Week 1: Teaching Story


Hi everyone! I'm Shehan. I wanted to share my experience with the program in the first week.

It was tough! I've been commuting from Katakuracho to Shinjuku for the past week, which ends up being a 90 minute commute one way. Additionally, I'm pretty sure that my group was one of the weaker English speakers in the program. It was very difficult to get them to talk, and they were more likely to open up a pocket dictionary rather than ask us their question - and I can't imagine how tough this trial-by-fire is.

But I learned a lot. I learned about perspective, and to be creative in moving the group along, in communicating my words with simpler words, and occasionally with pictures. I've tried to explain to students the meaning of "passion" as "burning the midnight oil and trying very hard to get the future you want". I think my students in particular gained confidence and became friends with one another, even though I didn't feel as close as did others by the closing ceremony. However, I wrote them good letters and they gave me an awesome letter in return!

I wanted to talk about one student in particular and his life mission speech. Working with him was a challenge. He didn't have any particular passions. After nearly forty minutes of back and forth in English, I realized that he didn't particularly enjoy any subject. He most valued money, being "the boss", and living a comfortable life. At one point, Yuuki-san jumped in to guide his thinking, and they spoke in Japanese for a while (while I tended to other students). I jumped back into the conversation to feel out a few subjects - namely starting up a business, or being a consultant. 

The gears really started turning when we revisited his "Issues Around Us" speech, where he wrote on the pervasive NEET/hikikomori issue in Japan, where adolescents/adults are social shut-ins that have forgone further education or employment. I suggested making a presentation that seeks to remedy the NEET problem. This is where I stopped, and he began. His presentation was on making a hypothetical company to reach out to Japanese hikikomori and induct them into the workforce. I thought it was awesome because it addressed a very real Japanese problem and presented a potential solution. He only started writing a speech after the 11:30 mark, so I was really impressed to see that he had accomplished a unique and thoughtful presentation, despite his limited English. 

I was afraid that my student would have nothing to say, but I was proven wrong. Yuuki-san can attest to him being a tough case, but I think that experience really showed me that these students can still be very intelligent and aware of the world, even if their English skills may not reflect that. I heard many cool presentations about visiting the world or studying chemistry (I'm a chem major!), but my experience with him was on a different level. I am a lot more confident in my ability to tease out ideas from students and help them develop a passion. Whether or not my student actually makes his startup is a different question altogether, but he pulled through to make a presentation despite his weaker English and time crunch.

That was a lot, but I wanted to share this experience with someone! Yuuki-san is awesome and really helped me out. Thanks for hearing me out. Looking forward to the next few weeks!