Hello! Bonjour! My name is Danielle Bennett and I am a new assistant language teacher (ALT) at Akashi Kita Senior High School. For the first time ever, Akashi Kita has two ALTs, myself, and my predecessor, Erica.
Ifll tell you a little bit about me. I am from The Great White North, also known as Canada. When I first arrived in Akashi, I was asked by so many people if I was okay in the heat of summer, since many people thought it was always cold and snowy in Canada. Itfs truly been a pleasure sharing my culture and country with the people of Japan.
Having grown up in Ottawa, Canadafs capital, I speak both French and English. About a year before applying to the Japanese Exchange Teaching Programme (JET), I started studying Japanese, and got involved with the local Japanese community, so Ifve been able to function relatively well since my arrival in Japan in August.
Back in Canada, I am a Registered Nurse (RN), so I often get asked, gWhy did you come to Japan as an English teacher?h I always answer that I think that though nursing and teaching are different professions, they are fundamentally the same. Both professions require you to truly care for the people around you, and to guide them to be the best that they can possibly be. I think that this experience in Japan will help me be a better nurse in the future. I donft think of it as a break from my career, but rather a special kind of training to help me in my career in the future.
Ifm an avid baker, and I love to cook so Ifve really been enjoying learning how to make traditional Japanese meals and desserts. Most Japanese homes donft have the conventional oven we think of back in Canada so itfs definitely been a challenge! Ifve had my share of burnt toaster oven cookies, but Ifm finally getting the hang of it.
When Ifm not at work, I often travel to various cities around Japan. Akashi is conveniently located in the heart of Hyogo Prefecture in the Kansai area of Japan Nishi-Akashi station is also a Shinkansen stop which makes it really convenient to travel to almost anywhere in Japan. Itfs very easy to plan day or weekend trips. Ifm really fortunate to have been placed at a wonderful school in a phenomenal location.
About Canada, Eh
Canada is the worldfs second largest country. It is divided into ten provinces and three territories. It is a vast, beautiful land from sea to shining sea. Some more well known sights are perhaps the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia, Niagara Falls in Ontario, and the red sands of Prince Edward Island which is the home of Anne of Green Gables. Some other famous Canadians include, Michael J. Fox, Bombardier, and Winnie the Pooh.
There are two official languages, English and French. Despite there being only two official languages, due to the large number of immigrants to Canada there are many more languages that can be heard throughout the country. In fact, some areas have a large enough immigrant population that areas such as Chinatown and Little Italy have developed. This leads to Canadafs reputation as a multicultural country.
Canadian Myths Busted
- There is snow everywhere, all year round - Actually Canada has four distinct seasons and many places have no snow for about 70% of the year
- Canadian people live in igloos - We live in houses. Even the most northern populations have houses, though sometimes igloos can be built as temporary shelter in the northern parts of Canada. Also, most Canadian people canft build an igloo.
- Canadian people all say gehh and gabooth - Canada is a big country, and while some areas in Canada may have these words as part of their dialect, not every Canadian uses them.
- Everyone in Canada speaks French and English - This isnft true! We accept both as our official languages, but many people only speak one or the other. The Ottawa-Gatineau region and Eastern Canada tend to have a higher French-English bilingual population.
- Canadians enjoy jumping into frigid waters - This is true. We crazy cannucks made a special event for this called The Polar Bear Swim.
About Akashi Kita
Akashi Kita (¾- bright; Î- stone; k- north) is one of the seven public high schools in Akashi. It is generally considered to be a high-level school. Some students travel from Awaji Island everyday to come to class! The students are all very bright and hard working. Akashi Kita is classified as a Super Science High School (SSH), which means there is one class that studies more advanced science concepts and participates in a Science English class. Ifll talk more about this later.
Herefs a little background about Akashi Kita and about the senior high school system in Japan. Firstly, attendance at senior high school is not mandatory in Japan, so students must pass an entrance examination in order to attend. In order to study in the super science class, students at Akashi Kita must pass an additional exam. Students wear their school uniforms every day, and jewelry and make up are strictly prohibited at school.
