Four Observations from Today



At today’s morning meeting I learned that a student teacher, who has been at our school for about a week, invited all members of the staff to attend a lesson he would be conducting in the afternoon.  Staff members could stay as long as they wanted as he taught his students about the court systems of Japan.

This would be unheard of in the United States.  As a student teacher I constantly felt like a work in progress that was more or less protected from other teachers and administrators observing me until I was “ready.”

I decided to say yes to his invitation.  In fact, I have decided to say yes to any opportunity to see how my students learn and behave in classes outside of English.  In the coming days, weeks, and months, I hope to visit all the other required courses:  math, science, Japanese, P.E., and other politics and history classes.

Oh, and the student teacher did a great job.  He earned my respect before the lesson even began for being so brave and transparent.

Substitute Teaching

I attended the lesson with a coworker.  We left about halfway through and went to lunch.  As I consumed my delicious curry and rice we talked about substitute teaching in Japan.  Basically substitute teachers are summoned in Japan only in the case of long-term absences, including maternity and paternity leave.  If a teacher calls in sick, other full-time teachers at the school fill-in during their planning periods.

I told her about our system in the U.S. where most substitute teachers do not belong to one school (or sometimes even one district) and are called in on a regular basis.  She seemed as fascinated about this as I was about Japan’s system.

Student Government

We had another assembly today.  This time the entire student body congregated in the second gym to hear speeches from this year’s candidates for student body president and club activity coordinator.  I asked a coworker how the system works.  Apparently students decide to run for the positions and undergo a process to get their names on the ballot.  They then have to find another student who will endorse them before their big speech.

This year there was only one candidate for president and one candidate for club activity coordinator.  Each received an endorsement from the current student holding that given position.  They gave a speech of their own and then the students all went back to their homerooms to vote.

How does the voting work?  If a student wants a candidate to be elected, he or she will circle the name.  If not, an “X” is drawn in its place.  I asked my coworker what would happen if there were more X’s than O’s and she laughed and said it had never happened but if it did we would probably have another assembly with a brand new candidate.  There are usually multiple candidates on the ballot.

We’ll find out who wins tomorrow morning.

As the students left the gym I told my coworker about the speech I gave in high school for student government.  Since I was the only person running I decided to scrap the traditional speech in favor of a fictitious biography of Bob Saget.  I won.

Sandwich Humor

In the past two and a half years I have discovered that some of my best days of teaching coincide with me making an absolute fool of myself.  I struggled a little to use humor in math class, but in the past month I have been able to use it regularly.  I am fortunate to teach at a school that allows me to ham it up a little with the students.

Today I used a classic American dish, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, to teach the students about conditional sentences (first, second, and third).  I could see their eyes light up when I reached in my bag for the loaf of bread.  The first laughs came after I opened the jar of peanut butter and invited one of the students to smell it.  Fresh!  After I put on the condiments I made an attempt at physical comedy by cleaning the knife excessively with another piece of bread.  After merging the slices together, and thus forming the sandwich, I treated it like a delicacy.  This went on for a few moments until I suddenly dropped my creation onto the podium from a height that produced a satisfying thump upon landing.

My students laughed, smiled, and woke up.  That little bit of humor really helped energize them for the core objectives of the lesson I introduced moments later.  Although it’ll certainly be more of a challenge in math class, I hope to use similar techniques when I return to the U.S.

Oh, and I ended up giving away the sandwich as a prize for the student who could write the most ingredients in English for a recipe.  In this particular class we had a tie so I cut it in half and gave it to them both to enjoy.


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2 Responses to “Four Observations from Today”

  1. sarah austad Says:

    Finally got to the blog today. Enjoyed it immensely. You two are certainly good about updating it. I am really enjoying your interactions with your students. I want Julie to do some flower arranging…next summer with blooms from our garden. I will be interacting with students tomorrow at Garfield school…1st grade. They are taking a whole school field trip to the newly rennovated library plus a picnic lunch on Stephenson Island. Love you both.

  2. Hanna Says:

    Peanut butter sandwiches?!! If only I had had a teacher like you back in the day Taylor! Keep up the good work you guys-love reading your blog! Paper Zone STILL misses Julie :0)

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