徳島 英会話教室 

School and Teaching

Halloween! ~ A rapidly growing holiday in Japan!

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Pictures of me being Santa Clause for kindergarten students! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy upcoming New Year to my friends, family, and students!

“Challenge English Class” Summer Carnival!

  Summer Carnival Album:


Christmas Party 2013! #seattleenglish

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My 2013 Summer Cooking Lessons – “Mexican Food!”

2013 “Challenge English Class” Summer Carnival!

The Big Pumpkin

In the spirit of Culture Day (文化の日, Bunka no Hi), a Japanese national holiday held annually on November 3rd celebrated for the purpose of promoting culture, the arts, and academic endeavour; the kindergarten I teach at put on an English play entitled “The Big Pumpkin.”  The Big Pumpkin is our Halloween version of the “The Giant Turnip” or “The Enormous Turnip,” a children’s fairy tale of Russian or Slavic origin.  The story was first published in 1863 in the collection Russian Folk Tales, edited and published by Aleksandr Afanas’ev.  It is a progressive story, in which a grandfather plants a turnip, which grows so large that he cannot pull it up himself.  He then asks the grandmother for help, and they together still cannot pull it up.  Successively more people are recruited to help, until they finally pull the turnip, or in our adaptation the pumpkin up from under the ground.  Sit back, relax, and press play to watch our off-Broadway, I guess way off-Broadway and way-overseas showing of The Big Turnip, with a special appearance by U.S. President Barack Obama!  Please don’t mind the early heckling by the younger 4-year old students, we were able to quiet them down eventually!.. haha!

Seattle ~ Tokushima Sister School Establishment!

In 2012, I established Tokushima’s first ever kindergarten sister school with the city of Seattle, whereby 5-6 year old students are engaged in a friendship program focused on developing an early cultural understanding between children from Japan and the United States.


Note: A link to my Sister School Establishment Album

2012 End of the School Year Pictures!

Sayonara Pictures!

2009 Tomida Kindergarten Graduation

Last Saturday morning was the graduation ceremony at Tomida Kindergarten and it marked my third year of teaching at the school.  As I’ve written before, teaching English at the kindergarten is a very rewarding feeling knowing I’m probably their first English teacher and what they carry onto elementary school is from our lessons together.  Tomida Kindergarten is a unique private school which incorporates regular English classes for its students, an important skill necessary earlier than ever before.  Recently in Japan, the government has finally taken measures in order to adopt English language education more formally at the elementary school level.  Beginning officially in April of 2011 and in Tokushima City this year, English will be officially recognized as a subject for 5th and 6th grade students, requiring schools to administer 35 periods a year.  Previously, English was often incorporated into Integrated Studies periods as a component of “International Understanding,” but this relaxed education policy will soon change.  The focus of the new English curriculum guidelines will focus on speaking and listening only, in order to ease the burden on junior high school teachers who previously had to teach all four components of the foreign language from a beginning foundation.

Kyoto University Bound!

Recently I received news that Hiroaki, my student attending Bunri High School in Tokushima passed Kyoto University’s entrance examination!  Kyoto University is the second oldest university in Japan and is ranked among the top 25 universities in the world and is considered the Yale of Japan, it follows only Tokyo University as the most prestigious university in the country.  Tokyo and Kyoto University were once imperial universities, which trained Japan’s leaders before the war.  The competition to enter the top public universities in Japan is cut-throat, tests results mean everything.  Students applying to national public universities take two entrance examinations, first a nationally administered standardized achievement test and then an examination administered by the university that the student hopes to enter – not easy.  Some national public schools have so many applicants that they use the first test as a screening device for qualification to take their own admissions test.  Such intense competition means that many bright students fail for admission to the college of their choice.  An unsuccessful student can either accept admission elsewhere, forego a college education, or wait until the following spring to take the test again. A large number of students choose the last option. These students are called ronin, meaning a masterless samurai – then spend an entire year, and sometimes longer, cramming for another shot at their dream university.  A painstaking, life holding decision in which every day is in preparation for another chance to start their lives.
                             me & Hiroaki


Kindergarten Graduation Ceremony

This past Saturday was the graduation ceremony at the kindergarten I teach at. In previous years, I’ve attended elementary school and junior high school graduations, however, this was my first full year of experience at the kindergarten level. Teaching the same 47 students each week, as opposed to twice a month or sometimes less as Assistant Language Teacher(ALT) has been a more rewarding experience. To educate kindergarten students and see the growth in their learning each week was truly amazing. It’s hard to explain the difference, other than I felt more responsible for their education. As an ALT on the JET Program, I taught at an elementary school once a week, while team-teaching at the junior high school level was my primary responsibility. These past weekly elementary school visits usually required teaching three classes a day from first to sixth graders. This past infrequency of not being able to teach the same students each week made educating challenging. As I’ve previously written about, English is not a formal subject at the elementary school level. ALTs are often teaching different lessons without the aid of a formal curriculum. While some good teachers are thinking progressively about each lesson they teach, others are simply teaching with no method, or don’t see the need for a system due to the infrequency of their visits. Having no formal guidelines has its benefits though, it means complete control in what you think should be taught… With this level of freedom to teach and the regularity of my visits to the same students each week, made this graduation an extra special day.