Akashi Kita was founded in 1971. The schoolfs motto is g©åA¦²An¢h (read: jishu, kyouchou, souzou) meaning, gIndependence, Cooperation, Creation.h These traits are visible in both the staff and students of Akashi Kita.
The students are very involved in club activities. They often come to early morning practices, and often stay late after school to continue their club activities. Akashi Kita is well known for their marching band which attended the Rose Parade in 2008. The band can be heard throughout the school, and seen marching in form either out on the field or around the school building. I was fortunate enough to be able to watch them at a competition earlier this year. I have also been invited to visit many of the clubs including badminton, home economics, tea ceremony, weight lifting, and basketball. I was even lucky enough to play soccer with the soccer club at lunch. The students are so enthusiastic about sharing their passions that it is possible to become energized just by listening to them talk about their hobbies and clubs.
At Akashi Kita there is a true sense of togetherness. Teachers are like parents to their homeroom classes, and everyone works together to ensure success. It is a very welcoming community, so I am grateful to have been placed at Akashi Kita.
The ALT Role in the Classroom
As I mentioned earlier, for the first time ever, Akashi Kita Senior High School has two ALTs. As such, the role of the ALT has been much expanded this year. In the past, the ALT role has been limited to the specialized English classes, namely English Expressions, and Science English. This year we are working across all three grade levels with the introduction of the ALT into the second and third year writing classes. Ifll briefly explain our role in each class.
English Expressions: This class focuses on the development of conversational ability utilizing grammar which has been taught in the first year English writing classes. For this class, the homeroom class of forty students is divided into two groups and the ALTs meet with each half once every two weeks. ALTs are responsible to plan the lesson, and to work together with the Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) to implement the lesson.
Science English: This class is taught to the special science class in first and second year. In this class, students are required to express scientific ideas and concepts in English. The ALT role is to help with lesson planning, to provide English vocabulary, and to explain scientific concepts in English. Furthermore, the ALTs help the students with oral expression of their scientific ideas.
Second Year English Writing: In this class the ALT is present usually once every two weeks during the composition class. Students write about a theme, and the ALTs provide assistance with vocabulary, and sentence formulation. The ALTs are also responsible to develop example compositions, to correct the studentsf writing, and to select good examples written by the students to share with their classmates. Occasionally, the ALT will also assist with the grammar class related to Japanese-English translation exercises.
Third Year English Writing: In this class the ALT attends weekly and assists with correction of students Japanese-English translation exercises. Together with the JTE, the ALT works to highlight key grammatical phrases, and to provide insight into the use of these phrases and grammar in real life situations to give insight beyond the scope of the textbook. Additionally, the ALT identifies mistakes in the studentsf compositions, and assists them to correct their own work in order to improve the studentsf writing ability.
The ALT Outside of the Classroom
As ALTs our role is not only limited to what we do in the classroom, but extends into encouraging the use of English in the studentsf everyday lives. I often stop to talk with students in the hallway, or when I see them in the community. Even if itfs just a few words, they are thinking about and using English which will help them to develop their expressive and receptive English abilities. The students really enjoy talking with the ALTs, and it is just as enjoyable for me.
Another way that we are involved in promoting English outside the classroom is through the English Speaking Society (ESS). We have a strong club with about ten eager members, many of them first years that will be able to continue to develop their English ability throughout their senior high school career. Some of the activities we have been working on since my arrival are the ESS seminar, first year recitation contest, and second year speech contest. The students are hard working and enjoy themselves.
We want the club to be as fun as possible, so we plan many special events like a haunted scavenger hunt, and sometimes coordinate with other clubs to do joint activities like our upcoming Christmas Carnival. Our hope is to foster the development of English in our club members, and, through our special events, the rest of the school as well.
I donft know how I could possibly write everything that is wonderful about this school in a few paragraphs, but I hope that I have helped you understand that Akashi Kita is a truly exceptional place. For as long as I am an ALT here, I will do my best to enrich the lives of the students by sharing my culture and my language with them.