kinder

On the second day of teaching I had a nice easy schedule, just 3 morning lessons and then an afternoon off.  The other good thing about my Sunday schedule is that it is at Nishi-Kasai, about 5 minutes walk from my home.  All the lessons were with elementary students, so none of the really young kids that present all sorts of different challenges.  I also met a couple of other older teachers which made me feel less of an odd-one-out having trained with a bunch of twenty-somethings.

The third day was the one I had been dreading.  This day was allocated to Corporate Services Division who find companies and schools that want English teachers to come and visit them and deliver lessons on site.  In the evening I had a 90-minute lesson at a private company, but first I had six (yes six!) lessons in a kindergarten, with no breaks in between!  Fortunately they were only 15 to 25 minutes long each but it was still a daunting routine.

I got up very early because it was a relatively long journey to Ichikawa – all the way to the end of the Tozai Line, and then 3 more stops on the JR train’s Sobu line.  Because it was my first day, they sent a manager to guide and assist.  I met him at the station, to my surprise he was a fellow North Tynesider, from just a few miles from where I grew up.

We made our way to the kindergarten – a big pink building about 10 minutes walk from the station.  We went round the side and waved at a teacher who directed us back to the front door, eventually a middle-aged man came and opened it.  This was the first dwelling I’d been to (other than my sharehouse) where I had to take off my shoes – I hadn’t brought slippers so I had to wear the much-too-small house slippers from a basket by the entrance.

We were shown the two rooms where we would be teaching – one upstairs, one downstairs.  The first four classes would be in the downstairs room and the last two with the older children in the upstairs one.  Thankfully Paul said he would lead the first class and I could lead the second.

When the children arrived, Paul seemed to instantly transform from a manager into a children’s entertainer.  He had mannerisms, gestures, a particular voice, and a way to connect with a big group of children instantly.  He didn’t need to look at any notes, he just had a couple of sets of flashcards to hand on the themes we were supposed to be teaching today, and all the activities and games were in his head.

I tried to take more of a lead in the second lesson but I was struggling and making mistakes in things like sequencing – doing the right prep before an activity, showing the kids what to do and what not to do, making sure they were in the right place for the next activity etc.  Paul was originally going to go after the first couple of lessons but he saw I was struggling and stayed for all six.

Even for Paul everything didn’t go smoothly.  We were being observed by an older lady – the principal of the kindergarten, and every now and then she would give Paul a whispered note in Japanese – we shouldn’t stand up, we should lower ourselves to their level.  At one point when Paul was trying to play the music for a song on the CD, she came over and turned it off!  We did it a capella instead (fortunately I do know the words to Incy Wincy Spider).

The kids were in groups of about 12-15, and each group was accompanied by a young female teacher – I think there were three different ones – who joined in and encouraged the kids when they were uncertain what was happening.

Eventually we reached the end and said (sang) goodbye.  We had a bit of a debrief on the way back to the station and Paul assured me it would get easier with experience!  He gave me a copy of the CD with the songs – I don’t think I will ever be able to perform “Shake your Sillies” with the same exuberance he displayed! – and we headed back our respective ways.

I had time to go back home for a couple of hours rest before I had to set off for my next lesson – I was due to meet Makoto at Inage Station at 4:50, and this was an even longer trek than Ichikawa.  Again, to the end of the Tozai line but this time I took the Sobu line in the opposite direction, heading into Chiba (still part of the Tokyo prefecture but a different district with its own transport network).

I met Makoto and Shugo (who would be replacing him as the client liaison) at the station and we went to wait for a bus.  I was told I could get the 31 or the 32 but absolutely not the 33.  Unlike the Tokyo buses, in Chiba you get on in the back doors, and get off at the front doors, and swipe a Pasmo card on every entrance and exit – in Tokyo you just get on at the front, swipe once, and get off at the back, it’s a flat fee regardless of distance.

Fortunately the bus had display screens and audio recordings in English for each station, the one we needed had far to many syllables for me to remember, but I would recognize it if I read it again.  It was easier for me to remember the station before it, Ville Foret.  French I am used to.

From the bus stop we had a long-ish, but quite straight walk to the company site.  It is actually one of Japan’s biggest conglomerates and operates in world markets, and this site was quite large, but fortunately the building I needed was near the entrance.  The last thing I needed to remember was the teaching room – third floor, room 305.

It was quite a strange set up, we arrived in an empty room and waited for the students to come, it was the students’ responsibility to bring a CD player for the audio activities on the course.  The students were all in their work uniforms – khaki overalls.  There were only three of them, and they came from different divisions of the company, they didn’t really know each other outside of these lessons.

I started the lesson with Makuto and Shugo watching, but they didn’t stay long and headed out about 10 to 15 minutes in.  The lesson was 90 minutes long but I had plenty of material and had had some time to think about how to use it before the students arrived.  Perhaps inspired by the Kachidoki robot, my best idea was to practice giving directions (a topic in today’s module) by getting one of the students to be their company’s prototype new robot, and the other students to direct him around the table.   It went down quite well.  In fact the whole lesson went quite well and I think the students enjoyed it.

The journey home was very long, although I was lucky I didn’t have to wait too long for any of the buses or trains, it was almost 10pm by the time I got home.  Fortunately I had 2 days off to recover before going again on Thursday, back to the normal schools.

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