This semester I joined the English class at Ohara Gakuin as an assistant teacher. I went to Ohara every Monday and joined a variety of classes ranging from 1st grade to 9th grade. While the commute was long, it was quite pleasant because the mountain area that Ohara is in is so beautiful. I really enjoyed joining the classes and seeing how English is taught in Japan. You are not required to speak Japanese for this activity, and in fact are often discouraged because you are in an English class, so if you don’t want to have to speak in Japanese during your activity this may be a good option. I would also advise choosing this activity if you are interested in seeing how English class functions.
I struggled at first with finding a CIP that called to me. However, I eventually settled with joining a friend from KCJS at being an English teaching assistant at Ohara Gakuin. I hadn’t thought of this idea at first, but after hearing him tell me about how he’s able to help students learn English, it immediately piqued my interest. I find that working with kids can be a refreshing change of pace from working with people your age or older, because they are more energetic, and remind me of my I was also very curious about the Japanese English classroom functioned. I wondered how Japanese students learn English differs from learning a foreign language in America and wanted to compare my experience.
I was absolutely stunned when I first arrived in Ohara. It was tucked in the mountainside, and while I occasionally felt weird, likely because of the altitude, it remains to be one of the prettiest places I’ve seen in Japan, and maybe anywhere The most picturesque spot, however, was the path leading to the school. With a colorful spring of flowers on one side, a calmly flowing stream on the other, and a backdrop of the mountains, I couldn’t help but take pictures and share it with friends and family, even though I’m not a big photographer. The beauty of the town was a great introduction to my experience at Ohara Gakuin.
After making my introductions to various teachers and administrators in the office, I began my first period as an assistant English teacher. The activity we had planned for the day, was for me and Jesus, the other KCJS member, to give introductions of ourselves and our hometowns to the class, and have them vote on whose hometown they’d rather visit. The competitive nature of the activity was surprising at first, but it was a fun activity that engaged the class and inspire me and Jesus to sell our hometowns as best we could.As someone who speaks quickly,I was aware I should be conscious of my talking speed.I thought I was talking slowly during my presentation,but the teacher gestured for me to speak more slowly.I then realized this was going to be harder than I thought it would be.he congratulated me for doing a good job but pointed out I should still speak more slowly.He also recommended asking questions as I went through my presentation to make sure everyone was following along.I supposed I should have been expecting that difficulty going into this for the first time, and I told myself I would do better next time.
It was fun getting a chance to interact with the students. While some of them were shy, some were goofy and energetic. It was refreshing to see such a variety. One student even started talking to me outside of class. I was a bit flustered because I wasn’t expecting it, and was worried I would mess up my Japanese. One of the most interesting things, however, was learning the students’ knowledge of America, or American culture. For example, I was surprised to find out that none of the students knew who Elon Musk was. I suppose Elon Musk isn’t only well known in America, and that may just have been because they were too young to know of him. It made me wonder if kids in America are familiar with Musk. I also had the students guess where my hometown is, which gave me a glimpse into how much they knew about American geography. I think my relatively Euro-centric view of the world had me under the impression they would know more when in reality many Americans couldn’t even tell you where the capital is. It made me realize how different of a world we, as Americans, live in from the average Japanese student. They know more about Japan and Japanese culture than I’ll ever know.
I’m really happy that I participated in this activity as my CIP, and I know it will be something I never forget.