Last Day at Takada Elementary School
Today was what is most likely my last day at Takada Elementary School. I won't be going back to teach there before I leave Japan in April. It was hard to say goodbye to the teachers and students I've worked with for the past year and a half. I rarely had the chance to go to Takada, but it was one of my favorite elementary schools. The staff was so nice to me. And trusted me to teach the students how I saw fit. Sometimes elementary schools want the foreign teacher to do only fun and games in English with the kids. But I think they don't learn much English that way. Their theory is that it gets them excited about English so when they go to Junior High they already like it as a subject. But I work at the junior high school too, and it's easy to see that it doesn't work this way. As soon as English becomes a real subject with grades, those days they spent playing games in English are forgotten. And they haven't learned anything but vocabulary words and very very simple grammars. So I've worked hard over the past year and a half to get the trust of the elementary schools so they will let me teach the kids what I know they *need*; otherwise, I feel going and playing games with them, while fun, would have been a waste of time when they could have been learning English grammar when it is easiest for them, when they are small children. The older you get, the harder it is to learn another language. But before age 7, language is still really fluid for children, and they accept a foreign language much easier than they will by the time they become junior high school students. And besides, I think you can still have fun and play games while learning, so they just had to trust me and let the kids work with full sentence grammars. They had previous ALTs teaching only vocabulary and maybe "Do you like...? Do you play...?" kinds of questions. A good start, but you can get more done than "Do you" questions during the class sessions.
Anyway, here's Mr. Itoga, who isn't a teacher, but an administrator at Takada. When I first got here, he made it a point to talk to me in English as much as possible, and to make everyone else at Takada try to talk in English with me. Now, though, he tells me to go ahead and speak Japanese, since I know more Japanese than he knows English now.
These are some first graders learning the names of animals.
The first grade teacher, who made it a point to make English time every morning by showing English instructional videos to help supplement my lessons, since I'm not able to visit Takada very often.
Me and a group shot with the first graders.
The Sixth Grade, doing a more serious interview project using the English I've been teaching them. They have enough grammars now that they could do a basic interview. I think it's a good last lesson because it shows them how much they've actually learned over the year. In this case, enough to have a small conversation. The boy in the middle is Taiki. He's so serious. You can see it on his face here. He volunteered to do an example interview with me in front of everyone, and did it perfectly. He's always impressed me. I regret that I won't be here to teach him at the junior high school next year.
The Sixth Grade played me some traditional Japanese music after class. They have the same teacher who, last year, had his class play me "Country Roads" on their recorders.
Two Third Graders in the library stop to pose for a picture. The third grade at Takada is secretly my favorite class. They are *always* so bright and funny and cheerful.
Here are some Third Graders and their sensei playing karuta, a card game where I call out some vocabulary I've taught, and they slap their hands on the card that matches the word. A good vocabulary game.
Me and the Third Graders. If I ever come back to Japan to teach again, I want to teach only at Elementary Schools. Not only do I think I can get more English into the kids at that age, I can wear sportswear there! I like shirts and ties better than I did before I came here, but I would still rather wear casual clothes.
The Fifth Grade doing their interviews. Then lunch time!
Cleaning time! (Something I think American kids should have to do more of in their schools.)
This little girl is hurtling towards me at top speed. It is only after I barely got the picture snapped that she threw herself at me and wrapped her arms around my waist.
The fourth grade, another favorite class. They're singing "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". And they sang it better than the Sixth Grade. A good group of kids.
The boy on the right is Ren. He is the absolute cutest little kid I've ever met. I didn't catch his smile, but it is the brightest one I've ever seen. I may have to steal him and pack him in my luggage when I leave.
Several silly boys who always make me laugh. They do funny dances and imitate Japanese comedians for me. Very entertaining.
The Fourth Grade was my last class today. Having my first day at a school I won't visit again before I leave really made leaving more real for me. It was not really a good feeling. I love teaching these kids. And also I have a fear, in what is most likely an overly melodramatic way, as I tend to get during sad goodbye situations, that while these kids and living here have change my life and made memories for me that I will never forget, will these children, will this place, will Japan remember me?