I’ve just arrived home from my first full week of observation at my new school. I work Tuesday through Friday at a little school near Hitotsubashigakuen station in Kodaira. This area is west of the metro Tokyo area, where I lived previously. I now live near Musashi Koganei station, about two stops away from where I work. Here’s a map, for anyone interested (you may need to zoom out a bit). Metro Tokyo is just to the east of this map.
My office is a small place, and I’m one of two native English speaking teachers employed there. My school is a family-owned place – it’s a franchise operated by the Shuku family. And when I say it’s family operated, I mean it. The owner, Mr. Shuku (or ShukuPapa, as he is called), employs his son-in-law, Hideki Shuku (who took the family name when he married Mr. Shuku’s daughter) as the director/manager/grammar teacher at the school. Mrs. Shuku (ShukuMama) also comes to the school to keep us in line and make conversation with the mothers. Hideki’s daughter, Sumika, is 6, and is one of my students.
It’s a very warm, welcoming environment. The kids I met this week are all fantastic. Some will be a little more challenging than others – especially the junior high kids. I remember being that age and being sure I was waaaaay too cool to be participating too, but I got along well with them and I hope they’ll transition to my teaching well.
This is my new desk space. The chip containers are a game that Hannah and Tristan (the other English teacher) play with their students – they’re not really chip junkies (like me). This is where lesson planning takes place every day before the lessons begin. I’ll show up at 3:00 PM and put together all my lessons for the day here. My schedule is changing a bit from this week on – I’ll be working 3:00-9:00 Tuesday through Thursday, and 3:00-8:30 on Fridays, with Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off. I’m still unreasonably excited by how much time this allows for sleep and TV watching and anything else I choose to do with my time.
This is the lone “hall” in our school – it shows the doors for the three classrooms we use for our instructions. Hideki, Tristan, and I share these rooms and our schedules are strict about which rooms we are to use at what time for what students. These are the only rooms we use for teaching. There is a lobby area, which I don’t have a picture of, and a small kitchen/eating area for the staff to use.
I would have taken a photo, but Hideki looked at me a little funny after I took this one, so I’ll save those pictures for another time, heh.
I spent the last four days getting to know the majority of my students – some were absent this week, and the schedule is changing from next week, so Tristan and I are swapping a few students. The vast majority of my kids are very young – eleven and under. I have two four year olds, lots between 5 and 10, and several middle schoolers. Most of the kids have a great attitude and are very enthusiastic about learning. The junior high students are quiet, but still participate. I have a few classes with returnee kids – these are students that lived in an English-speaking country for a period of time. These kids have a pretty high level of English and are very relaxing to work with. Most of the kids have a great sense of humor, and they already have had hilarious things to say in front of me.
Next week I’ll start teaching solo. I teach between 4 and 5 classes a day, for a total of 17 classes a week. I’ll also do demonstration classes for students interested in joining the school. I’m really looking forward to getting started. I already have a lot of ideas for what I want to do with these classes and I’m eager to integrate them. I’m really hoping that the kids will feel comfortable with me after the next couple of weeks. I’d love to make class something they’ll enjoy. I think I can do it.
But, as Takuya (one of my returnee students) said yesterday as we were doing a fill-in-the-blank proverb crossword: “Don’t count your chickens before they’re cooked.”
I hear ya, man.