わたし の しょうがっこう YOUKOSO, WILLKOMMEN, BIENVENIDOS, DOBRO POSHALOVAT', KARIBU!!! (to "my" Japanese elementary schools) カタリ-ナ

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006






Hello, Hello
I don't know why you say Goodbye I say Hello!
This is the absolute favourite of all 5th graders and they love doing the gestures while singing this BEATLES all-time megahit.

Friday, March 10, 2006

meet Yutaka-kun

Yutaka is a forth-grader of Tenraiji primary school in Tobata. When I first met him I was surprised that he was a pupil of the so-called "Sunflower" (Himawari) class for the physically and mentally challenged. He seemed eager and clever and was quick to pronounce English words. The special education teacher in charge at that time, Mrs. Nomura told me that he was hyperactive and somtimes just out of control. And lively he was! Each time we started a lesson he would jump up and down and point out his favourite comic characters' pictures on the walls: Sensei, senseiiiiiiii, we'll talk about them today, won't we? Atom Boy is his absolute favourite. And just like me and many other children of course, he loves Doraemon. As long as we sang and danced a lot in the class (which we mostly do when teaching special classes) he was always happy.
Once we went to the nearby park with the then new teacher in charge, Ikeda-san and Yutaka's classmates: Shiho and Aya. The other girl of the group, Eri-san had already graduated by then. We had brought a ball to play and at the same time learn words like "kick", "throw", "catch". Shiho was very reluctant to go near the ball at first. Her movements are slow and she normally doesn't talk but she is a very warmhearted girl with a nice smile. Aya and Yutaka enjoyed playing but mostly just sat on the ground and laughed their heads off. It was a sunny spring day and I love remembering it.
Yutaka-kun is kind and not shy at all. He shows up at the teachers' room every now and then to talk to the teachers. Would anyone join him to play "Hide and Seek", "Police and Thieves"? And he is someone who really appreciates an ALT's work. Whenever I brought materials, picture cards, games etc. to the class he was just full of appreciation: "Katharina-sensei, did you make these? Wonderful, you made these things!"
Arigatou, Yutaka-kun. Itsumade mo o genki de ne!

and Seiya

Seiya is quite the oppsite of Yutaka. He spends most of the English lessons lying down under the piano. He is 9 years old and also a forth grader. He is at Fukamachi elementary school in Wakamatsu. He might be a candidate for a special "Sunflower" or "Blue Sky" class but there is no such class at Fukamachi and as long as the parents don't send their children to a special school they are being integrated. Seiya's homeroom teacher told me Seiya just can't learn English! But I don't think, it's true. He has got his moments. I used to squat beside him and tried to make him talk and he did utter one word or the other. And once he even came with two other boys to pick me up from the English room because the homeroom teacher wanted their lesson to be held in the classroom. Back in class and "mission completed" he was so proud of himself, he repeated and repeated: "Eigo no sensei yonda." (I called the Englishteacher, I CALLED the Englishteacher!) He is a cute boy.
Good luck to you, Seiya-chan, whatever you do!

he's the one in the red T-shirt

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Worldclub and Concert

In November and December of last year I had the chance to visit some of my schools again ("natsukashiiiiiiiii"). In Tobata I attended the school concert of Tobatachuo which was quite impressive. All grades participated and performed on their recorders, drums, in choirs and solo. Some wore beautiful (Korean - Che sensei's influence!! or fairytale) costumes. The theme of the second graders' performance was ("Iroirona kuni no uta-asobi - songs and games of different countries"). They also sang a German song (the Cuckoo song) and mentioned "This was a song of Wanjohi sensei's country!"
Japanese kids stay in school until at least 4 p.m. and therefore have lots of extra activities to do in the various clubs (basketball, theatre, karaoke, table tennis and so on).
In the worldclub I taught the students some expressions like greetings in German. The students were amused to here that we use "Ah, so desu ka" almost in the same way as it is used in Japanese and with the same intonation, too: "Ach sooooooo". They also had fun with the Maru-Batsu (true or false) game about Germany and I gave out some prizes that the German embassy had sent me (posters of the Alpes, brochures etc.) Finally we watched a video about Munich and listened to some German music (yodelling as well as "Die fantastischen Vier").

