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

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.