Teaching in Japan – Frustrations


Recently I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated with work. For anyone reading this for the first time, I teach kids from the ages of 2 to 15 (sometimes up to 18) in after-school English classes. The classes are held in a small private school. Two classrooms, two foreign conversation teachers, a Japanese grammar teacher, a Filipina helper and a Japanese office lady. The owner/”director” of the school makes an occasional appearance for a few minutes.


There are some problems. Firstly, there are just too many kids in each class. Some classes have twelve 7-year-olds. Now, in comparison to regular school class sizes, this is tiny, but for me, it’s too many. Mostly because I just don’t have the language skills to control them. I mean, if one of the kids says something horrible to another, and then gets pummelled, the pummeller gets in trouble and the pummellee gets an apology. It’s just not right. I spend so much of my time breaking up fights and trying to get the kids to concentrate that it’s exhausting. In a normal classroom, they’d be sitting at desks. I’d have a desk. In my school though, we’re all sitting on the floor. The kids are right up next to each other. Punching is just too easy.


The second major problem is mixed levels in the same class. One class has a couple of kindergarteners in with a bunch of 8-year-olds and one sharp as a tack 10-year-old. The 10-year-old is bored out of his mind, the kindergarteners don’t learn a thing and the 8-year-olds don’t learn much because whenever they don’t know the answer, they look to the older kid and he whispers the answer. It’s all kind of pointless. 


Lastly, the level that’s being expected is too high. The crunch came when I was trying to teach the kids the phrase “any”. As in, “is there any soda/are there any sandwiches”. We were playing go fish. The kids had to use the phrase “Do you have any fives”. They’re playing in teams, three 10-year-olds to a team. It’s the girls’ team’s turn. One says “Do you have any….. go?” Go is Japanese for five. Seriously. I’m trying to teach the particulars of some/any and they can’t count to ten. After having gone to classes at this school for seven years. Their parents have spent a million yen on classes. Go convert that into your own currency and marvel. I’m spending my days drilling verbs like repair, shovel, type and fold when they don’t know verbs like read, write, say and do. It’s infuriating!


Rant over.


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