Nakayoshi - having fun with some of my friends of the third grade (Tobatachuo)

Friday, October 07, 2005


From October 1st I am a student once again doing the last level of the Japanese language course for foreigners that is offered at the University of Kitakyushu.
Saying goodbye to my four schools was really sad as I have come to love the kids there teaching them for over a year.
I got lots of beautiful pictures, letters (that will be really good for my Japanese practice) and other small gifts here and there plus two big flower bouquets and took many pictures. Of course I had to hold the obligatory farewell speeches. After one week of goodbyes, beautiful last encounters and also tears I was really exhausted!

My favourite 6th graders at Fukamachi elementary school gave me this picture with the title "English time was very enjoy!"
It was drawn by MISAKI, NANA and ERI (really talented girls): THANK YOU!!!

I still got lots of pictures to share with you and also a few more stories to tell, i.e. will still continue this blog. Since I am still in Kitakyushu, I can stay in touch with my schools and visit them sometimes.

On today's picture you can see one of my last school lunches ("kyushoku"). Most of the times it was tasty and definitely always healthy and balanced. However, I am not a big fan of the dried fish and nuts snack (entire fish with eyes and everything!) even though it might be good for my teeth. Also some versions of seawheat (the brownish slimy one for instance) aren't among my favourites. Curry rice (KARE RAISU) is and it also ranks number one among the students' favourite dishes.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Sport's Day

Dance, dance, dance! This year's popular songs for sport's day are "No more cry" and "Matsuken Samba".

Ganbare, ganbare!

The biggest event in May at each of my four schools was Sport's Day (or "Undookai" in Japanese). The students competed in different races but what seemed more important was enjoying movements in the big group, dances and music, cheering for one another and marching to "patriotic" music. Parents and brothers and sisters were there to cheer up their kids and enjoy their packed lunches together. In the end, one of the two big teams (either RED or WHITE) is declared the winner. Most of the pictures here are from FUKAMACHI ELMENTARY SCHOOL.

Pics: "White is the winner!", the winners shout: BANZAI!, big-ball-race, the small ones watch their friends racing.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

New schoolyear

I'm back at the same schools again and April was the month of welcoming the ichinensei (new firstgraders). Most schools took them out on a picknick or on a hike and the rokunensei (sixthgraders, called their older brothers and sisters) took special care of the small ones, carried them around, played with them and also the other grades sang and danced for them.
In a month they have learned to speak as one (which is so typical for Japanese school ceremonies) but they still sound like Mickey Mouse. Proudly they wear their brandnew yellow hats that were given to them during the formal celebration of their very first day (which for me was an opportunity to learn the Japanese National Anthem). At one of my schools the picknick was held indoors (in the gym) due to rainy weather. Instead of hiking we played games like "Janken-train" and had a Hoola Hoop competition.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Hello and welcome to my little site: it's supposed to give you a glimpse of my life in Japan and my work with the elementary school kids.

Last September I started an ALT teaching job at four elementary schools in the Tobata and Wakamatsu wards of Kitakyushu. I took over from Marcus-sensei, an Australian who, somewhat unexpectedly for the company, left for another job in Osaka. The company OWLS (One World Language Services) which is based in San Francisco and Kitakyushu employs not only native speakers but also a number of teachers from countries whose first language isn’t English. They are messengers of cross-cultural communication with English as their lingua franca. During the last term the company had teachers from India, Nepal, Uganda, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Closing Ceremony, end of March 2005, the new schoolyear is about to start...

The students had already left but their images were still there....

The teaching involves a lot of singing and games. Not surprisingly English is among the most popular subjects (together with Art, and PE).
By the way, the students also love the word "PE" itself and they love shouting it out. Science also seems to be on the top of the list. Japanese, however, is not. You’ll hear a very confident “No, I don’t” if you ask 4th graders if they like Japanese. Difficult and not interesting are the reasons some mentioned to me later. I don’t envy them for having to sweat over Kanji day in and day out.

with my colleagues at Tenraiji elementary school

MANGA CLUB (Tobatachuo elementary school)

Speaking of PE, other words the kids really love are “pudding”, “ghost” and “cotton candy”. Expressions that nobody taught them officially but they like to use are “Oh, my God!” and “Come on!”
Difficult words/expressions were: "Thursday" as opposed to "Tuesday", the "principal's office", "I'd like" instead of "I like" and "flight attendant".
Why they love saying “Good morning” but are reluctant to say “Good afternoon” I haven’t been able to figure out yet.

