This time of the year always has a particular feeling in the air, full of nervous anticipation, textbooks and new backpacks. For the four years of University this time in the year meant students moving into dorms, crazy school spirit and unforgettable Orientation events. This weekend I felt a little sad thinking about all the wonderful school experiences I had and how strange it would be not to feel that excitement in the air. And while I won’t be moving into my dorm or screaming cheers, I had an entirely new and thrilling experience as a first time teacher.
The day started out quietly with students in extended home room periods before we all filed into the large gym/auditorium for the welcome speech. There’s nothing quite like sitting through an hour of speeches in Japanese that you don’t understand. As always my ears perked up whenever I heard a word I understood, which merely affirmed that yes, we are in “Nippon” and yes this is “Kōkō” (highschool). I was brought up on stage to make an introduction speech which I nervously stumbled through in Japanese staring into the audience of matching uniforms (and shoes).
When I finally had my first class I was incredibly nervous, with a wild string of thoughts running through my head, “what if they don’t like me”, “what if I say something stupid”, and so on. This soon faded as the students entered the room and the memory of being in high school struck me, of how stressful, exhausting and sometimes terrible can be. The best thing a teacher can do for students is to make them feel comfortable and confident, something I always knew but today I really felt.
One quick day was an incredible learning experience and there are several impressions about Senior High School that I formed in the first day. I expect some of this I may find to be incorrect or irrelevant in time, but for now:
1. Learning “Types”
Something I have been told EXHAUSTIVELY in every educational setting, about how there are types of learners like “visual”, “audio”, “tactile”. While there is obvious merit to these classifications most students are a unique combination of many learning factors and personality traits. For example, there’s one student who had every answer correctly on her page but was absolutely terrified to answer the questions out loud. There are also other students who don’t necessarily try to answer the question correctly but are eager to speak (and make jokes) in class. This means you have to do your best to make every lesson accessible to each student. Not an simple feat, but certainly the most important.
My own experience in High School prepared me for the worst, I was expecting students to be on smartphones or not paying attention. I was actually shocked that every student listened and participated in every activity. There were definitely a few students who were joking around, but I found it wasn’t a disruption and actually makes the atmosphere more relaxed and comfortable for the other students.
3. Female Students
Well this is not so much about female students as it is about the absence of female students. I knew the school was predominately male but today it was difficult to pick out girls in the sea of students at the assembly. One of the other teachers told me there are only 25 female students in the entire school, which will be interesting to see how this plays into the classroom dynamic!
Well, it was an exciting and informative first day of school… Time to do it all again tomorrow!