I'm Michael, the ALT currently in Japan that you've probably heard about recently through ------. ------ is one of my friends and when she mentioned that she was assisting in your classes, i thought it might be a nice opportunity for all of us.
First I'll introduce myself. I graduated from OPRF in 2004 and went on to college at Clark University in Massachusetts. At Clark, I studied Psychology and Studio Art, and graduated this past spring. I began to consider working abroad, wanting something different and challenging between college and graduate school. I have never studied Japanese language or culture before coming here five months ago (I studied italian language and spent a semester in Florence, in the interest of my art studies), but nevertheless, I have long been interested in Japan. A friend of mine is a JET alumni and he initially recommended that I apply to the JET program. After talking it over I put in an application, and 6 months later (just 8 weeks after graduation) i was on a plane to Tokyo for orientation.
Now i find myself working as an ALT in rural Fukuoka ken. I live in a small town called 甘木 with a population of about 50,000. I work at an academic High School, where the students are very bright, but quite shy and utterly terrified of making mistakes, which is obviously a part of learning and speaking any language. The students' main goal is to get good grades and pass entrance exams so they can be accepted into top universities. だから、motivating them to really use English as a communication tool, rather than study to the test, can be difficult.
I am always trying to think of interesting ways to incorporate elements of the real english speaking world (opposed to the textbook) into my Oral Communications class. I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to communicate with high school students of Japanese in America.
My main goals for this would be:
1. To motivate the students to apply what they're learning.
2. To show the students that English exists in reality and that they can use it to communicate with real people, rather than just studying it from the textbook to pass the tests.
3. Seeing and relating to students in an American High School; understanding that American students also struggle, just like they do, to learn and use Japanese. Maybe seeing that it's hard for ANYONE to learn a new language would make them feel more comfortable with the potential of making mistakes.
------ asked me to create a list of some of my students personalities, but unfortunately I have so many kids that this is not really possible in a short timeframe. I have 320 一年生 students, who's personalities range from quiet and reserved to outgoing and creative. Their interests range across the board, from sports to art to math. I spoke to my Japanese colleagues about the idea this week, and mentioned that you might want to pair individual students together. The teachers felt that this wasn't really feasible. I mentioned the idea of having the project be something that students sign up for, but they pointed out that the students would then need to work outside of class, which is both difficult to coordinate, and unlikely to work because the students already have no extra time outside of school between all their homework and club activities. The English teachers i work with are hoping that we can get the students involved as whole classes. They suggested picking just a few of our classes to use. We could select the classes that are less skilled at speaking but more skilled at writing. Each class contains 40 students. But we can talk about these details later. I do also coordinate an English Club, but we have only five members, and I was hoping to get more kids involved.
Anyway, I was wondering if and when you may have time to meet with me while i am staying in America for the holidays. I will be in Oak Park/River Forest with my family from Dec 20 until Jan 2. Would it be possible for us to coordinate a meeting during these 2 weeks? Please let me know of any openings in your schedule when you could meet with me.