The second week of the program brought a few surprises and many tears. I had two new Japanese high schools students, Shu and Souto. Shu came in with an amazing wealth of English vocabulary but no way to connect the words into sentences- even by the end of the first day, it was astounding to see how much progress he had made in terms of speaking and how much he had already grown to love asking questions. Souto was a bit shyer and very nervous about speaking at first, but as he warmed up to speaking with the other two interns and me, he quickly got more comfortable and loved sharing ideas and talking about his daily life. Together, I think the two of them encouraged each other as well.
We kept a running vocabulary list throughout the week, teaching the students words like “combine” or “residual” and having them repeat the words and use them in sentences during class when they wanted to explain something to us. I believe this really helped them not only with skills in explaining concepts in English, but also helped them practice sounding out unfamiliar words and encouraged them to continue growing their English vocabularies!
Throughout the week, we covered complicated topics like ideas for helping the Tokyo 2020 Olympics be a success and ways to help the world use more clean energy. Our group found simple ways for every Japanese person to save more energy, whether it was turning off the lights when not in the room or not using as much water when you shower. In addition, my students were fascinated by the idea of AI (Artificial Intelligence) being used in electric cars, and wanted to find a way to combine both ideas into one energy saving vehicle.
We quickly found that giving presentations was going to be the biggest challenge for these two- both were incredibly nervous onstage and had not yet gained the confidence to speak English in front of a larger group of people. The first presentation was rocky; however, the next day, they worked even harder to ask us questions on how they could improve. After we watched (via youtube) Steve Jobs and Malala Yousafzai give speeches, our group reviewed how to give a great speech and hold the audience’s attention. For their final speeches on their life missions, Souto and Shu borrowed things like Steve Job’s confidence and Malala’s repetition of important phrases to enhance their own speeches.
I also gave a presentation in front of the class this week- on my major at University of Chicago and on how it connects to my life mission. I think my presentation went okay- I definitely need to find a better way to explain how economics and my other major, Law Letters and Society, work together to form my life mission, but I think the students had fun with the economics logic puzzle I introduced to them. I hoped that my being on stage would help my students become more excited about getting on the stage themselves.
The Life Mission speeches Friday afternoon were a stark and amazing contrast to my student’s behavior during presentations earlier in the week. They had transformed from shy and nervous to excited and eager to share their missions with the class. Shu volunteered to be one of the first students to present, bounded onto the stage to present, spoke clearly and thoughtfully, and as he sat back down in his seat, asked us if he could present to the class again! He wanted to create a nonprofit to help send wasted resources in countries like Japan and America to war-torn countries. Souto did his presentation on his life mission using math and science- to make a more practical and easy way for people to listen to music. His idea, using audio waves on different frequencies for different people, was something I could barely explain myself in English, yet he excitedly shared his ideas with the class, giving examples until all of the interns and students were nodding along with his enthusiasm.
All in all, we were so incredibly proud of these two for not only conquering their stage fright, but improving so rapidly in English in under a week. These students have once again shown me that I need to be a better teacher in order to keep up with how fast they can learn.