School days

I teach a total of 25 classes a week at 4 different schools. Most classes are 45 to 55 minutes long though there are a few as short as 25 minutes or as long as 85. My largest class has 8 students!

My adult classes include 5 group lessons and 5 private students. Their interests and ability levels vary widely. Some are studying English because their employers require it while for others, it’s simply a hobby. My students include school teachers, a librarian, a computer programmer, an accountant, retired people and several housewives.

My 15 children’s classes include my Saturday morning playgroup with 4 preschoolers. They learn basic English vocabulary through games, songs and stories. Our first lessons have been focused on learning the colours. I’ve learned red (akai), green (midori) and white (shiroi) in Japanese through listening to them! Fortunately, their absorbent little minds are picking up more than that from me! Another interesting children’s class is my returnees. Returnees are students who have lived in an English speaking country for a period of time and who are trying to maintain the English that they’ve already learned. My class is made up of 3 eight and nine year old girls. It includes one student who technically isn’t a returnee. Arisa is a new student at MIL and is perhaps our most unusual. She was taught English at home by her mother who has also never lived outside Japan. At eight years old, this little girl speaks the language fluently and has read all the Harry Potter books! Her English is better than either of her classmates and she wouldn’t fit into any other children’s class at our school. Some of those kids are still learning the alphabet while others are learning basic reading and conversational skills.

A typical school day begins with a 15 minute walk to Kita Narashino school, the main school closest to our home. The school has a reception area, a teachers’ work area and 4 small classrooms. It’s located on the 3rd floor of a building in a busy commercial area and accessing the school involves climbing an incredibly steep set of stairs. I can judge my improving fitness level by how much easier it’s getting to climb those stairs!

Once at Kita, we sign in, check our mailboxes, check to see if there’s anything that needs to be delivered to whichever school we’re going to that day and check the schedule to see if there have been any changes. Changes usually involve the addition of a trial lesson or a ticket private student. Trial lessons are short sample lessons given to prospective students who want to know more about our school before deciding whether or not to sign up and ticket privates are students who pay for a certain number of lessons then schedule them whenever works best for them. This means that they don’t have a regularly scheduled lesson at the same time each week and aren’t guaranteed the same teacher for each lesson. I won’t have many trial lessons or ticket privates this term as my schedule is already quite full. Rich’s schedule is a little lighter so he’ll probably have several of these.

We each stay and teach at Kita once a week. On the other four days, after our quick check-in at Kita, we head off to the train station about a block away and depart for whichever school we’re at that day. Rich and I teach at the same school on Tuesdays but the rest of the week we’re off in different directions. Our days don’t necessarily begin or end at the same time either so keeping track of our schedules can be quite a challenge!

My earliest class is the Saturday morning playgroup at 11:30 but most days, I don’t start teaching until between 2:00 and 3:30 p.m. My days end between 7:00 and 8:30 p.m. Breaks between classes can vary from 5 minutes to a couple of hours though mine are pretty tightly scheduled this term. My longest break is about an hour. Breaks are generally used for lesson planning. Unlike at home in Canada, we don’t do any homework. Lesson planning is all done before, between and after classes. Saturday is my most grueling day with 7 classes between 11:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. so I try to fit in planning for that day earlier in the week. Now that we’ve become more familiar with the various textbooks and teaching resources that are available to us, planning is generally fairly quick. Of course, that’s never been our favourite part of teaching. For both of us, when we enter the classroom and are face to face with the students, the teacher in us comes alive and the fun really begins!

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