Connecting with JHS Students through “English Kyushoku”

Kyushoku. Photo cred: Andrea McGovern 2011

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)

Yamagata Helps: LIVE Supporter Donation Drive in Tsuruoka

Yamagata JETs, non-JETs, and friends crank up the genk and rake in the relief supplies in Tsuruoka, March 12, 2011.

After the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 11, many of us in the JET/foreign teacher community of Yamagata felt an overwhelming urge to somehow help in the face of this grave humanitarian catastrophe. Many homegrown relief efforts have sprung up around the country since that day, including one based in Tsuruoka called the LIVE Supporter Donation Drive. Spearheaded by private English school owner Mark Stewart, two local businessmen, and the ALT community in Tsuruoka, the LIVE Drive set up a donation drop location and hit the streets with signs, balloons, and hordes of genki foreigners urging passers-by to stop and donate supplies for tsunami victims. The drive kicked off on March 19 and ran straight for four days, with the intention of continuing over weekends for three weeks. JETs and their friends from all over Yamagata descended upon Tsuruoka to help out and the response was truly overwhelming. High school student volunteers were also enlisted and the words spread through friends, colleagues, and coverage in the Shonai, Nippo and Yamagata Shinbun newspapers. Many vanloads of essential goods were collected, sorted, packed and delivered by private vehicles to Rikuzentakata, Iwate. The following two weekends also saw the LIVE Drive hit the streets, and after folding up the tent on Sunday April 3 and loading three more vans, the drive has been called an unqualified success.

Massive congrats to all you lovely people who came out and lent your support to this project.


By Corey Ticknor, Tsuruoka