This blog post will be much less about contemplative observations than about what I do as a teacher and how I survived the first week of classes. It’s really kind of a big deal for me if I’m going to be teaching beyond Meysen. And I think I will. So really I survived the first week of my new career.
I teach five different grades which equals out to 14 English classes a week. They are only about an hour each with some playtime before each day. So there isn’t a lot of time spent in the classroom. But there’s lots of time spent getting ready for it.
1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade are the normal classes and I teach a 7th grade class twice a week. 1st and 6th are on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; 3rd and 4th are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Last week was full of opening ceremonies, going over rules, learning kids’ names and faces, and showing them where their new shoeboxes and attendance charts and classrooms are. For me being new, that meant long work hours, lots of questions asked, and lots of stress. I’m a hard-working perfectionist living in a perfectionist-no-mistakes-whatsoever kind of country so there’s a little pressure to not mess up.
I have around 20 students in each class. And Japanese kids are especially cute, so sometimes my heart just melts when one of them does something adorable or smart. And I love it when they think I’m fun or funny. I’m working hard to be firm, but fun. I think I’ve most succeeded with the younger grades. The 6th graders are another story for another time.
I’m already in love with my kids, and I already take pride in the work that they do. Not because it reflects on me, but I just love to know what they know. I love it when we are all practicing English together and everyone seems to understand what is going on. I love when they lean forward in their seats because they want to know what’s coming next. I love when we all get to laugh together as a class because Ms. Beth is the funniest person in the world to them. They really make me happy and fill my heart up. I’ll be praying for opportunities to show them Jesus, too, and remind them about him.
My 7th grade class isn’t “normal” because it will only last until July when they leave for my homeland because the class is all about prepping them for their big America trip. That class isn’t stressful at all and I get to tell the kids about Disneyland and American candy. Who could hate doing that?
The 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 6th grade classes aren’t even the grades I was originally expecting (Meysen crams flexibility and last-minute changes down its employees’ throats), but God gave me what I needed to have and I am so so thankful for that.
Teachers mix the curriculum with real life props and activities and workbooks along with whatever else they can think of to demonstrate what these new foreign words and sentences mean to the kids. It can be a blast. The curriculum is made up of songs, chants, poems, stories, shared readers, vocab picture cards, and word cards with sight words and many you sound out. The word cards are the 500 most commonly used English words. Super cool. All the curriculum is developed by Grapeseed which stemmed from Meysen itself. (You catch that accidental pun there?)
Friends Club does lots of other activities, too, which is a big reason parents and kids love Meysen. We go on really cool field trips and have super cool parties for holidays and other occasions. We get to do way more than stay in the classroom. Meysen is really good at making each kid feel special…something that the Japanese who aren’t Christians may not be so good at. For each kids’ birthday we send them a card with a picture of the teacher and the student. We sing in class for them, light up a fake birthday cake, and just make them feel very special. We celebrate when the kids do extra work in English with t-shirts and wristbands. And we try to focus on praising good behavior rather than just scolding bad. I’m perfecting this last one slowly. Meysen loves its students, and I’m glad I’m learning how to do that here.
To sum up: I have tons and tons to learn about being a good teacher. I love love love my kids. I’m exhausted from all the work. I fail at something every single day. (No lie.) But I feel very rewarded in simply having a good class with my kids. It’s all worth it.
Here’s to one week I’m still employed and hopefully many more to come.