Thursday and Friday classes showed just how much improvement our students had made over the course of only five days! Thursday was largely centered around on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, where our group chose to focus on how global education policy can be improved to provide access to education for all students. Kayato and Miyu suggested reforms from tons of research on education initiatives they had done the night before, and we interns kept them digging deeper into how the reforms they found could be applied to not only their lives but in places around the globe lacking strong educational systems.
Miyu had focused her research on the adoption of technology in classrooms, and suggested that schools in developing countries offer classes for parents as well, to start a conversation about what education can do for their children. Kayato thought that Japan should send more educational aid to developing countries, and decided that he would like to be part of his initiative and go abroad to teach. He had seen examples of organizations like UNESCO building private schools in Cambodia and Vietnam and the corresponding rise in income for people attending those schools, and talked to the group about those initiatives and how we can apply many of the same tactics around the globe. All in all, a fascinating discussion, not just because we could hear them talk so well in English about such important and difficult topics.
We also focused a bit on correct speech format, and taught Miyu and Kayato the proper way to form an introduction, body, and conclusion of a speech. (Apparently, speeches or even talking in front of the class is incredibly rare in Japanese schools, so the practice here was much needed.) We prepared them for a speech on their UN Sustainable Development Goal (all of which went incredibly well), which also served as preparation for their big speech Friday on the Life Mission they think will suit their talents and interests.
Friday afternoon, the students all came to the front of the classroom and presented their Life Missions. Before these speeches, I had of course seen the rapid improvement in my own students’ English skills and had noticed it in others, but I hadn’t realized the impact that a full week of speaking nothing but English could have on these students. Some sounded nearly fluent, and the ones that weren’t quite there yet had gained so much confidence in their speaking and were eager to keep learning.
Also fascinating and amazing was hearing the life missions themselves- the students were a diverse group and wanted to do everything from flight surgery (be a surgeon to astronauts) to work as a translator in Haneda Airport in Tokyo- but they all had one thing in common. Every single student wanted to have a job that connected them beyond Japan and to the international community. They wanted to continue learning English and go on to learn more languages, and they wanted to study abroad, go to college in the US, or spend time traveling and working abroad. Many of them hadn’t thought much about what they wanted to do specifically before this week, and the majority had no idea they would enjoy English so much or that they would want to have a more internationally focused career. Hearing the impact our talks about our American universities, our majors, and our hopeful future careers had on these kids really astounded me. Inever in a million years would have thought that I could have so much of an impact on formulating these kids’ lives, and I was so proud of the ways they have found to give their talents back to the world.
Our closing ceremony with the kids was full of tears, from both interns and students. A few interns gave speeches in Japanese (with the funniest reactions from the students who hadn’t realized any of us could actually speak anything other than English), and we all took photos together and talked in small groups to say goodbye to the kids.
I’m looking forward to my next round of students, and if they are anything like the past week’s bunch, there will be a lot of tears (again) at the closing ceremony Friday afternoon.