Saturday, April 22, 2006

Throwing The Books Out The Window

In general, the group that I teach for is a pretty good outfit. This is especially true for really little kids. The munchkins come and hang out with a white guy once a month and the rest of the time are with a Japanese, English teacher. They play games and sing songs like the ABC Song and while the program isn't setup to be like a hardcore school system, it is really more of a daycare for them. Their parents get a free hour every week to do whatever they want and we get to hang out with their kids and along the way, they might actually pick up some English.

For the older kids however, I feel like Peppy kind of fails them. The junior high kids that we have are taking English classes in the regular school and Peppy does very little to supplement that very well. This is probably why there are very few kids in the higher echelons of the program when compared to all of the younger ones at the bottom. They are not coming away from their Peppy classes with anything they can realy use in their junior high classes. This ticks me off.

Last night, I had two of my smarter classes out of all of the ones that I teach and I decided to do something a little different. The first and younger of the two classes, consists of four girls. Two of these four are really really smart. They were able to translate everything I was saying to their other two classmates and then when I had a question about something Japanese, they were able to explain the answers to me in English. They were clear in their answers, full of questions, and very happy that I was learning Japanese. They were particularly curious about my family and pets and where I lived in the United States. So, I started answering all of their questions the best I could. Yeah, there was an assignment that was supposed to be done and pretty much everything I was doing was not in the cirriculum but I think what I did for them last night was a much greater service then what the standard cirriculum would have offered them.

Peppy hires native English speaking Japanese people to expose the kids to what Western people are like and let them hear how English sounds when spoken by someone who has done so since the time they learned to speak. The thing that kills me is the fact that instead of doing really different cultural learning activities with them, we pretty much teach them the same stuff that the Japanese teachers are teaching. There might a couple of very slight differences to the lesson but essentially, we are not doing anything more than re-iterating what the kids have already learned before. This is stupid and I feel like my company is blowing a huge opportunity with all of its Westerners that it brings into Japan.

The girls last night just kept asking me questions and I kept answering them. They were not goofing off, they spoke excellent English for their ages, and it was clear to me that peppy had pretty much given them all it had to offer. So instead of doing the assignment, we had a conversation the entire session. When I asked them questions they answered the best they could in English, which was pretty good, and they even helped me with my Japanese some. Anytime a person is competent enough to keep up a flowing conversation for a full hour in a foreign tongue, they have a pretty good grasp of the language. I think the four of them had a ton of fun last night and learned much more than they had in a while. When class ended they didn't want to leave. They were learning much more than they had in a while from my company. And I had fun too.

The second group of kids were older and there were two girls and a boy. They were not as talkative as the prior class but they are as smart. I looked at the assignment they were supposed to be doing and it was way below their level so I changed it up a tad. There was a big chunk of the lesson that was a conversation about a kid's trip to Australia. It was lame but I had the kids read through it aloud to me so they could practice their reading skills. This did not take very long. At the bottom of the page there was a tiny segment on past tense and how it functioned so I made most of the lesson out of that. The kids have a hard time figuring ot when to say "went" and it drives me nuts. I remedied that with the class last night. I know I was being effective cause both of the girls were taking notes on the little tricks I was teaching them to help remember when to use "were" and "was". The thing that made me happy was I was actually teaching and they were actually learning. I like the Peppy program because it lets me stay in Japan but some of the approaches they take to what teaching actually is, is as I said, basically a daycare. Either way, by the end of the night I felt useful and I felt that the kids had learned. I was drilling them on stuff and they were coming up with the right answers so I was happy. We also touched on when to use the word "you" when speaking to someone. The Japanese do not use that word as often we do because in regular Japanese conversation. Their rule is that if you are talking to a person then it is assumed that you are indeed talking to that person and you don't have to use a word to let them know that. Thats logical to me.

Anywho, it was a good night for both the students and myself.


At 1:00 PM, Anonymous MRSBLAM said...

Applause, applause, applause! Excellant oh Mogwai-san! Will you be teaching during the summer? Where might one send you a care package?


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