Saturday 28 January 2012


Teaching English in Japan can be really frustrating, there are certain patterns to do with study and learning in Japan that are hard to be broken. It often ends up with kids being like little robots beaten into submission by years of: Teacher talking. Student listening/dozing, until the words somehow seep through and are drilled in so they stay there. Forever.

I'm not for this kind of learning, which is why none of the kids I teach may not be able to score 100 in their next drills test, but fuck, if they go to another country they're going to be able to speak a bit of English. The exam study is what the J-teachers are there for, so this system works well, but it's not always just about exams and answers, it's sometimes about changing the way that the kids think. I'm a big fan of creativity, I think that creativity is a big part of language acquisition, so this week when we were studying the totally thrilling topic of 'clothes' I decided we would make puppets. And they started making the same type of puppet, boys did boys puppets with generic clothes, girls did cutesy girl puppets with AKB-ish outfits.

Exhibit A- J-kid's puppets.

They were all happily puppeting away, and as they glanced over at my puppet they either gave me weird glances or just kind of hovered, trying to figure out what kind of creative nonsense I was up to. Again.

Exhibit B- My puppets.

"Yes, that is an alien wearing pink pants! So what!? Yes, the old weird dude is wearing pink swimmers even though he is really hairy! That's the beauty of it! And I know it's not December, but there's no law against making a Santa puppet in January, even if he is holding an umbrella!!! Get it kids!?"

And then FINALLY today, a little boy came through with the goods for me!!!

Exhibit C- Success! In his words, 'Dirty terrorist likes sports'.

Ummm pure brilliance, no!? And the proof of the pudding is totally in the terrorism, because this kid's English is pretty damn good, I never have to say anything in Japanese, because even if he hasn't a clue of what the fuck I just said, he just guesses and hopes he's right, which most of the time he is. If more kids were less cautious and made terrorist puppets like him, I'd be out of a job.

So my puppet making was a success, I wanted the kids to get their creativity on, so they could take some kind of life lesson away, however, apart from dirty-terrorist boy, I fear they will only take away the memory of the mental English teacher who made tranny puppets...


  1. Too bad for Japan it has no way to incorporate this kid's genius. For his sake, hope he bails on this place and gets his education and career overseas. Japan needs him, but will never understand that.

  2. 'Dirty terrorist likes sports'.

    That could be a sweet blog title right there :)

    +10 for thinking outside the box!!

  3. would be interesting to dig deeper into what Kid C thinks a terrorist really is... But hey, I think you're doing the right thing, for communication it's not only about the language skills, it's also about cultural understanding and ways of thinking!

  4. Not many folks have commented on this post cos we're all waiting to hear the story about dogfcker.

  5. Damn, I never get to make puppets in Japanese!

  6. Teaching kids to think and allowing for creativity is almost subversive. Puppet masters in the making. Seriuosly, good to see It's not taught as all just exams and answers.

  7. It's so sad when kids can't use their imaginations!! It takes all the fun out of being a kid!! :(

  8. By the way - uh this is one of those blogs where I'm gonna have to word verify..bah ;) - I think every single kid who goes to your school has cool parents cos they understand that being able to speak English is gonna help their kids in the future, and even in the now.
    So good on all those mummies and daddies!
    They are the 1%.
    Right, now to do this word verification crap.
    How I miss Sassymoo's right now.
    And Project Me.

  9. lol! i love it!

    the japanese school system definitely does NOT foster creativity and individuality... which is why we need to come in and save the day! I'm doing a lesson with my 7th graders now where i want them to "invent" a superhero... and seriously, with most of them, you'd think i was asking them to gouge an eye out!! but a couple of kids in each class have come through with a few precious gems eheh... if we can change things, one kid at the time, then we're on the right track!

  10. ..too right...and it is 'one kid at a time'...I teach jnr and high jnr high is a wow's new so the classes are small -- 10 in one, 20 in another, and the focus is on eikawa, and they are blooming, blooming, and cos they have me as a teacher, they graduated with wicked senses of humor, an appreciation for the planet and not just Japanese souvenirs, and well, it worked really well but the school - big fcking DOH - is closing down the jnr high (finances) but what they could have done is really really promoted the school for it's excellent PROVEN english programme,.,,,,,parents would have loved it, but no, the other teachers, even the English teachers (japanese) are as bad as each other, and do the kids and English no justice, and don't really promote english and so on,and blah
    anyway, the TOP graduating kids in our high school this year, two of whom are going to fcking TODAI, are from our jnr high, and our school is a mediocre private school that gets the dregs of the PROOF PROOF that given the right curric. the kids can blossom.

    Fcking mombusho kants.
    6 years of English for all kids and they can barely speak upon graduation usually.
    I tell my students to sue the system/teachers when they are older for not having fought to implement a better curric.

    God, now I have to write one of those word verificatiion things...fck..I hate doing it...I'd comment heaps more if I didn't have to fill in that fcking thing..same on that funny funny HOkkaido verification...arghhhhhhhhhh..;)))))))

  11. Good on you for getting their creativity on!