Note:  (Video link) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lV9litlfJOo

Samurai Gives Halloween Kindergarten Lesson (video)

Beginning in April of this year, I started teaching at Tomida Kindergarten. Unlike many parts of Japan, Tomida students are introduced to English at the kindergarten level and the reason why the school is a popular choice for parents in Tokushima. Having taught for over 2-years at elementary schools and junior high schools in Japan, this experience was a refreshing challenge. Teaching at the kindergarten is not much different than teaching at elementary schools I think, at both levels the kids are extremely excited to see you and can be a lot of fun. Recently at Tomida, we had our first Halloween party together. As I have in the past, I dressed up in a costume and provided a cultural exchange lesson about the popular American holiday, followed by a party. Check out the video below!




This week I said sayonara to my elementary and junior high schools.  After nearly 3-years at Hachiman Junior High, 2-years at Shinmachi Elementary and 1-year at Kamihachiman Junior High, it was time to say good-bye to all my schools.  As I’ve written before, the end of March marks the end of the school year in Japan.  This is also the time when Japanese teachers are transferred to different schools by a central Board of Education, which oversees the entire profession.  This week I gave three good-bye speeches in Japanese, which was a little nerve-racking.  Due to the fact, I teach at Shinmachi Elementary School once a week on Thursdays, I was given my own personal send-off prior to the rest of the leaving staff.  All the elementary school students gathered in the gym Thursday morning for a short, but sweet farewell ceremony.  At my junior high schools, my departure was announced with all the other leaving teachers at the closing ceremony.  Although most teachers are aware whether they will be transferred or not, the announcements are kept a secret until the last school day.  At the junior high schools, departing teachers are lined up in front of the entire student body and presented flowers and gifts.  Last Friday night was also the sayonara enkai at all three of my schools.  A small challenge trying to make an appearance at all three of my school’s parties, but definitely a lot of fun.   This was truly an unforgettable week that words can hardly describe.  Pictures may help complete the story.

Note:  School and Work album – a complete look back..

Graduating – Rebels Without a Cause

Last Saturday, I attended my third JHS graduation in Japan and also my most memorable to date.  Having taught this year’s graduating 9th grade class since their first year in JHS and my first year in Japan, Saturday was an extra special day for all of us.  Working in the city as opposed to working deep in the country can be a very unique experience, as the kids are often much more stronger and confident – necessary social skills in order to survive in a student body exceeding 800 students.  Although Hachiman JHS has had a reputation of being a rough and tumble school, this year’s graduating class has made dramatic improvements in prefecture wide standardized test scores.  Having taught this graduating class for almost 3-years, I believe I was able to make some great connections with the students and it was sad to see them move on – even the bad boys and bad girls.  Very similar to graduations back home, there can be rebellions against school authority on the last day.  Tipped over garbage cans, toilet papering the school, and spray-painting walls are not uncommon ways of saying “thanks for the memories” in the US; however, the way students express similar sentiments in Japan is different.  At every JHS graduation I’ve been to, there are always some students that dress up in these unusual costumes, which I’ve been told symbolizes being in a gang and/or a show of power.  Immediately following the formal ceremony, these students change their clothes and dye their hair to rebel against 3-years of school authority.  These rebellious acts are harmless and amusing in what can be an otherwise very conservative graduation ceremony.

Shinmachi Elementary School’s English Day!

