a merkypie in japan

Today was the first day of school across Japan, for some it was entrance ceremonies and for others it was school tours and club presentations for the first years. At my school, we had the entrance ceremony last Friday and dedicated the first day of school to getting the kids all adjusted into middle school life. It was adorable to watch since I knew about 90% of the entire first year class seeing how I taught them English as six graders. So whenever they spotted me in the shadows, they would wave or yell my name in excitement.

Some of my first years were nervous as hell. Understandable considering they came from schools where their entire class size was no more than 8 kids and now they’re in a class with 35 kids. I have a feeling though that what has came through these doors will not be the same child once they leave. It’s now witnessing that change from innocent childhood to teenagers with attitudes.

Anyway, half the staff changed this year and we have new staffers now. Some are really nice while others are, well, can’t really gauge what they are like. Of course, being resident foreigner in the teacher’s room people just assume I don’t speak or understand Japanese. I’ve gotten used to the invisible barrier but I will admit, it did piss me off. I’m just glad they moved me from the math teacher because, christ, it was like I did not exist in his world. History teacher would say good morning and math teacher would just stare off into the distance.

This whole start of the new year was pretty humbling and warm. Probably due to the fact that the area is so small and I knew all the kids coming in. I have high hopes and I really wish that they continue with an interest in English. I tried my best to make the classes fun for them while they were 6th graders, I hope that they don’t loose that interest going into middle school.

For a change of topic, high school English must now be taught completely in English. I am really wondering how this is going to be approached from the middle school level. The Japanese educational system has been hard pressed that this country has constantly been ranked the lowest among Asian nations when it comes to English proficiency despite the fact that the language is taught from the 5th grade onwards through university. But, I don’t know if these changes are going to make it any better… I think the actual course material needs to be changed. The English learned is not ‘real’ English, but textbook English designed to pass exams. These kids maybe able to say, ‘ Hello! I’m XX. I’m XX years old. Do you like sushi? I like sushi very much. I study very hard. Thank you! ‘ but that isn’t going to carry a conversation, let alone save them in an English speaking country.

If Japan wants to tackle this English problem, the English language needs to be introduced more indepth at the Elementary level. Dedicate the 3rd and 4th years to pronunciation  jump into grammar at the 5th and 6th grades, and continue on to composition and reading through middle school and beyond. Japan has the right idea but they’re going about it all wrong and as a product of this system, it grates me to teach this jumbled Japanglish.