Teaching English in Ise

Originally published on 27 May 2006. This is part of a series of posts about living and working in Japan–my first trip solo and abroad!

Kon-nitchiwa! (Hello!) I hope everyone’s having a great week. I decided now’s as good a time as any to tell you about working at the school, since so many of you have asked!

Two crazy kiddos, Mami, and me!

It’s very small, and this is only it’s second year in existence. I’m not sure how many students there are, but I think maybe a hundred or so. Ages range from 3 year olds to adults (the oldest is in her 70s). There are 10 or 11 different levels for classes, and some of the levels have more than one class in them. We do private lessons with one person at a time, and the biggest class has 7 in it.

The Jr. High, High School, and adult classes are the ones I enjoy most. It’s a little easier to tell if they understand me, and I can enjoy talking to them. The kids’ classes are harder for me because apparently the “Western influence” has influenced child-rearing here for the worse. A couple of boys have a problem keeping their clothes on (outter and under), and to be honest, they can be holy terrors. I like kids, but I can’t say I enjoy teaching them. There’s a special place in Heaven for teachers!

We have lesson plans to follow for every class, and preparation takes a long time, as there are a lot of steps to follow. I’m slowly learning where things are, when and where to write things down, and when to do things. I still forget to take my shoes off sometimes, since it’s so varied as to where you can and can’t have shoes and slippers and what’s acceptable and what’s not, but as I said, I’m learning!

Just me in my slippers!

So anyway, we officially start work at 1, but we have to be there and be ready for work at 12:45. I wish we could count that extra 15 minutes, as that would help me out with my internship hours, but eh, it’s ok. Yuri, the principle, told me it is dishonest to count those 15 minutes, even though it’s not for the school, it’s for my internship. Whatever. So we clean from 12:45 till about 1. We vacuum, wipe off the white boards, tables, chairs, and shoe rack, clean the windows, dust, and do whatever else needs to be done. Yuri watches with a critical eye, and rolls her eyes at Anna and me quite often. Anna and I have taken to calling ourselves “war buddies” in the silent war Yuri has on us. Come to find out, she doesn’t like Americans, she just needs us to keep the school open.

After we clean, we have a short meeting, usually just 5 minutes or so, where we go over the day’s schedule and go over anything else that needs to be addressed. As soon as Yuri says “Enjoy your work,” we start in on lesson plans and checking CD tracks for lessons and doing whatever else we have to do. The first class starts at 2:15, and we have classes pretty regularly until 9:00. All classes start at 15 after the hour and last 45 minutes, and 2 classes can be going on at once. There are 4 full-time teachers (Yuri, Yoko, Anna, and me) and once part-time teacher, Yumi. There’s also Mami, our receptionist. She doesn’t speak English well enough to teach it, but she speaks enough English to communicate with Anna and me!

Mrs. Koda and me! She owns the school with her husband!

We are also required to do receptionist work at the front desk. This is pretty easy. We greet students and visitors, hand out nametags, take attendance, and walk the students outside after their lessons. We can also work on lessons plans and make stuff for kids’ classes (activities, worksheets, and the like) while we’re doing receptionist kind of stuff.

After the last class lets out at 9, we close up and work on lesson plans for the next few days’ classes. We can leave at 9:45 if we’re finished, but we stay later if we need to. My first weekend, I had to prepare two lessons plans for the next Monday, and I was there till 11. It was pretty stressful and I was not prepared to be put in charge of any lessons, but I did it!

Yuri, Yoko, and Mami were very willing to help, and they told me that either Yuri or Yoko would still be in the room with me if I needed them to take over. Yuri said I didn’t need to feel so much pressure on myself (which made me laughing hysterically inside, since she is the reason). Anyone who knows me knows I can’t be satisfied with doing poorly at anything I do. My best has to be good enough to satisfy me and everyone else involved, especially the “boss!” That’s something God’s definitely been working on in
me for a while. I’m learning!

Everything did turn out fine, though, and now I’m teaching classes on my own every day!

Stress aside, the basic atmosphere is not bad. The school is new and pretty small, but it’s cute. They have all this Disney stuff up (Principal Yuri especially likes Pooh), and the first two weeks or so they played this one Disney CD with all the classics from Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, etc. It has 30 tracks, and they’d play over and over for 8 hours. Crazy as it may sound, I didn’t get tired of it. It was a really nice reminder of home, and now I have this urge to watch Disney movies with the family when I get back!

Peace from Mami and the Kodas’ nephew!

At the same time as the music is playing, we have a movie going at the front desk. It has to be playing in English with English subtitles, too, so that’s pretty nice! (Anything in English is a reminder of home. I heard Fallout Boy in Yoko’s car one day. And I never thought I’d be so happy to walk into a convenience store and hear Kelly Clarkson belting it!) We have a choice of Shark Tale, Anastasia, Ice Age, Back to the Future, Backdraft, some Buzz Lightyear cartoon, and a few others. Those haven’t gotten old yet either!

In the office, while we slave away over lesson plans and miscellaneous class preparations, we have the radio going. (Did you know their stations go into the 70’s? I didn’t realize that. I’ll have to ask how far they go.) They play a mix of everything on the station we listen to (Radio Cube, FM Mie!). The Japanese stuff is cool. I’ve caught myself singing along to a couple of them. They also play rock (American, British, others), pop, a little country, even some Christian music, and OLDIES! I heard Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head yesterday, one of the Rocky songs the other day, Kung Fu Fighting, and others from every decade ever. When they say variety, they mean it! It’s great!

As for breaks, we have one hour for “lunch” some time in the afternoon. I usually make some vegetables at the apartment to eat along with my squid or shrimp sushi from the grocery store. Yum! I may go through withdrawls when I get home. Anyone know of a good sushi place? Break is anywhere from 2:45-7:45. It’s different every day b/c lessons we teach are different every day. I’d rather have a little regularity, but I can eat sushi any time of the day!


More to come! Soon I’ll give you an inside look at a typical day in Ise for me, and I’ll have lots to tell next week–no school, so I get to TRAVEL!

I love you all. Send addresses and keep me in your prayers. God is teaching me so much. I’m learning things I didn’t know I needed to know. God knows the only way to get some things across to us, you know? Life is always exciting, no matter where you are, because you never know where He’ll let you end up!

Much love, Quick Whit

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