This week, I’m going to show you one of the schools where I teach. This is the one I call the ‘big elementary school’. With six classes of 20-35 students each, it is by far the biggest of the three elementary schools I teach at. Since it covers from first grade (age 6) to sixth grade (age 12), it’s even bigger than the junior high school. Here it is seen from the window of my classroom:
In some ways, this is the easiest school to teach at. It had an English curriculum in place long before the Japanese ministry of education mandated a certain number of ‘Foreign Language Activity’ hours per year for fifth and sixth graders in April 2012.
It has it’s own dedicated English classroom that I have all to myself. This has it’s pluses and minuses – sometimes I wish all of my students were confined to desks, rather than free to easily kick each other in the head. I have to teach in my socks and those blue carpets get rumpled up, despite the best efforts of distracted students to reorder them. But I can relax between classes, without having to move my materials all over the school. And the lack of desks makes games easier.
I have all the laminated cards an English teacher could ever want. Someone was kind enough over spring break to tackle last year’s mess, so now the cards are all neatly arranged in labelled envelopes, rather than scattered hither and yon. There are also broken cellphones for demonstrations, stickers, and picture books for when we have extra time. Plus my beloved stereo, which they will take back to the math classroom over my dead body. A sixth grader accidentally kicked a hole in my last one.
The view from the window isn’t half bad either.
In other ways, however, it is the hardest school to teach at. I always have to teach four classes in a row, which is a lot to ask when the students are jaded fifth and sixth graders, or hyperactive first and second graders. Trying to get thirty first graders to do anything is exhausting. After teaching four classes and eating lunch, I almost always head to 7-11 for a coke and chocolate. The rest of the afternoon is usually shot, because all I can manage is to stare at the ceiling.