5th grade girls

In Japan the children are much more involved in every day tasks, for example serving lunch or cleaning the school. The teachers’ room (or “shokuinshitsu” in Japanese) is always frequented by the students. Whether they come to borrow “ohashi” (chopsticks), collect letters, get pink binbags or need to speak to a teacher or look for the school nurse, they are always present. I remember that in my schooldays entering the teachers’ room was an absolute taboo and I think the only time I finally saw it was when we danced on the tables there during our Abi (high school graduation) party. When entering the teachers’ room here in Japan, the students have to say who they are, what grade and what they came for and ask if they would be kindly allowed to enter (“......haittemo ii desuka?”) and when they leave they have to apologize (“Shitsurei shimashita.”)

Souji (= cleaning) after lunch break

I had some very interesting lessons, for example during Christmas time when the students drew what they would like from Santa. Among the most popular whishes were computer games (and especially the new PSP) and skating shoes. But there were also kids who wanted a dog or a cat or –very modestly- just a book. Some of the 5th and 6th graders’ girls wanted love (!) or a boyfriend and some of the boys power and even a whole country. One was more explicit saying he would like to have Hawaii.
The 6th graders also drew what they wanted to be in the future. From sushi chef to geologist or train conductor they had lots of ideas, however the most popular one among the girls was hairdresser and among the boys baseball player. I noticed that in each class there are some excellent “cartoonists” (Manga style, of course) and that is also what some want to do for their living.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Eigo wa totemo tanoshii desu! (="English is fun" and it's a pleasure to teach nice kids like them) 4-1 of TOBATACHUO

Eating lunch with the children also is great fun – sometimes they don’t know how to handle the situation having a gaijin (this word means "foreigner" but also "alien") at their table and can’t help giggling. But many times they are so curious and have so many questions, not only trivial ones like “What’s your favourite fruit/colour/animal?” etc. but also more specific ones like “What did you like the least in today’s lunch?”, “Which person is your favourite in this school?”, “Who is the cutest out of these three boys?”, "Do you wear socks when you sleep?", “Hmmm, Germany, are the German and English languages very different?” (I was asked that question by a firstgrader!)

the masters of JAN-KEN-PON (rock, scissors, paper) 4-2 of TOBATACHUO

Whenever they have to decide who goes first, the students play "Janken". In this class, they literally terrorize their homeroomteacher so they can do it all the time.
In general the students are all unbelievably cute but also have their share of violent problem children and crybabies.

"It's the last day of this schoolyear. Soon I'll be a 5th grader: MOSSUGU 5-NENSEI NI NARU!" 4-3 of TOBATACHUO

You might wonder what problems I encountered working at Japanese schools or in Japan in general.
First of all, communication doesn't always work (for me) in Japan. Once a colleague thought she had to criticise me for someting I was wearing which she thought wasn't appropriate. Instead of telling me, she told other colleagues who then told the kyoto and kochoo sensei (vice principal and principal) who then assigned yet another teacher to tell me. I was really disappointed and told the person in question but she just smiled an embarassed smile.
In Tenraiji there was an alert once that a gangster who had robbed a nearby drugstore was probably hiding on the school premises. It was false alarm in the end. If anything like that happens there is no guarantee that any of the Japanese teachers will make sure the gaijin also knows what's going on. Learning Japanese and enquiring/asking a lot is a must. Several times schools changed their timetables for the English lessons but forgot to tell me. So one morning when I was still preparing my materials and thought I had about 45 minutes still 40 kids entered the room (which was a mess...): "Harrro, Katharina-sensei!" I have to say it quite helped to improve my improvisational skills.
There were also several typhoons (due to which some days were free, hooray!) and earthquakes (so "untypical" for this region of Japan which had none in 60 years but they did happen when we were around!) Thanks, MOTHER EARTH, for making sure I got the complete package of a JAPAN EXPERIENCE :-).