excuse to interact with them was very enjoyable for me. I learned a lot about Japanese and Japanese children as well. For example, for the younger children especially, there was a ‘warming-up’ period of a few weeks where they simply stared at me in astonishment and almost never spoke. The teacher apologized, saying they were just surprised by my presence, and were usually much louder. After two or three weeks, they opened up and started talking to me, asking me questions like “Where are you from? How many people live in America? What’s the weather like there?” They all speak very quickly and in Kansai-ben, so understanding them in the beginning was a little difficult. I learned some of the Kansai-ben particular to Kyoto, such as ‘hin’ to signify negation (dekihin instead of dekinai) or -haru as the slightly politer way to end verbs.

The older children took less time to warm up to me, asking me questions after maybe one or two weeks. The youngest child, the 3-year-old, took almost a month and a half to speak to me at all. She also was reluctant to speak even in my presence. During class, she would instead whisper her answers into her 6-year-old sister’s ear. The only exception was the children of the teacher; her three oldest children had lived in America for a year or so, and she hosts foreign students herself so they were not shy at all. Her 6-year-old daughter talks to me often inside and outside of class, occasionally saying surprisingly advanced or observant things to me.

I was also able to interact with the parents of many students as well, who treated me as another teacher and thanked me after each lesson. Some even sat in on a lesson or two, and spoke to me afterwards to thank me. The parents were very serious about picking up their children on time, and apologized profusely if they were late even a few minutes.

In all, it was a wonderful way to get to know many of the neighborhood children. I even recognize some of them when walking around these days, and the braver ones say hello and wave at me. It was also a great way to pick up more Kansai-ben and improve my own pronunciation. I’d highly recommend volunteering in any way with children to future KCJS students!

3 thoughts on “Zoey Peterson: Volunteer English Teaching

  1. I’m glad to hear that you had a lot of fun working with children, they sound really cute!

    My question is what kind of material did you and the teacher usually use, i.e. textbooks, videos, or just playing games in general?

  2. You sound like you had a very fulfilling experience! The children sound absolutely adorable!!

    Approximately how large was each class? Was there a lot of 3-6 year olds around at one time or was it more of a smattering here and there depending on the day? Would you consider volunteering with kids again outside of programs that makes it a requirement (if time allows)?

  3. I am so glad you picked up more Kansai-ben! It is so interesting and I am so envious that you can get along with children
    And I am curious that what kinds of “advanced” and “observant” things that child said to you, because to me children are absolutely a mystery…