Dina Cui: Assistant English Teaching

For my CIP, I chose to be an assistant English teacher because I find kids interesting, but also because it partially relates to what I want to do in the future (work with children). The kids range from age three to maybe about high school age, though I specifically asked to work with younger children since I find the way they are so different from adults very interesting. I go about once a week for an hour, though I have gone twice a week a few times as well. The lessons are always in the afternoon, since that is when the kids are out of school! Also, since the lessons are private or semi-private (one child or a very small group), they are at Suemitsu Sensei’s home. It almost makes me feel like the next best thing to a homestay, since she also often gives me homemade snacks or desserts after the lesson that she or her sister have made. She is super sweet and I feel like I have experienced some cultural immersion in this way!

During each lesson, Suemitsu Sensei typically starts with a song (recently, we have been singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” since it is almost Christmas), and then we go through the lesson for the day in the kids’ textbooks. I assist her in pronouncing parts of the books for the kids to repeat after me, and I also play games with them towards the end of the class! She also held an event at her house in the middle of the semester (a Halloween party!), which was very fun. We performed a little skit (Snow White), played games with the kids, and judged costumes. There were maybe 15-20 children, so it was pretty lively (much more than the usual lessons).

I have really enjoyed my CIP throughout the semester, especially because I had a fairly smooth experience since I was introduced to Suemitsu Sensei through Nakamura Sensei, one of the Japanese professors at KCJS! I feel like I learned a lot about Japanese culture, especially in watching the ways the children interact with each other and hearing some stories from them and from Suemitsu Sensei. It was also really fun teaching them about my own culture and showing them pictures, sometimes of my own past experiences and sometimes just pictures that I have been sent from home (today I showed them pictures of my family’s Thanksgiving meal)!

As for language immersion, I do wish in some ways that I could have spoken more Japanese for my CIP, but I also think I got plenty of language practice through my daily life and in speaking to my conversation partners/Japanese friends. It was a little difficult to interact with the kids at first, though, because it felt like there was a solid language barrier between us (since I was asked to speak only English to them). However, I also appreciated that the kids spoke Japanese freely to each other, because it was really interesting to observe the differences in the ways that they spoke and the ways that adults spoke. I think especially because they are pretty young (6/7 and 9/10), they did not adjust their Japanese for me in the way a language partner probably does, and I think I could learn a lot about their slang because of this!