English Club

I haven’t really mentioned my English Club on this blog, that I can remember. Part of that is because according to school rules, I’m not allowed to post pictures of my students on the internet. (I think it’s ok if you can’t see their faces, but I’m still paranoid about it.) So although we’re doing lots of fun things in my English Club, I’ve lacked the motivation to post about it because I know how terribly BORING blog posts are without any PICTURES!!

Many schools in Japan have an English club already established. My schools did not have one, and as far as I know, they have never had one. I wanted to start one when I first arrived, but ran into some problems because I was only going to be at each school for three months at a time. So, if I started a club at my first school, I would only be able to run it for three months. Finally I came up with a compromise, which was to hold the English club only once a week and at a community center. That way, students from all three junior high schools could join the club, and even after I moved schools, I could still host the club.

This was my idea, and I pitched it to the Board of Education around late fall in 2012. Japan loves paper work. Japan loves rules. Japan loves red tape. It took soooo long for anything to happen with the club. Finally, in about February 2013, I had a few meetings with some Board of Education members about starting the club. We started planning a few things, and were considering getting things started. Then, the new school year started in April. The woman who I was working with to organize the English Club got transferred to another department. So much for that!! A new woman replaced her though, and she was actually much more excited about the possibility of the English Club. Her name is Megumi and I am so thankful to be working with her! It still took a long time though–Megumi had to be trained at her new position, and she had a lot of new responsibilities, so we couldn’t get the club underway immediately. Besides, it was the beginning of the school year and all the students were really busy adjusting to their new school or grade level. Finally in about June of 2013 we started planning. We decided to have two summer English camps to get things started. These events were just a one time deal, but hopefully it would garner interest from students for a proper English Club. In essence, it worked as a trial period. Thankfully, it was a success and we finally got the official OK to start a proper club.

So finally, starting in September 2013, we had English Club! I have a total of 22 students, and we meet once a week. I’m really happy that we actually have on elementary school student, too. We also have one very talented high school student who I often use as my assistant. We are known as the “4Cs Club,” and each week we focus on a different topic: Conversation, Community, Culture, and Cooking. (Fun Fact: When I decided on the topics I did not intentionally make them all start with ‘C.’ That was a complete accident, but it worked out nicely!)

On conversation days I try to make sure the meeting involves a lot of speaking with each other, and I really try to promote natural, authentic speech. (They do A LOT of really unnatural speech in their classes. For example, the start of every class I have to [it’s not my choice] as them the weather, day, date, and time. I don’t consider this authentic or natural because how often in real life are you asked these questions? Certainly not every day. And it’s certainly not the first thing someone would ask you.)

Community days involve working on a community project of sorts, but still using English. We translated menus into English for four local restaurants, and the students even designed the English menu. We’ve also worked on a few things for the city website and now we are working on making a calendar that we will give to our sister city.

For culture lessons, I try to focus on teaching them about something “American.” Usually these lessons involve a lot of speaking or fun games. One time I made a list of the most popular American names for kids their age, and then I had them guess if they were male or female names. Around holidays we usually do something related to that, so I’ve taught them about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. They have Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day in Japan but truthfully they are celebrated quite differently.

On cooking days we cook! So far we have made chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes that we decorated like turkeys, gingerbread houses, and tacos. Next week we will be making gummy worm dirt cups. Remember making those as a kid??

We also have a party every once and a while, so we’ve had a Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day party. We’ll also have an Easter party, I think. I was also considering having an “Everyone’s Birthday Party” and show them how we usually celebrate birthdays in America.

One of the best parts is I get to be totally in charge of the club. At school, I work in a team-teaching situation, and I have to follow the official teacher’s lead on everything. My responsibility varies from teacher to teacher, and some give me a lot of freedom and really want to collaborate with me, while others just use me as a tape recorder. Either way, everything we do must follow the official curriculum. With English club I make the curriculum, which is really fun and one of the major things I miss about teaching back home, and having my own classroom.

I feel like I could go on and on about this, so I’ll just move on to the few pictures I can show you!

As you can see, the cookies turned out really well:

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No faces but mine and my coworkers here, so it’s ok to post. This was during the Halloween Party. I’m dressed as Namarin (our city’s mascot) and Raymond’s dressed as a fisherman (because I’m a catfish girl.)

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I can also post this because he’s not a student, he’s my friend’s son.

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Don’t I look just like Namarin?

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Our turkey cupcakes turned out really cute!

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The kids made some pretty awesome gingerbread houses:

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A few weeks ago on a culture day I taught them how to play MASH. I love how creative they got with it!

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And at our Valentine’s Day party the kids made really cute cards, and I even got a few myself!

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PS, if you want to make that awesome pop-up card, you can find out how here.

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