Julie’s turn

Hello everyone! Julie here.

Sorry I’ve been so blog-shy for the past month. I’d like to break that trend starting…


My Job

While here in Japan, I’ll be working at the Kamikita Education Office, based in Shichinohe, a small community near the center of Kamikita County.  This office has a first and second floor.  The people working on the first floor are educational professionals and past teachers who help students (and their parents) plan their educational path.  The second floor workers are past teachers, principals, and financial experts who counsel and mentor the teachers in the area and also manage finances.  I work with the group of people upstairs.

My office

My office

My desk

My desk

“But I thought you worked in a school?”

Although my employer is the Kamikita office, the biggest part of my job is to visit the junior highs and elementary schools in two communities in Kamikita County.  I will be teaching in three elementary schools and one junior high in Noheji, and four elementary schools and one junior high in Yokohama, a small coastal town about 45 minutes from Noheji.  I am only at the office on the days that I do not have a school visit.

While at the office I have plenty of time to plan out my school lessons, work on side projects from teachers in Kamikita, practice Japanese with my coworkers, and catch up on all of my internet needs (except for Facebook because my work computer blocks it).

Everyone in the office has been really friendly and curious towards me. They like to practice their English with me (which is much better than my Japanese) and often have little tidbits for me related to teaching or to living in Japan in general.

For example:

“Japanese students arevery shy. It will be difficult for you.”

“The students only see igloos and the white bear when they think of Alaska.  Show them what you see when you think of Alaska.”

“You’d better prepare your own chopsticks.”

“Drive slowly; it is better.”

School Visits Thus Far

I’m nearing the end of my first week of visiting schools.  I’ll be averaging four school visits per week. So far this week I’ve visited a junior high on two separate days, an elementary school the next day, and then tomorrow I’ll visit a different elementary school.  It’s nice to get a taste of the pace I’ll have to keep for the next three months or so.  My schedule slows down a bit starting in January.

Taylor gave you a good description of the lesson format that I tried out on my first class.  I was with a group of energetic first year students at a junior high in the area. The night before I had been really stressed out thinking that the students would be intimidating and that my whole lesson might not go as planned.  Although I did have to alter the lesson as I went along, I no longer have any fear of smart mouthed kids who try to foil my lesson.

I have two main reasons for this:

  1. They speak Japanese 95% of the time, so I can’t tell if they are trying to coax me into furthering their disruption.  I just act like they are going right along with the lesson, and we all keep moving right along.
  2. They are little children.  They aren’t that scary.

The elementary school students have a really hard time controlling their curiosity when I visit. I have found that the younger students are very curious about me and are not embarrassed to try out their English, but they don’t have very much vocabulary to work with.  What happens in this situation is one of two things: 1. They start blurting out question after question in Japanese or 2. They say all of the English phrases they can think of, even if it doesn’t quite fit in with the conversation.

My favorite out-of-place comment came from a 4th grader.  While passing him in the hallway, our conversation went something like this:

He shouts to me, “Hello! How are you? I am fine. Thank you!”

I was on my way to another class, so I said while walking quickly, “Oh good! I am fine, too. See you!”

He was not happy that the conversation was ending so quickly and so responded heartily, “I love you!”

A quick, “Thank you!” was all I could think of to say.

The older students know their numbers, their colors, and other basic adjectives, but they are much more shy and do not seem to care very much about learning English. It’s been a bit of a challenge. If the student can figure out an interesting topic to bring up using the basic English that they know, they will get into the lesson.

This happened during one of my introduction lessons. I talk about my favorite animal, which of course is a whale, and the students all think it’s weird and interesting that I worked as a guide on a whale watching cruise. About 10 minutes after I finished my talk with this one particular class, we were in the middle of a lesson about colors. The students were asked to name things that are a certain color.

“Green, green, what is green?”

The students respond, with a lack of passion: “Grass. Tree. Leaf. Wasabi. Cucumber.”

Then, one student, catches my eye and says loudly, “Green Peace! Green Peace! Green Peace!”

Yep, he got a sticker for that one.

Fire Drill

I was able to observe a fire drill at the elementary school that I visited earlier this week.  The drill involved a “Safety Place” flag that was my duty to hold, smoke machines, and a large canvas chute that allowed two teachers and three students to safely make it out a third story window to the ground.  The end of the chute was thrown out of the window and anchored to the ground about 25 feet away from the building.  It was steep! Five people safely made it down while the whole school watched standing in rows outside.

I wish I had a picture.

Everyone in Japan carries a small hand towel on their person at all times.  This is used for drying hands, as most public restrooms to not provide towels.  The students all held their hand towels over their faces as they made their way outside.

Toyota Starlet

It takes about 40 minutes to drive from our town, Noheji, to Shichinohe.  I’ve had to ride the bus to the office everyday, which means getting up very early in order to catch the bus at 6:48 a.m.  Yuck.

The bus stop near my office

The bus stop near my office

Riding home from work
Riding home from work

That will end today, though.  This morning I met with a car dealer who is handling the exchange of a 1995 Toyota Starlet from a past ALT in the area to me.  Starting at 4:00 p.m. today, I will be able to legally drive in Japan.


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2 Responses to “Julie’s turn”

  1. Mom in AK Says:

    Thanks for the Julie perspective!
    I agree with the advice from coworkers – Drive slowly; It is better. 🙂

  2. sarah austad Says:

    Wow! Your blogs are so interesting! I find it so interesting that the students are so different and their behavior more challenging than I ever imagined. I also think it’s interesting you have an office. If you want me to send you my Alaska stuff…it’s got lots of activities and projects , let me know. Peter and I canned 5 gallons of salsa on Sunday. I canned 7 more pints today. The tomatoes continue to come. Well, better go….Lots of love to my favorite daughter-in-law.

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