This past Saturday morning was Shinmachi Elementary School’s English Day, an annual event which brings 12 foreign teachers to the school to take part in a variety of English activities with the students. As the ALT at Shinmachi Elementary since April 2004, this is the second time I have been involved in the planning and coordinating of guest English teachers visiting the school for the event. However, my first experience was as a volunteer in my first year in Japan. Shinmachi Elementary is a unique public school, in terms of English education. English became a part of the formal curriculum at the school in 1996, when the government selected it as an elmentary test school in Tokushima. The national program which was intended to determine the benefits of elementary school English education ran for three years and ended with great success. After which, the school decided to make English a permanent part of their curriculum. Unlike most elmentary schools in Japan, Shinmachi has had an ALT visiting their school weekly for nearly 10-years.In previous years, Shinmachi Elementary School’s English Day was shortly after the summer, however, the past two years its been a December event and a Christmas theme has been added. The action packed day includes, guest introductions to students, teachers and parents in the gym. Followed by lessons by foreign teachers in pairs to each grade in the school. Next, everyone gathers back in the gym for more English games and student cultural performances. Each year, I’ve been trying to add a few new twists to keep things fresh. Last year, we introduced a guest appearance by Santa, followed by Christmas songs by Santa and the guest teachers. This year, I convinced the school to borrow a spotlight. The spotlight was used when the guest teachers first entered the gym for introductions and Santa’s entrance. Adding to our grand entrance, I replaced last year’s children’s song, Hello, how are you? with Beyonce and Jay-Z’s Crazy in Love, which had the house rocking at 9:00 in the morning!

Tashi Dollar Exchange Opens for Trade

Today, I’m at my secondary JHS on the outskirts of Tokushima City, I usually spend 4-5 weeks here over the course of a term. I love to come to this school as a nice change of pace from my primary JHS, where I spend most of my time and the student body is twice as big. As my last visit before the winter break quickly approaches, the exchanging of “Tashi Dollars” officially began today. As I’ve previously written, students in the 7th grade that show outstanding participation in my English class are rewarded with “Tashi Dollars,” which can be exchanged for small gifts twice a year. The top “Tashi Dollar” recipient of each class is also rewarded a certificate of achievement. Below are the first term Class of 2005 “Tashi Dollar” Hall of Fame student inductees.

November 28, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

Elementary School Field Trip

Yesterday, I went on another school field trip, but this one was with my elementary school. Having been given a choice, I decided to travel with the 4th, 5th and 6th grade half of the school on a trip to Tokushima’s newspaper and Shikoku’s broadcasting companies. Before visiting both media outlets, we stopped at Naruto Park for some fun and lunch. I decided to spend my time at the park with the some of the 6th graders as they began setting up for baseball with a plastic bat and rubber ball. Similar to wiffle-ball, which I played growing up, I showed the kids how I used to do it back-in-the-day by changing the direction of the field. When playing this sort of baseball, it’s absolutely necessary to find some form of a homerun boundary to hit towards. Growing up, I used to play wiffle-ball in the streets hitting towards my house as the homerun fence. The rules were simple, usually consisting of no bases and ghost-runners. Anything on the roof and back was a double, hits over the house were homeruns. Our field at Naruto Park was a bit different than in the streets growing up, but the rules we applied were the same and as fun. We found a wall that was perfect for hitting over and our high scoring homerun derby style game began. Teaching English in Japan is a rewarding experience, but if I can also teach the importance of having a homerun fence in a game of wiffle-ball to kids in Japan, well…. that just makes it all the better.

November 17, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

Kickin’ it Up a Notch! — in class

Yesterday, my elementary school played host to a conference of Tokushima elementary school teachers. These types of conferences are common at every level of teaching and usually aims to provide an opportunity to discuss various teaching methods used across the prefecture. At these conferences, teachers are able to watch live class lessons and discuss effective teaching ideas with each other. Yesterday, I was involved in a teaching demonstration class with the 4th grade. The focus of this class was not about English, but more about internationalization and foreign cultural understanding through food. Although a teacher at the school, I acted as a guest along with three other guest teachers, two from Africa and one from Venezuela. With the students, we made simple dishes from our respective countries. On my menu, we made my now World famous, Cheese Omelet! With years of culinary level practice in my own kitchen, I was happy to share my experiences with the kids. As a graduate of the Food Cooking Network, I overwhelmed the other guest teachers as I waltzed around the kitchen preparing my secret recipe. Having mastered the art of adding just enough cheese, while understanding when to flip the eggs over at the precise moment, we walked through the steps slowly so each student could clearly understand the science involved in this delicate art. Lastly, I demonstrated how to finish any dish, by adding a slow pinch of salt, followed by a loud fast “B A M !” and whalla, a masterpiece, even Emeril himself would have been proud of.

November 10, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

Halloween at school in Japan

Today is Halloween in Japan – and as I have the past two years I dressed up at my schools as a cultural exchange experience for students and to spread the fun of the holiday. This past few weeks, I’ve been incorporating Halloween activities into my English lessons. After establishing a foundation to what the holiday is about, it’s time to put the kids into a fun shock as I don a costume bringing the holiday to life. At my elementary school, we do a Halloween party for the 3rd grade class each year. This year, the students made their own witch costumes in a previous lesson for the party. On the day of the event last week, each student took a turn on the catwalk, followed by a class vote for best costumes. Pandemonium ran wild on this day as I dressed up as a Samurai Warrior and passed out candy around the school. Today, I’m at my JHS. Information about Halloween and an activity sheet is available outside the entrance to the teacher’s room for those students interested in my after school Halloween Raffle.

