The posts coming up will likely be of even less interest to anyone but myself than usual, but I need to keep a record of the events of the next few months for myself so this is where that will be. The writing may be marginally readable, but the intent here is to preserve my notes for my own recollection (just because, and also just because a future assignment asks for an overview of my experiences). This will eventually evolve into a more reflective journal, but it will begin quite tediously while hopefully becoming less so …
Today was the first day of my first formal teacher training and development class: CELTA. I was not only concerned about the class, but also the transportation logistics. These fears were unfounded, as the tutors and fellow trainees are delightful, and the MRT to the Toa Payoh branch of the British Council actually had seats available since the direction I have to travel is opposite to that of most of the human mass during my commute time.
The class will have written assignments (4) and actual teaching (9 observed classes). The teaching will be in the mornings and the afternoons will be filled with input, tutoring, and planning. The evaluation of, and feedback upon, our progress will be continuous so there’s no chance of being caught suddenly unaware of impending failure.
Continue reading CELTA: Day 1
So, it’s been about a month in the teaching game now and the nervous tension prefixing every lesson has waned a bit. It’s not completely gone, but merely reduced by a magnitude. My students are such very great fun! Teaching all levels is interesting as one period may have people with barely the ability to say their names, and the next may be full of guys who are brushing up on business skills for better work performance. The classes with females are the most interesting as they seem able to play around with the language a bit while the males are more stoic. Could this be just another part of Japanese culture? I’ve had everything from classes on introducing yourself and dealing with airport personnel to issues of discrimination and fairness in the judicial system. There are really some incredible people here in Japan and it’s a joy to get to know a bit about them. “Voice” can be a high point when the discussion gets heated, but it can become difficult when those who come to talk are anything but talkative. My fellow teachers are also an interesting bunch. It’s a mix of Brits, Aussies, Canadians, and Americans like me. Someone today, in a discussion about hilarity and mirth, mentioned “skylark,” a word I’ve never heard apart from the Buick model and the bird. Apparently it’s meaning has something to do with “being playful” or making some sort of joyful noise. None of our national mix was able to pick that out. It is common for people to translate a Japanese word into English using their portable computer dictionary and then to try to use that word in daily speech. “Skylark” is an example of where that method may go a bit off – it was in the dictionary when I looked it up – but no native speaker would ever prefer that word. This must be how those technical and other manuals get produced: From the dictionary lookup and a misplaced picking from the results. Earlier I had to explain how someone sent their children to school using the idiom “to get them off.” Urgh.
Well, it’s now been a week since I started teaching English here. I’m impressed at the ardor of the students. They buy lessons and many come for 2-5 lessons every day. There is also a thing called “voice.” This is a sort of conversation lounge and these folks frequently stay for many hours. It is far from cheap for them and their dedication is obvious. It’s quite exciting to be able to help them to better their communication skills. It is, however, exhausting for me to maintain the requisite bubbly jovial (“genki”) demeanor as my past has been generally solitary in the computer field. So far my students range from Jr. High School age to Seniors of varying abilities in English and obviously EXTREMELY diverse personalities. I hear that next month I am to go for training in teaching children so that will be added to my schedule at that time. I’m doing 6 lessons a day and one session of voice and it’s all quite interesting, despite the drain on my personal energy. I’m still on probation as a teacher until the end of January so the pay is worse than it might be, though even after probation it’s not much at all. Hopefully it will be sufficient to make up for the financial deficits of the moment (less than rent + less than living = nasty). Those US school loans are … a necessary yet onerous burden. This is particularly because of the difficulty in international transactions which I have yet to fully understand, much less master. Suggestions?