My Best Teaching Is One-on-One


Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.


But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.


It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Everybody's Beautiful in English Class

There's a problem with sharing all the interesting and funny things that happen in class. It's called, "personal information". In a legal sense, I have to wash whatever I share of identifying data -- names, dates, places, and all the details that make it a smooth read. In a moral sense, I'm not the only one there, so I really don't have the right to act unilaterally with the information.

(This is the fundamental reason why gossip is wrong, even when it isn't "bad". But that's a rant for another day.)

That said, with care, I think I can share a few things.

For instance, two days ago, I joined the lead teacher for a jr. high 2nd year (8th grade, in US terms) class.

You know the age group. In the statistical mean, they have been struggling for almost two years with their hormones and, at the same time, trying to understand the adjustments as they are being helped as gently as is possible (ergo, not very) to make the transition from the walled gardens we call elementary schools to the adult world. (Run-on sentence, yes.)

Well, the subject of the lesson was, what was it? Oh, yeah. It was a poster made by a Japanese volunteer to help Cambodian children learn to read.
You see, some Cambodian children can't read the danger signs.
Or something like that. (Yes, illiteracy is part of the problem with landmines.)

And the lead teacher was trying to explain the phrase, "You see, ..."

It's easy to confuse the phrase with "... as you see, ..." [ご覧のとおり== go-ran no toori] and similar phrases. It's also easy to see it as just an intensifier. [ほら! == Hora!]

I thought I'd try to help:
My father-in-law often says, "見てみ" [mite-mi].
(That's actually closer, I suppose, to ,"See!" or "See, here." But, really, we humans are usually kind of sloppy with interjections.)
Your father speaks Japanese?

My wife's father.
[Joeru-sensei no okusan no otousan, ... == Joel-sensei's wife's father, ...]
[Ehh? Joeru-sensei, kekkonshiteru? == Huh? Joel-sensei is married?]
美人なの?[Bijin nano? == She's beautiful?]
Of course.
もちろんって。[Mochiron-tte. == "Of course." (He says.) ]
ポンキュウポン? [Pon-kyuu-pon?]

If you're familiar with Japanese pseudo-onomatopoeia, I don't need to explain that. I, myself, get confused easily. But I knew what he meant. It would be similar to an American boy intoning "36-24-36", or whistling while drawing the hourglass shape in the air. I think, in fact, this particularly young man did draw the hourglass shape in the air. (From him, it was a bit unexpected.)

Pon -- rhymes with "bone" -- would be the sound a bump makes, kyuu -- rhymes with "Q" -- would (probably) be sound of the para-Chinese reading of the ideogram that means, "steep, sudden". In this case, vertical more than steep or sudden, I think.

Well, my wife (no, really) when we married, was awfully close to 36-24-36. A bit narrower at the hips than that, a bit more shouldered than busty. Something like the reality behind those idealized female superheros we used to see in (American) comic books before the manga invasion. But it's not uncommon in Japan.

She still has a good figure.

I, myself, have rebelled against those overly idealized charicatures of beauty. So I was shaking my head and chuckling a little, thinking to myself something like, "How do I help you really understand what beauty is?"

He, of course, misunderstood my reaction.
And I couldn't help laughing a little.
キュウキュウキュウ?[Kyuu-kyuu-kyuu?] ポンポンキュウ?[Pon-pon-kyuu?]
And a few other combinations, and I was having trouble not rolling on the floor. Pon-poko-pon, and visions of tanuki playing in my head. I had to do something.
Everybody's beautiful!
Misunderstood, I'm sure. I wrote it on the chalkboard, just to be sure the students got it. Things quieted down a bit and the lead teacher finished explaining the phrase, "You see."

But female figures kept coming up, of course, so I had to keep calling out, "Everybody's beautiful!"

Which is something I really wish I could get these young men and women to understand.

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Courtesy is courteous.