Posts Tagged “dispatch lesson”

Today was an interesting day for a couple of significant reasons.

I woke up at 5:45 this morning and decided to go for a run. You might not have thought anything of that last sentence, but I haven’t been able to run since I broke my knee last year (exactly one year and one month ago). Last time I tried to run was when I was chasing my beagle Ellie at a dog park a few months ago- I got a few painful steps in before I had to stop. This morning I figured it was about time to try again, so I took a Percocet and aimed for a hillside shrine near my apartment.

I quickly discovered that it was still painful, but not nearly as bad as it had been. What was weird though, was that it felt like my right leg was longer than my left. Each footfall on my left side felt as though I was falling from an inch or two higher than my right leg, and I ended up with a really awkward, off-balance gait. Between the increasing pain and the symmetry weirdness, I changed to a brisk walk after I got to the shrine. (I think I’d like one more session with a physical therapist, just to see what they have to say about my gait issues and what I can do to resolve them. I assume I’ll be able to run again at some point, I just don’t know how to get there.) I spent the next hour or so power-walking up and down the small roads that line the hillside citrus gardens near my house. I didn’t have my camera with me because I was wearing workout clothes, but I want to go back and take pictures of the neat little monorail tractor things they use to get stuff up and down the steep slopes easily.

The other significant thing about today was that it was my first dispatch lesson without Ms. Semba. I handled ringing the appropriate extension and announcing myself from the unattended reception phone. I went through the worksheets and activities without using Japanese (not that my Japanese would really help). I answered questions, and basically just conducted class without relying on Japanese translation or directions. It was a great feeling, like I’d graduated high school or didn’t need a babysitter for the first time or something. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Ms. Semba’s support and the worksheets she made from my lesson plans, a fact of which I’m acutely aware. So it looks like I’ll be running those lessons solo from here on out, a fact which is simultaneously empowering and a little intimidating.

In other news, I found out Japan has Jehovah’s Witnesses when a pair just came calling at my door. Each wore the standard missionary attire- slacks, Oxford shirt, and conservative tie, and carried the same bag full of books ready to hand out to interested parties as you’d expect. The experience was a bit surreal though, kind of like watching a tired old movie for the hundredth time and suddenly discovering that the dialog’s been dubbed into a language you don’t understand. They apologized for not speaking English, and pulled out a book of translations of different languages that all basically said “I’m sorry I don’t speak your language, but if you’d like information on how to improve the world and live in a place without worry or hardship, I’ll be glad to supply you with materials in your language that tell you about Jehovah.”

The only Jehovah’s Witness I’ve ever invited into my home was when my second cousin coincidentally knocked on my door when I lived in Sparks. She and her friend came in, had some ice water, and we chatted for a while, and then they went back out in the heat of the Nevada sun. So I was rather relieved when my two Japanese gentlemen callers pointed to the line about supplying me with more information in English, and said questioningly “No thank you?”

“Yes,” I agreed, “No thank you.”

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I found out a couple weeks ago that ALS had just penned a deal with a solar cell manufacturer here in Matsuyama to provide English lessons for sixty of its employees. The contract has me there for one two-hour lesson each week, for a succession of three eight week classes, twenty students in each.

That’s all well and good; I have lots of experience teaching larger groups of adults. The problem is that the company doesn’t have any specific goals, and I had just less than two weeks to create the entire course. If you’ll recall, this is my first TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) gig, and I’m just over one month into my actual teaching.

I sat down and wrote an outline of what I thought would be useful for them to know and reduced it by what we (I) couldn’t teach in sixteen hours. Ms. Semba and I sat down and hashed out a thing or two that she wanted to include, then we both sat down with Mr. Teshima, and he added a pinch or two of his own, and I somehow managed to come up with a workable set of lesson plans from everything that we all wanted to see. Let me tell you though, that was a seriously stressful time. Not as stressful as hearing I have a job in Japan if I could pack my entire house and move to a foreign country in a week and a half though, so I figured I could handle it.

Well, the first lesson was this Wednesday, and it went pretty well. Ms. Semba was there with me, and I’m very glad she was. No one there really spoke any English (what were you expecting?), so just getting to the classroom would have been a project, as their reception desk was an unmanned phone and a list of extensions (in Japanese). Also, she planned an exercise that we ended up using because they whipped through the material I had prepared faster than I thought they would.

The first lesson was good because it helped me figure out their level of English (higher than I thought it would be), and because I got to meet the students, feel out the class, and get an idea of what things will go over well and what won’t. As I’m sure Shannon (and Shannon) will back me up in saying, every classroom is different, and adjusting your plans to the audience is a crucial part of making a good lesson. My lesson plans are basically cave art at this point, scorched sticks crudely scraped on stone, so I need every little boost I can get. I’ve created handouts and set out goals and exercises, but I’m still not sure they should be called “lesson plans.” Ms. Wood tells me that creating lesson plans will soon be second nature, and I hope that’s true, because right now, just thinking about this project causes me stress.

Anyway, I have another meeting today. Wish me luck. ๐Ÿ™‚

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