First off, because good music wants sharing, I’m putting this here. Mumford and Sons are an English folk rock band who I’m pretty passionately in love with. If you don’t like folk rock (their instruments include the banjo, mandolin, and accordion), you won’t like them, but I think they’re fab. So, yes, listen and enjoy.
Moving right along, as the title of the post strongly suggests, I had a model lesson this week. Yesterday, in fact. For those who haven’t heard about this, my base school (so the school I’m at 2.5 days a week) has been the model school for the past two years. What that means is that they hosted one open lesson a term, for lots of people to come watch and gauge the progress of English language education in elementary schools. I think. The part that mattered to me was that, since this is the last year, I got two of the things.
The first was in October and it sucked. I mean, the lesson itself was fine, but there was excessive preparation and stress and making me stay until 7:30 the night before (I work from 8:00 to 3:45) and I got sick (from stress and overwork) and… yeah, it was pretty much just a horrifying experience. Note that October is roughly where my blogging dropped off. There is a direct correlation. So I was not excited about this month being the second one.
But my worries were for naught because, dude, the experience could not have been more different. The homeroom teacher (I’ll call him N-sensei) is the most badass fifth grade Japanese teacher ever, he was super chill about the whole thing, and the lesson actually was great despite the fact that it was 100% conducted in English (the students could speak Japanese, but he and I could not, which is something that never happens). I got back to school after my trip home for Christmas and no one said anything about it, so I decided to ask. It basically went down like this:
Me: ‘sup, N-sensei. When are we going to get started on that scary lesson?
N-sensei: Oh, the lesson plan isn’t finished yet. Don’t worry about it, we’ll have a meeting sometime next week. We’ve got, like, three weeks. No rush yet.
Me: Okay, cool.
Next week came and I was given my schedule for the two weeks leading up to the lesson. I had one lesson with his class every day I was at the school, which meant two or three a week. Which is more than usual, but hardly excessive. And he told me that, get this, we weren’t going to rehearse the lesson. Now, you may be thinking, well, duh, why would you practice, it’s not a play. And that would be because you are sane. This whole model lesson thing, however, strips people of their sanity and makes them turn into hyper perfectionists who practice these things into the ground. N-sensei, being a badass, didn’t want to do that to himself, me, and the students. Because no one actually has a good time when the lesson is handled the way it was in October. We had another talk that went kind of like this:
Me: So… are we going to practice this shit?
N-sensei: Not really. I don’t want it to be boring We’ll work on classroom English, but the lesson should be new. Let’s just enjoy.
Me: That is the most beautiful thing anyone has said to me at this school ever.
Since the lesson was to be conducted entirely in English, we had to make sure the students understood new stuff, like “How was today’s class?” and “Do you understand?” So that’s a big chunk of what we worked on. But, because we were using this crazy all-English method, we didn’t actually translate anything into Japanese for them. They picked it up entirely through context and examples. It was kind of a fascinating experiment: how much can kids who are somewhat older than the optimum age for language acquisition learn when the lesson is conducted entirely in the target language? The answer: a lot.
We also practiced a version of the game we were going to play, but the lesson itself was new. And we rocked it. The kids had fun, N-sensei was hilarious, he and I worked well together, there was good energy, the lesson flowed perfectly, the kids learned the new vocabulary, it filled the 45 minutes almost exactly – everything went right. People were floored by how good it was, and that isn’t an exaggeration. So many people commented on what a good team N-sensei and I were, how good our communication was, how fun the lesson was, how enjoyable it was to observe, how impressive it was that the kids were able to keep up with the English. We got some questions about why we made certain decisions, but the comments were all positive. It was a massive success.
And then, continuing in the spirit of being a badass, there were three comments from other ALTs during the discussion period afterward. The woman transcribing it doesn’t really understand English and asked N-sensei what the ALTs said. He told her that all they said was that he was awesome. You know, just get the important bit.
I dreaded that damn thing, because the one in October nearly killed me, but it was actually one of the most satisfying lessons I’ve had the entire time I’ve been here. But I’m still really glad it’s over.