Another Day in the Life : Teaching in Osaka, Japan

In this occasional series, teachers in different countries and in different teaching situations describe a typical working day. This first article in the series is written by Matthew Walsh, who lives and works in Japan.

7 in the morning is the time I leave my house to get to the high school in just in time to print out the materials I made the night before and make it to class at 8:30. Riding the trains, I remember An Inconvenient Truth which I saw when I visited Seattle this summer. I remember how my sister’s family used to have 2 SUVs just so they could shuffle groceries to the house with kids in tow. It’s good to live in a place that allows you to leave such a small ecological footprint, but instead of slowly being dumb over coffee in the early hours of the morning, I’m pumping through a sea of people in the station in Umeda. Having long ago learned that body language between two pedestrians crossing paths varies from culture to culture, I’m not too shocked when a salaryman* crashes right into me, or I should say, into my lower chest since he is so short. “Sumimasen”.*

Copying done, I race to the classroom and try to get the various materials set up for the hour. It’s a little complicated today because I’ve brought scissors, glue, and construction paper to do a ‘Task-based Learning for International Awareness’ class. Students make a hodgepodge flow chart of the problems facing the world and then give a presentation in English of what they thought.

‘What are the main points I need to make to set up this task clearly, but not limit creativity?’
…Ok, these three points will do..
‘I could just blurt it out in Japanese. That would nip it in the bud and get the task started lightning fast.’
…Resist! This one’s easily understood. Stick to English! They’ll react fine…

As I go around and give feedback on the groups of students progressing with the task, I notice the usual suspect pack of girls chatting about something like boys or rumors, ‘somebody said this and then he said that’. I’m tempted to make a comment about how silly the girls’ telephones and manicures look, both studded with rhinestones, but instead offer a gentle “come on girls, let’s get to work.”. At the end of the class, they end up with one of the best presentations.

While helping another group, the one with the new exchange student from the U.S., I realize that I have some examples of past work to show them that will make it easy to see what they were supposed to do. I pull one out to show them and while pointing at it I see a section where the group had made an original addition by penning it in to the flowchart. They had written ‘America’ as one of the problems facing the world. I’m stumped for an explanation as to why they had written it, but I look at the exchange student “invading countries and killing people?”

* Salaryman = a officeworker or businessman working for a medium or large sized corporation easily identified by a blue suit, briefcase, and perhaps a hangover from the social drinking that is obligatory to keep oneself included in a particular social cell of the corporation’s culture. ‘Salaryman’ is a social class distinct from others such as ‘artisan’, ‘construction worker’, or pseudo-gangster, which can also be identified by dressing habits and social behavior.
* Sumimasen = ‘Excuse me’

Acknowledgements : Photos provided under Creative Commons License - Osaka Castle by Freecia ; Japanese schoolgirls by Chloe Zach

No comments: