Saturday, April 20, 2013

The day-to-day events.

As most of you know I currently work at Tokyo International University in Saitama Japan. This is a very small private university which focuses on 5 areas of education; School of Language Communication (SLC), School of International Relations, School of Economics, School of Business and Commerce, and the School of Human and Social Sciences. Within the School of Language Communications there is a new program called the Global Teaching Institute which is where I and 9 others were hired to work within. As a teacher in the SLC I am teaching freshman students in their first year of college. There are 16 sections that these students are placed into based on their proficiency of the TOEFL (or Test of English as a Foreign Language) score. Students pay about 670,000 Yen a year for tuition. If you don't know what the current exchange rate is, that's about 67,000 a year. Just for tuition. This is a commuter campus, which means there are NO dorms. Students either live at home with their parents and travel anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, one way, by train, bike or walking EVERY day, or they have to pay extra for an apartment nearby. Yes, I live in the same complex as some TIU students. Suffice it to say, these students' parents are paying a premium for them to come to the school....a school for many, was not their first choice. Be that as it may, they are now in my class and I'm having a blast making them crack up every day.

I am teaching the Section 1 and 2 students. These are the students who have the lowest test scores and generally also the lowest speaking and listening skills. People ask me "So how do you teach students who can't speak English when you can't speak Japanese?!"  The answer is, it's not easy, but with patience and a sense of humor it is an adventure! These students reading and writing skills are better than their speaking and listening, so if all else fails, I write it down and they look up the words they don't understand in their dictionary. Since we are trying to get away from the translation method of teaching Japanese speakers to speak English that can be a bit of a conundrum. I want them to try and figure out how to say what they want to say, but you can only spend so much of a class period waiting for an answer to formulate.

Those who don't know, the reason we are trying to get away from the translation method is because translating Japanese to English is one of the MOST difficult languages to translate correctly. The Japanese language is so vastly different from English that there is almost never a direct translation and many English words to not translate into English. What you end up having to do is sum up what you want to say in Japanese into something that is accurate in English. So it's almost like teaching an adult to speak. Not a new language, to just speak. Period.

Back to school... My schedule is as follows...Monday.Wednesday and Friday I teach Section 2 and 12 Listening. Tuesdays and Thursdays I teach Section 1 Reading. Those are the only classes I teach more than once in a week. I also teach Speaking to Section 2 and 12 and Writing to sections 1 and 11.

Additionally I go and sit in the English Lounge Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for an hour and a half each day to help students practice speaking English, I have Office Hours Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 5-6 we have a staff meeting every Friday at 3 and occasionally I got to the Freshman Seminar group on Fridays with the students I will be chaperoning in May. Once the real English Plaza opens at the end of May I will also be throwing in some hours to tutor students and help to design a schedule for other faculty members to tutor students and run a study hall that my Plaza partner are putting together. At some point in the next year I'll need to start doing research for the paper that I'm required to have published before the end of my contract AND finally in May I start my graduate level courses to maintain my teaching license in Oregon. Try and draw that schedule....I dare you. It took my several frustrating days and many many hours before I finally was able to put it together to make sense. I still don't know that I have enough hours in the day to do all of it, but we'll see how it goes.

So that's me for now. It's April and I've been here almost 3 weeks now and I'm sure I'll discover very quickly what I'm able to handle.

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