I'm living in Kusatsu-shi, Shiga-ken for an undetermined amount of time and teaching English as a second language at a local high school. This journal is to document my experiences, thoughts, and to stay connected with others at home and abroad.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

滋賀県立草津高等学校 = My School! (lit. Shiga Prefecture Estabslihed Kusatsu Academic High School)

Of all the experiences and travels and photos I've shared with everyone, this is by far the most special place I've found. Regrettably it's taken me half a year to finally get to some the most important and influential people in my Japan life. I came to teach and learn, and I've been fortunate to find a school, students, and teachers, who all support my pursuits and adventures. When I try to express myself in Japanese, everyone encourages me to keep trying and corrects me when my subtitles are turned off and I don't have a clue what I'm saying. With that same poorly spoken Japanese I try to reassure students that making mistakes is normal and necessary for learning a new language, and they give me the same grace to err.

So here is the beginning of many photos I took during some free periods preceding winter vacation. I'll try and fill in as many details about the photographs as I can so that you can know these people the same as I do.
***A quick explanation of the Japanese school system:
In Japan there are 6 grades of Elementary, 3 of Junior and Senior High School. So 1st-year students are freshmen, 2nd-year = I don't know, and 3rd-years are seniors. Because it's difficult to explain in English, so I will refer to students as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-years. Also, I teach three different levels: Oral Communication (OC) 1, 2, and 3, each corresponding to the student's grade in school. OC1 consists of all first year students, so I have all 200 split into 10 classes of 20 every week. OC2 and OC3 are electives, so I only have about 15 students out of all 2nd-year students in one class, 3rd-years in the other. But the electives meet twice a week, and they are smaller, so although I am familiar with all of the 1st-years, I know the 2nd and 3rd-years more intimately. I also tutored many students hoping to pass English college entrence examinations between October-December, so there are other 3rd-year students who I only teach one-on-one after school.
One last thing, English is compulsory for all students, but after their 1st year, OC is not. All students in Japan take English grammar, plus either writing, reading, or OC from Junior High School on. English is a conpulsory, just like Mathematics, Japanese, History, etc.

This first sections will be the students, followed by the teachers (beauty before age, what can I say?).

Seito = 生徒 (Students)

This is a homeroom class of 3rd year students taught by one of my friends, Sagane-sensei. She is an English teacher, and her ability to explain Japanese grammar has been invaluble. She also has a tiny little pink car that would look like a baby pig if I tied a rope on the tail.

Left to right these are Yuko, Miho, and Masaru, three 3rd-year students. I tutored Yuko for her English exams, and she has become a good friend since. She wants to be a care-worker and assist the elderly. Miho and Yuko are best friends and they come to talk with me sometimes. Masara wants to be a nurse and will go into medical training after he graduates.

Two 1st-year OC1 students: Miki, left, and Chihiro, right. They are in the soft-tennis club at school. Actually, I'm rather embarassed because Chihiro and another one of my 2nd-year students beat me and another teacher in a soft-tennis game last month. But I will have my revenge!

Seiko, left, is one of my 3rd-years, and she and her boyfriend, Ryohei, riding home together after school. I see them at least one morning a week on their way to school together. They're so cute! Ryohei's nickname is "Twinkle" because he always says "Twinkle" in place of hellos and goodbyes.

Sensei, 先生 (Teachers)

The Kusatsu High School staff (草津高校職員全員)

Left: Nakao-sensei and I play tennis together sometimes, and he also watches over my shoulder when I am practicing Japanese grammar or kanji to see how I'm doing. Right: Higashi-sensei is the baseball coach and he and I teach four OC1 classes a week together. He's helped me quite a bit with making sure that I have everything I need that the school can offer. Also, he's helped me improve in-class participation––by giving me a ball to throw at students when I want them to answer. There's no escaping the ball, although they try hard.

Sugimoto-sensei is the second youngest teacher at Kusatsu (he's about two years older than me). I nicknamed him Ta-chan and he's been my older brother to talk and hang-out with at school when we want to take a break. He also studies English very ardently on his own, and his learning pace is amazing.

Ogawa-sensei, the school nurse, and Mizokawa-sensei, my tantosha/supervisor. Mizokawa-sensei is fun to joke with. We both dread dealing with the contracts, paperwork, etc. that the Prefecture Board of Education hands out weekly. We also teach 6 OC1 classes together a week, as well as OC2. She encourages me to make all of the lesson plans and allows me to introduce new ideas to the classroom. For a Christmas lesson we watched Dr. Seuss' "Grinch", and I want to do more similar activities in the future.


Blogger salemsmom said...

I can't wait to come to see the "pink pig" car! And to meet Twinkle and Seiko and all of your friends!

It was great to have you (and Miss Katie) back here in the States for a few days. But next up is your turn to show us the ropes!

8:54 AM


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