For this Ning Blog, I’d like to focus on my initial thoughts of the elementary school that I was place in as part of this program.
After having completed my Japanese lessons at the university, as well having visited three different schools in Sapporo, I was assigned to an average sized elementary school nearby the university. Growing up and going to school in Calgary for all of my life, I had little knowledge about how the school environment would be like in Japan. In the month prior, I had the opportunity to attend a rural elementary school, and then visited fairly prestigious, and junior high and elementary schools. Because I had only visited each of these schools for one day, I was only able to get a glimpse of what daily school life would be. After one week at Ainosato Elementary School, I feel that through deeper engagement with school staff and students, I’ve been able to gain much more knowledge.
One of the most striking aspects that I noticed of the school that I was placed in is the sense of community present within the school. It was clear in the classroom, that students knew and demonstrated their shared responsibility in keeping classroom activities and transitions in order. For example, at the beginning of the class, students would take attendance while asking each individual how they are feeling. Another group of students would go over the class schedule, as well as what the school lunch that day would be. During school lunches, students would rotate between different responsibilities, such as cleaning the floor, putting the food in the bowls/plates, and distributing utensils. Students would do their responsibilities with little coercion from their teachers, and students would also wait patiently for their peers to be quietly seated before changing activities. The staff too, seemed to have a strong sense of community. Staff meetings, where everyone discussed and formed the schedules of the students, seemed to occur every morning. Teachers would also meet to practice a specific subject. For example, because all teachers were required to be knowledgeable about music education, teachers would often meet to practice playing or singing songs that they had to later teach their students.
After asking the teachers at Ainosato Nishi elementary school, I learned that this type of environment of shared responsibility, and in a way, class independence from the teacher, was standard to most elementary schools. This type of school environment made me wonder about why this is the case. I wondered if strong cultural influence and upbringing, especially in relation to collectivity, played a major role in the development of this school system. Overall, Ainosato Nishi seemed to be a school in which both students and staff truly cared for each other. Everyone appeared to be invested in the well-being, and/or learning of others.
My first week at the elementary school also provided me with the opportunity to practice my Japanese skills. On different days, my partner TAB student and I were required to introduce ourselves to each class, as well as the whole school in both English and Japanese. It was an interesting experience, trying to juggle between two aspects of my speech: to speak simply and clearly in English, and speak clearly and correctly in Japanese. I found this experience to be incredibly nerve-wracking, but also incredibly valuable. It made me think about how to enunciate and speak English in such a way that ELL students in my future classrooms can understand. At the same time, I got to experience what it was like to speak in an unfamiliar language in front of a large group of people. I hope that as I go on in my future teaching practice, I will never forget these moments because I feel like they will be valuable to me when thinking about how to interact with ELL students, as well as provide me with the slightest glimpse of what they might be experiencing.
Overall, my first week at Ainosato Nishi has been a great one! I am blown away by how kind and welcoming both the staff and students are at this school. I am incredibly excited to develop a deeper relationship with everyone at the school, as well as learn more about the everyday school environment,
Until next time! Mata ne!