Brandon Syms : Assistant English Teacher

My experience with CIP has been excited, yet a little unfulfilling. I say that because although I enjoyed going to the school to partake in the activities with the students often I was unable to because I was scheduled on a Friday and it seems that many field trips and holidays fall on that day. I originally decided to become an Assistant English Teacher for my CIP because I was thinking of doing the JET program and I wanted to be sure that this type of work would be something I would want to do. I got quite a few other things out of the experience as well. For instance, I got an insight into the Japanese education system. The thing that shocked me the most of is how relaxed the atmosphere is while still managing to maintain the same structure. The teacher has a friendly relationship with is students and yet he still holds together this structure. The role I played was at first more difficult that I had expected. Not using Japanese with the Japanese teacher was strange to me. I felt as if it kept the students outside of the conversation. Something I realized about the English classes in Japan, is that it is taught in much the same manner that Japanese is taught to native English speakers. However, I still don’t quite understand why it is done in such a strange manner, yielding very few that are able to fully master the other language due to things like limited vocabulary and intense grammar. A suggestion that I have to offer to the English Education Department is to perhaps focus on two things, vocabulary themes (lists that cover all the words of the same theme) and more frequent speech practice. I understand that not all students want to learn English but with the way it seems to be structured, those who do want to learn won’t be able to do so to the extent of their full potential.

On a lighter note, I really enjoyed getting to know one of the classes, I remembered a lot of their names and they really enjoyed my lessons. One lesson in particular I really enjoyed because I got the chance to explain the grammar point in Japanese to the students. Unlike Japanese classes in America, English classes in Japan are taught in English at the middle school level. I can only imagine how difficult that must be to grasp if you do not understand the language of instruction. When I explained it to them in Japanese, they were more enthusiastic and they began to correctly use the grammar point.

Being a foreigner in that setting is also very interesting. Unlike adults, children are not as accustomed to foreigners since they wake up early and go directly to school where they socialize with other Japanese children and leave later to go home where they spend time with their family. So as a foreigner I at first felt a little awkward because I didn’t understand from their point of view why I was so astonishing. But little by little I grew very comfortable and eventually feeling more prideful able being a foreigner. For the most part Japanese children thing foreigners are cool and mysterious. So all the students are just very curious of me and about where I come from. I think in all, my experience was different. I am just glad that I got the chance to see what a Japanese school is like in a hands-on way. I’d recommend it but only if you can go more than once a week.