I was up bright and early, finished off all the food and drink I had at the hotel, and packed everything away into either my backpack (which I would take with me) or my suitcase (which I would leave with the hotel).
Training in the morning was generally more of the same, looking at the textbooks that the school used for different levels of adults and kids. They were all new to me but the content – the way they were laid out and the elements that they were teaching chapter by chapter – were very similar to the textbooks I had used in Russia.
The plan for the afternoon was travelling to other schools to watch actual lessons taking place. I was paired with Adam from Glasgow, the one teacher among us who actually had a decent level of Japanese. However I decided rather than travelling with him, I would try and get my suitcase into my new accommodation before the first observation. To save time, and to avoid getting more hot and sweaty than I needed to (the sun was even more oppressive than the previous day), I got the train for the one stop back to Nishi-Kasai.
It was quick and simple, retrieving my suitcase from the hotel and wheeling it the 5 minute journey to my new home – although I noted that the damaged wheel on my suitcase was even worse now – before it could roll at least some of the time, now the mounting had been bent back so that the remnants of the wheel wouldn’t even be touching the ground, just the mounting scraping it. Fortunately the other 3 wheels worked fine so as long as I kept my suitcase upright (rather than trying to drag it on 2 wheels) it moved fine – well, like a dodgy shopping trolley, but fine enough.
I have to admit when I went into my assigned room for the first time I was slightly alarmed. It was almost like a box. There were two windows which faced the stairwell – frosted glass, thankfully – and the one window facing outside was also frosted but made up of slats which you could angle by turning a crank. Of course all you can see when you angle them open is the wall of the neighbouring building, but I didn’t pick this room for the view.
It was furnished but there was no bedding – presumably the house manager would bring this tomorrow so tonight I might have to sleep on a bare bed! There was a working refrigerator and freezer, thankfully, a desk, a chair, and a shelf unit with a clothes rack. I wasn’t even sure where I could put my suitcase – it wouldn’t fit under the bed.
Anyway this was a problem for later, for now I just left my suitcase there and headed off for the first school location, a place called Kachidoki, two stops away from Monzen-Nakacho on the Tozai line . This seemed like a business district. I arrived with half an hour to spare and looked for somewhere to sit and have a drink but there didn’t seem to be anywhere suitable. So I headed up to the school. This one was on the 8th floor of the building which was quite disconcerting as the classroom I waited in had foot-level windows.
I met the teacher, Paul, I think he was American, he seemed like a nice guy. Adam joined us shortly afterwards and then his students arrived – a middle aged lady and an older lady. Paul later told us that they originally didn’t get on at all, but in the lesson we observed they interacted very well together. Their level wasn’t high – they were being taught words like animals and “it’s a” “there are” – apparently most adult classes in the afternoons are like this, older students who are studying English as a hobby rather than for business reasons – the business students tend to only be free in the evenings.
Paul was very calm, very patient and achieved the new language targets that he told us before the lesson. It was a good demonstration. Afterwards Adam and I had some time before the next observation at Toyosu – again just a couple of stops away though requiring a change of line. We decided to grab some lunch. After a little wandering around Kachidoki, Adam agreed this area wasn’t greatly served with culinary options, and we decided to try our luck in Toyosu.
Adam spotted a curry house (Curry House Coco) that he had heard good things about and suggested there. I liked the sound of curry although this wasn’t the kind of curry house I had experienced before. All the meals consisted of a bowl of generic curry sauce (which could be spicier or milder as required) with rice and a topping of different meats, generally prepared battered. I don’t eat rice, but I spotted I could get a side order of fries. So I ordered the chicken cutlet curry, without rice. I have to say all three elements were individually delicious but it seemed a waste to kill the taste of the chicken by dipping it in the curry.
Eventually, long after we finished our meals, we left and headed for the school. We met the teacher Michael, from Jamaica, and he was going to be teaching young learners – the first group aged 8-9 and the second 11-12. These were entertaining lessons to watch, particularly the way Michael kept control of the class, and how he had conditioned the students to know how to respond to certain cues when switching from one activity to another. He also used materials in several different, interesting ways.
It was good to see how lessons happened in practice, rather than just in theory, and for me to contrast the difference between this school and my school in Russia. The main difference was entrance drill to establish control – no-one could go into the classroom until the teacher had asked them a question. Of course there were a lot of similarities too – the use of flashcards and songs, the kind of language being taught and the way the textbooks were used.
I headed back to my new home and was thankful to see a pile of bedding waiting for me outside my door. I did some unpacking and tried to work out where everything was going to go in this space-limited environment. Then I started thinking about things I would need to buy. There were only two electric sockets, and the fridge claimed one of them, so I would need an extension cable. I needed some water and other day to day food and drink for the fridge. I would need soap and shower gel and washing up liquid. Fortunately the Sunny Mall across the street had everything I might need.