Sunday, 25 January 2009

Conference Over -- Changes Begin

It snowed again last night.

Yesterday, I had a migraine. I still have a slightly sore neck and head but it is much improved over yesterday's agony.

On Thursday, I tried taking some advice we were given at conference the previous week: to request that we be able to observe other classes at our chuugakkou (junior high schools). It was also a chance to practise a little Japanese with the teachers, as Mizobuchi-sensei encouraged me to ask them myself.

I sat in on Japanese (kokugo) with the first graders and Science (rika) with the second graders. I understood neither, but Science was much more interesting.

Of course, we had our mid-year conference during the last three days of last week. The first overall speaker was one Prof. Goro Tajiri, whose English was very impressive and whose ideas and teaching methods for Junior High are very good.

The other speaker was Tom Merner, who teaches Elementary school level and is trying to encourage teachers to understand that an ALT is not there to drill the kids or even have them speak English sentences within the classroom; rather, we are there to encourage children to develop an interest in communication -- through exposure to a foreigner -- and to realise that communication is more than just spoken language.

Since then, I have not spoken any Japanese in shougakkou classes -- and it has worked out well. Some -- no, most -- teachers still believe that we are there to teach the children English and I have even had some tell me that I wasn't getting the children to speak enough English -- or were themselves translating as much as they could so that the kids understood via language what they were supposed to do.

But it is a process. I hope that over this year, a lot of teachers will come to more of a realisation of our role in an elementary-level class and will themselves see that children are learning without an understanding of the language being spoken.


No comments: