I recently had the pleasure of teaching English to a lot of Japanese High School students for two days at an “English Camp.” It was an incredible experience and it shed much insight into how the Japanese education system works. The students themselves are very enthusiastic learners and soaked up everything that was taught to them very effectively. I felt that at the end of the camp I had created a bond with a few of these students.
I arrived at the National Olympic Youth Center early. I was paranoid about being late so I left very early to ensure that I would not be late. It was a cold morning, but I was eager to teach these students English and to show others how well I could teach. We had a brief meeting before heading off to our first classes. My partner for teaching the first day classes was a fantastic guy (for the sake of confidentiality I will not mention my partner’s name) and I felt that we would make a great team. When we arrived into the classroom it was just like an American classroom. Students were chatting and were on their phones. They quickly became quiet as we entered the room and took their seats. I began to call out roll. I butchered many of the names and the students thought it was the funniest thing that I pronounced names in a strange way. I quickly became more relaxed and I took the joke in stride. Teaching the first class went better than I expected. The students were quiet and we had to help them open up. We could not point at them to make them answer questions because pointing is not looked upon well in Japan. We had to make sure we used more than one finger to point to a student and make sure they seemed like they knew the answer which was tough. As soon as we got it down the students were very responsive and showed great progress in learning English that period.
Outside of the classroom during the camp, students were enticed to speak to us through a prize motivation. Whoever could get enough stickers from us (We were given stickers to give to the students who had an English conversation with us) would get a prize. This worked surprisingly well. Students began chatting with us not only to get the stickers but also because they were curious about us. Many of them had not interacted with foreigners before so they were asking questions about us and constantly asking to take pictures with us. It was so much fun to talk to them, too. They always had something cool to ask or interesting to say. The students were so friendly and so respectful that it surprised me that a high-schooler could be like that (when I was in high school, I would have thought the camp was lame because we were forced to go). They seemed like they were having a great time and you could see it in their faces.
By then end of the camp, I felt as though I had created a lifetime memory with the students. It was so much fun to teach them and to see them grow and learn. Who knows, this might lead to me possibly becoming an ESL Teacher. I’ve never considered it before, but now it seems like something to consider for a future career. All in all, there was no better way to spend that weekend.