On accordion books and job satisfaction

By: Rora

Jan 17 2011

Category: Japan

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Focal Length:3.85mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:iPhone 4

Shame on me for being quiet these past two weeks!

I guess, since my job (and it’s nasty habit of making me exhausted) is my excuse for why I’ve been quiet on the blogosphere lately, I may as well tell you about my newest exciting project at work.

Which might require me to first tell you a little bit about my work.

I was super lucky to be able to move to Japan and find a job on my own. I was even luckier to find a job at an independent immersion pre-school owned by reasonable people, rather than work for one of the many corporations that hires teachers for public schools and takes advantage of them. And, most of all, I consider myself unbelieeeevably lucky that my students speak and understand a huge amount of English. Not to mention, I can put my M.Ed in Art education to good use! It’s a one in a million kind of job.

We have conversations! Even many of my 3 year olds can speak confidently and more comprehensively than the average Japanese high school student. So while I do get a little envious of my JET Programme friends who complain about being too bored at their schools (free time  and planning time are something that simply do not exist for me and sometimes, I admit, I crave it) I would still much rather have students who I can talk to. It’s made the experience of teaching in a foreign country that much more rewarding.

I mostly work with 2-6 year old kids. Several afternoons a week, we have an afterschool program for Elementary school aged kids, mostly 1st and 2nd graders. They can read and write a little, and right now they are working on memorizing speeches they wrote about their families for our big school performance next month.

Memorization is a big thing here. So are speeches. Boring boring boring. But we had no choice, it’s something our principal wanted them to do, so the cookie cutter speeches were written, and memorized, and memorized some more, but we still had over a month until the actual performance, so what to do in the meantime?

I had an idea to make accordion books about their families, which would let the kids draw and write about their lives in a more exciting way. With the help of my great coworkers, we developed this into a really awesome lesson. We would start using their speeches to guide them, but hopefully along the way, new stories would emerge. Hopefully the drawings would allow them to speak more complexly, less cookie cutter.

I couldn’t be more psyched about the results.

For example, one girl drew a picture of her mom and a cake. When my coworker asked her why the cake was small and off to the side, she said “Well, my mom likes to eat cake, but she always hides the cake. My brother and sister always catch her eating cake, and then she has to share it with them.”

So cool, yeah? It’s endlessly fascinating and rewarding to see my students produce such good and honest work. Way better than just saying “my mom likes cake,” which is what was in this girl’s speech.

Once the books are finished, I will photograph some to share here. It’s so amazing to see what is going on inside some of these kids’ heads.


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