: See School and Work album for more pic

October 30, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

9th Grade JHS Field Trip

After my long weekend in Kyoto, where I returned home at nearly midnight – I woke up early Monday morning preparing for a day field trip to Okayama with the 9th grade class at my JHS. Similar to anywhere else in the World, Japanese students also take part in field trips. However, unlike any trips I remember taking growing up, in the 8th grade Japanese students travel to far-off destinations often by air for national cultural studies. Based on my experience, the popular choice in Tokushima is a 2-3 night trip to Okinawa or Hokkaido. Typically, 7th grade students take short field trips within their prefecture and in the 9th grade its the fun day field trip to an amusement park – which I went on this past Monday. With over 100 students traveling in two charter buses, we set off for a Brazilian amusement park called Washuzan Highland in Okayama. After crossing the famous Seto-o-hashi bridge which connects Shikoku to Honshu, Washuzan Highland’s ferris wheel and roller coaster can be seen high in the distance. Located on top of a hill overlooking the Japan Inland Sea, the location of the park is unique from any amusement park I’ve ever been to. What made this visit even more unique is that Washuzan Highland is a Brazilian theme park. How did a Brazilian theme park come to be in this part of Japan, you ask? The answer, I have no idea. But it was fun! Although not a big fan of rides or heights, I sucked it up for the students. If a ferris wheel wasn’t already high enough, placed on top a hill takes Fear Factor to another level. Highlights on the day included samba dancing and watching two of my students take nearly 10-minutes to eat one Brazilian hamburger and finish a Brazilian drink in a food eating contest – while the Brazilians screamed a bit frustrated… “faster, faster!”

October 27, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

“Tashi Dollars!”

When you ask first year junior high school students (7th graders) in Hachiman what they want for their birthday, you may not get your typical response. Sure you would expect most students to ask for a new PlayStation or an Xbox, or maybe even an I-Pod, but for the 7 graders in Hachiman, it’s all about the “Tashi Dollar!” That’s right! The “Tashi Dollar” is a copy of a US dollar bill featuring yours truly. These dollars are presented to first year jr. high school students for their outstanding classroom participation in my English class. For 7th graders in Japan, it’s the first year of formal English classes. Although some students have been fortunate enough to learn some English before entering jr. high school – for the majority – it’s an exciting new subject. Walking to the 7 grade section of the school can be experience likening to a rock star maneuvering through his biggest fans. Being the only foreigner in the school can be very flattering at times. Screams of “Tashi Dollars please!” can be heard as I make my way to the classroom. Twice a year, in December and March, students are given an opportunity to exchange their hard-earned “Tashi Dollars.” Small prizes, from stickers and school supplies to larger prizes such as Seattle souvenirs to authentic autographed Tashi baseballs are traded for. For the students with the most “Tashi Dollars” in the class, a certificate of achievement is presented. For the most part, the goal of “Tashi Dollars” is meant to motivate students in English class, which works. However, the plug on “Tashi Dollars” is pulled after the 7th grade, as students mature quickly and before the novelty wears off – hoping to avoid seeing my face on the ground with footprints and “English sucks!” written across it…

September 27, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment

JHS English Speech Competition

Every year in Tokushima City, over 20 junior high school students gather to compete in the cities English Speech Competition. Today is the big event, where two of my students will give a 5 minute memorizedspeech in English for a crowd of teachers, students, and judges. This nerving experience takes months of practice. The process usually begins before the summer where two students are selected from each school, followed by the students themselves writing the first draft of their speech. After which, the ALT will make many revisions with the assistance of the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE). As in all speeches, the topic is extremely important. The most successful students are able to combine a good topic with their own personal experiences, while ultimately conveying a compelling message to the audience. Having worked with the students many times in preparation and having the speech near memorized also, the presentation can be nerving for an ALT just to watch. A city winner is selected along with other runner-ups who will then compete at a later date in a prefectural competition. The winner of the prefectural competition will then go on to compete at a more prestigious national competition. 

Post-competition update: 26 students in total competed. Plaques were presented to students for first, second and third place. Although both of my students did extremely well, only one of my students placed in the top 7. The top 7 students this year are invited to the Prefectural competition. Which means, I’m going to the big dance this year!

September 20, 2005 | Categories: Life in Japan, School and Teaching | Leave a comment