Realizing that Subarashii-sensei was going to observe my Wednesday special class with the sixth graders, my motivation skyrocketed. As I mentioned before, I figured this would be a great way to show her how she should actually use an ALT in the classroom. But first, we had to figure out what to do.
Kimoto-sensei, the 6th grade home room teacher, figured we will mostly focus on Chapter 6 on the textbook which revolved around the grammar “Where do you want to go? I want to go to ______”. However, he had a few extra grammar points that weren’t on the textbook like “I want to see/eat _____, so I want to go _____”. It’s almost dangerously close to junior high grammar (we don’t really go into “reasons” in elementary) but because we don’t use the word, “because”, we can get away with it. He’s cleverer than I thought.
Anyways, after I told my JTE about Subarashii, she was also more inclined to do a better job. She bugged Kimoto a lot about our lesson plan, mainly because he was very laidback about it. I think he eventually realized what was at stake: both the school’s reputation and my pride. We set up a meeting which included my supervisor (!) on a Friday evening. We planned out the lesson, did a few test runs, cut out what didn’t work and expanded on what did, as well as timed everything. I didn’t get out of school that day until 6:30 PM but it was worth it. I had complete confidence on our plan.
Finally, the day came. Somehow, I had forgotten the memo on dressing more business-like that day. It wasn’t that huge of a deal though because I had been casual in the past observation lessons and didn’t get critiqued on it, so whatever. The observation lesson was to take place during 5th period, which was a change of pace for us because I usually teach the 6th graders during 2nd period.
This was good though, because we had lunch time to do some last minute preparation. Kimoto also gave a little pep talk to all our students, saying something along the lines of “Okay, so there are going to be a lot of people that you don’t know watching our English class today. Don’t worry though, just act how you guys usually do and you’ll be fine. You guys are good at English so don’t worry about anything. Let’s show everyone how great we are!” Cheers and nods followed the speech. With everyone psyched for 5th period, I knew the odds were in our favor. We also talked about which students would struggle a bit and who were strong with English. Kimoto told us that Maho was probably the weakest out of the group and her self-confidence tends to plummet if she makes any minor mistakes. As soon as my JTE heard that, she talked to Maho throughout the entire lunch for a private coaching session. Meanwhile, Kimioto tells me that if we’re struggling, that I should call on Isa. I talked to Isa for a bit during lunch and realized she was going to cram school and was studying English quite a bit there and had been learning things that we don’t touch on until junior high. She was our “In Case of Emergency” button.
After lunch, we had recess to plan a few last minute things. I was pleasantly surprised though to see all of my students happily reviewing the grammar we have gone through the past few weeks as well as asking me questions about the vocab. Everyone really wanted to do a good job for the observation class and that made me really happy. Nothing could stop me, at least, I felt that way.
Eventually, 5th period came around. Everyone except the 6th graders left school early so our teachers could observe our class. Teachers set up the video camera to record our lesson. Teachers from other schools began to show up. I could tell my JTE was getting nervous but Kimoto and I were just fine.
“Where’s that teacher you were talking about?” Kimoto asked.
Class was about to begin and she was nowhere in sight. “I don’t know, but I know she’ll be here.” She wouldn’t pass up an observation class; she’s been to many of them from what she has told me.
Class began. Everything was going just fine until I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Subarashii was walking towards the school. I smirked; this was where the real fun began. She quickly came in and quietly sat down.
My JTE started to freeze up at this point, saying incorrect English grammar to me. I would kindly correct her but then I started to notice some of my kids looked nervous as well. I think seeing my JTE get nervous was having an effect on them. I had no choice but to rely on Isa right off the bat or else we’d be in a huge mess.
“Sooo, Isa. Where do you want to go?”
Isa looked shocked. “Huh? Me?”
“Yes!” I smiled.
“Umm……ah…I want to see the Eiffel Tower, so I want to go to France.” Despite her initial hesitation, she said the line flawlessly.
“Good job! See, it’s not that hard, is it? Just follow her pattern and you guys can do it too.” The rest of the students followed her example and began to make their own sentences without too much issue. Just in case they need more practice though, Kimoto and I came up with a skit where I would a travel agent and he would be a customer. We would use the grammar to prepare the students to say it in front of the class. I turned one of the desks into an “office” while Kimoto pulled out a bag and some sunglasses. This threw all the kids off.
“What’s the teacher doing? Fushinsha. Zettai ni fushinsha.” (“A suspicious person. He totally looks like a suspicious person.”)
Kimoto: No way! I look fine, don’t I Diego?
Me: “Hmmm..no, you look like a fushinshia, sorry.” This made everyone, including the teachers laugh. I think after that, the mood lightened up a bit and we didn’t stress as much. All the students were able to do their speech in front of the class. Before I knew it, class was over. We managed to hit every target we wanted; it was perfect.
However, it wasn’t over yet. We had to go to meeting that followed the lesson. The meeting had all the teachers who came to watch and everyone would give their opinion on how the class went. Surprisingly, we got no bad comments at all. Everyone was amazed at our chemistry; people liked how Kimoto and I acted like friends but were serious at the same time. Whenever Kimoto and I would butt heads (jokingly), our JTE would play the middle man and she would also appeal to the girls. My supervisor, Ohashi-sensei, taught everyone the famous saying “Two’s a party, three’s a crowd,” and how we were the exception to that rule. Finally, Subarashii stood up and talked for around 20 minutes about the class. I could only catch bits and pieces so I asked Ohashi later about what she said.
“Oh, she said she was very jealous on how you only have 15 students in your class. You know them more personally than in a classroom full of 35 kids or so. You also work well with the others and it shows. The students are very smart. She has learned about ALT interactions a lot through this.”
“Wait, can you repeat that last part?”
“Yeah. She said the way the Japanese home room teacher and you, the ALT, is very inspiring. An ideal situation.”
Mission success! Not only did I have an awesome observation class, but I showed Subarashii how an ALT should be used! I talked to her the following week and she said nothing but good things. We probably talked about for half an hour on our views of teaching, and our roles. As much as I dislike her, she’s a great teacher. I think she’s better off teaching English by herself rather than with someone else. If anything, I gave her a clue how she could potentially use me in class as opposed to a recorder. She just has to have more confidence in me. I think it’s safe to say we’re making progress but I guess I won’t find out until 2nd semester starts in the fall.
I couldn’t have done it without my awesome students though. As a way of thanking them, I gave them stickers. The students were also required to write a survey about the observation class. Most kids wrote that it was nerve-wracking but fun. Isa’s comments were particularly amusing: “It was a fun class and I learned a lot. However, being the “top batter” (aka leadoff) made me really, really nervous.” I guess she knew about our plan. Sorry Isa!
The main reason why I did so well this day was because of my coworkers at my Wednesday school. We all go out as a group pretty often and Kanatani-sensei, the 3rd grade teacher was saying that because we’re all close and comfortable with each other, our team-teaching skills improve and we have excellent chemistry. I couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t help that the students are all friendly and awesome too. So thanks Wednesday school, for showing Subarashii how an actual class should look like!