Language Training in Saijou

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Yes. It has been an unforgivably long time since the last time I posted. It’s been nearly a month. I’m slapping my own wrist so you don’t have to. I sat down yesterday and looked at all the pictures and thought about all the things I’ve done. There is no reason for this literary absence.

I should have talked about this while it was still fresh in my mind. I’ve already apologized, so I won’t do that again.

I guess it was about two and a half weeks ago now. It seems impossible that i was that long ago. Since I’ve been here, time has seemed to move both slowly and impossible fast. One of the perks of being in the JET Program is getting to have language training. We had a week long intensive training. For most of the time in class, I spoke no English.

It was a very rewarding and a very tiring experience. Your brain slowly starts to turn to mush. Thinking first in one language and then in the other is a lot more wearing than it has any right to be.

My group, however, was really small and awesome. I was put right in the middle as far as ability went. We all knew enough to pretend to be conversational but little enough to still make some very silly mistakes which of course makes things more fun.

Probably the one thing that made it, beyond our silly mistakes and general ability to get along with one another, was our teacher. Kimura-sensei managed to teach a class in Japanese to a bunch of clueless foreigners and still made sure we understood. She didn’t personally speak much English, but she still knew enough to help. There were a lot of times where we all flipped out our phones to look up a word or a phrase and among all of us managed to come up with the correct word for something.

Every group had their own classroom and sign. Ours became special after the second day. The mark of a great teacher is knowing when you need to let students have a moment to be silly and off topic, Out of one of those moments came our door decorations. Like so many other random things our creation of several paper cranes came from botched discussions in Japanese about our hobbies.

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Kimura-sensei bustled out of the room only to return with a package of origami paper. I naturally picked the gold shiny paper. The next day we were greeted by our cranes. She had first stuck them to our name tags and then decided that they looked better on our door. Slowly we collected pictures and drawings to go along with our cranes. There’s nothing better than getting a sense of belonging in a classroom even if it’s a simple white room.

I didn’t just take away Japanese skills; I also had a chance to really consider some of the things that make a great teacher. I guess I have been doing long enough to start analyzing the craft not just be swayed by it.

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