You Are My Sunshine

Today is just a randomly singular day I’m at my favorite school with Ms. M. All my other schools are great, but this one I really miss on a regular basis and always look forward to coming here. And it’s not just because they know I take my coffee with sugar that it’s my favorite (although that does help).

The entire faculty is very enthusiastic and happy to help the English teachers when we come. You might hear a few, “Drat. Forgot about English! Okay, see you for third period!”s but for the most part there is no grumbling and moaning about how they have to work English into their class schedule or how it’s troublesome or a pain to deal with. And it’s not that they all love English personally, I have several teacher here who loathe English, they hated it in school and hate it now, but they are good enough to teachers to put aside their own personal dislikes and likes to help the students learn and to be enthusiastic in class. (I personally find that to be a mark of a great teacher (or adults), not letting your personal prejudices affect the learning of your students.)

In turn the students are (sometimes overly) enthusiastic and energetic in class. This is one of the few schools where students almost always volunteer to help or happily comply to participate in front of the class (even the shy kids seem less reluctant to answer questions). Granted I probably do just as much yelling of “No cheating!” during games, but you’ll always have the kids who try and cheat the system (although here I think they might do it just so they can yell back, “I wasn’t cheating!”). And in all their ‘genki’ glory they actually remember the English they’re taught. I have plenty of classes who bounce of the walls with (what I assume is) pure sugar induced hyperactivity and who are enthusiastic about coming to class, but don’t remember ANYTHING. These kids do.

And in addition to practically the entire school being enthusiastic about the English curriculum, some teachers (not a lot but a few) go out of their way to incorporate English into daily lessons. Teachers here routinely ask Ms. M for copies of her materials and posters. Teachers read our clip art versions of Doctor Seuss books on days they don’t have English. Some upper grader (5/6th) teachers (here and other places) use the English days of the week for the board instead of the Japanese.

It might not be paradise (there isn’t enough cheesecake) but it’s pretty darn close. What’s your teaching paradise? Do you have a favorite school? Or a least favorite school?

Oops! Shaving cream!

My arm hurts. But it always does when I switch from Ms. Y’s classes to Ms. M’s classes. For one thing Ms. Y always does the warm up by running through picture cards the students have learned at the beginning of class. In Ms. M’s classes that’s my responsibility. And Ms. M’s students either learn a lot more (and therefore have more cards) or Ms. M weights her picture cards because her classes cards weigh a lot more. Why is that? That one teacher’s class can out learn and out preform another?

It always baffles me why Ms. M’s classes respond so much better to English, they remember more, they are enthralled when we banter back and forth in English, they want to learn more and please her. Is it because she uses more English with her students (even outside of class)? Or is because she enjoys making asides with me during class and the students think that her ability to talk to me fluently in English is cool? Or is that she just plain teaches more? Maybe it’s a combination of all plus more? And while Ms. M’s schools can be more welcoming to English as a faculty, I also wonder if that’s a result of Ms. M’s kind of laissez faire attitude.

And maybe the fact that they remember more isn’t a good thing. Maybe it’s more useless information we’re cramming in their head. Kind of like a lot of the stuff that I learned in elementary school is irrelevant (especially the fact that Pluto is now not classified as a planet . . .) but can still recall if need-be. But I’m all in favor of the more English learned the better. The better they’ll be able to differentiate between certain phonics and words. The more phonic groups will come to them. The larger vocabulary they’ll be able to build upon. And hopefully the more they’ll remember when they’re in their twenties and some random foreigner stumbles across them and needs help and they can come up with something more than, “I’m sorry, ひげそり。”