Submitted by Ed Fec, Sakata City
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The first line of “A Tale of Two Cities” is pretty much what comes to mind when I think about having school lunch at JHS. As a JHS/ES ALT, I almost always eat with students and sometimes it’s great fun, while other times it’s like being in a library. Occasionally it’s simply frustrating. Still, I’m glad I do it since it gives me a chance to talk to students more outside of class.
I’m now in my 8th year as an ALT and no longer on JET, of course. When I first came here, students pretty much had to speak to me in English as my Japanese wasn’t very good. Now, however, they all know that I can speak Japanese and it’s much harder to get them to talk to me in English.
Whether I should speak to them in English or Japanese during school lunch is a moot point because personally I think that as long as we are communicating, the language used isn’t as important. What I’ve noticed, though, is that in many classes there are usually at least 1 or 2 students who want to practice their English, but don’t get the chance to — either because I don’t sit with their group when I do go to their class, or because they are too shy to speak in English in front of other students.
To remedy this problem I have recently been doing “English Kyushoku” at some of my schools (I have 4 junior high schools). Instead of eating in the classroom with the whole class every day, I eat my lunch in a separate room (a spare classroom or meeting room) with volunteers from the class who want to speak with me in English. I limit the number of students to 6 and I get the JTE to organise it in advance so that both the homeroom teacher and I know how many students will come.
So far the results have been positive. I’ve had some great conversations and spoken to some students whom I’d never really spoken to before.
So, if anyone else at JHS is suffering from “silent kyushoku syndrome” or any other similarly debilitating lurgies, feel free to try this remedy!
Ed Fec, (Sakata City)