Usually my 6th graders are my quietest group. These are the Japanese students that are started to reach that “I’m too cool to be doing this” age. They’re not bad, not by any means. I’ve never had a behavior problem out of any of them. They’re just not as responsive. I consider myself pretty lucky though, that’s a small problem to contend with. Despite them being less genki, 元気, they do the work and they try to learn. As a teacher, there’s not a whole lot more you can ask for. The main things I have to worry about, while teaching at my Japanese elementary school, are whether kids are being overly genki (not a problem at all, unless you have a 39.9 degree fever) or not genki enough, teaching high-energy effective lessons, and (oh yeah) being kancho-ed, かんちょう (the finger enema prank), by the kids.
*On the bright side, kancho-dodging is helping me to build cat-like reflexes :D.*
I generally teach my sixth graders on Fridays and classes are usually “in the middle,” not boring, but not heart-pounding excitement, either. For some reason, though, on this hot summer day. The students had one of their best days ever. I’ve never seen them like this. It was a pleasant surprise. Part of the reason could have been that I asked their teacher if I could take the class to the air-conditioned, English room. When she agreed, the students were elated, so many of them thanked me. It was one of those hot, humid, Japan days, and I figured it couldn’t hurt.
We were giving short speeches using the expression “I can.” I had the children draw a picture of one or two things they can do, and one or two things they can’t do. The class really got into it. I was surprised because they didn’t want to just parrot my ideas back to me, they wanted to use their own. Kids were asking how to say unicycle, bicycle, kendama, けんだま,* asking about dancing, singing, it was really productive. I liked that I could walk around and monitor and the kids were running with it on their own.
*Kendama or 剣玉 is the name for Japanese bilboquet or the Japanese cup-and-ball game
One child in particular really made me smile, because he was struggling to get this word in English and he just would not give up. He wanted to know what “Gaikokugo,” 外国語, was in English. Luckily, I knew the answer to this one. I tried to sound it out for him when I saw he was having trouble. “Fo-reign Lan-guage.” I said. He tried to mirror my pronunciation: “Fo…Fo…ren…Foren…Ra…Rangu…English.” he said. “Good try. Let’s do try it one more time.” He would sometimes create sounds that I couldn’t quite make out, but he was trying so hard, and having a ball doing it. We’d tried several times. He didn’t quite get it (almost though) by the end of class, but the words stayed in his mind, and because I we had fun, he was encouraged to keep trying.
I saw the same student several times in the hallway that day and every time he would stop me and ask me what the word was. By the end of the day he actually got it. I went home feeling like I did my good teaching deed for the day.
Good job today, kids!!
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