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Saturday, January 14, 2012

First Week

I’m eating lunch in the teacher’s lounge. It’s the first day at work. There are no English classes today, but I must stay until 4pm for reasons I don’t quite understand. I think it has something to do with the taxpayers complaining about teachers going home early when they should be at school teaching something. This is the first time I have spent any time in Japan without Erika at my side. It’s uncomfortable, but at the same time I feel like I’m starting a new life. The teachers sitting around me are friendly, but I can tell that they aren’t too excited about speaking to a foreigner. They look down when I approached them with a question. I understand that I might seem like a creature from Mars. Some of the students have never seen a foreigner. I get a kick out of seeing their expressions when I pass them in the hallway. Their mouths open and they run into walls or they start to giggle.

I started this post earlier this week. I’ve been to five schools and taught 8 or 9 classes. I haven’t really taught anything. I’ve been introducing myself with a PowerPoint presentation and having the students ask questions afterwards. I think the kids are interested in me and I hope they will be interested in speaking English. I’m not worried about the students. They ask me to have lunch with them and play soccer or whatever. I enjoy hearing the students call me, “Mr. Kimball”. This is new a new concept for them. In Japan, they are used to calling a teacher, “Sensei”. I wanted them to experience some American culture by calling me, “Mr. Kimball”. Besides, my official title is not a teacher; I’m an Assistant Language Teacher. The faculty at each school is also having difficulty getting used to calling me, “George” instead of “George-sensei”. The biggest challenge for the faculties is communicating with someone that does not speak Japanese. I think the Education Department is trying to force the teachers to speak English by using me as a guinea-pig. Erika has helped the teachers break through the communication barrier, but they have a long way to go. My job is to encourage the teachers to speak in English and to assist them in any way that I can. It’s easy to see how nervous they are when they try to speak, but I think the Education Department is approaching this in the right way.

I still have to introduce myself to one more school and 5 classes. I have a total of 16 classes. The grades range from Kinder to 6th. The 2nd and 3rd graders pick up the new language very quickly as they are curious about everything. The 6th graders are challenging, but with the teacher’s leadership, they are showing interest in speaking English and learning American culture.   George

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