Each year the Takamatsu Board of Education holds a seminar roughly halfway through our contract term that all us foreign teachers are required to attend. While the actual content of the lectures are rarely interesting, the idea of escaping work for a few days to go spend time with friends ups its appeal. The lectures and discussions are led by us, the student teachers, and a number of our Japanese teaching partners (JTE) will attend as well. The event was blown wide open by the illustrious Hiramatsu Sensei who kicked it off spectacularly. This guy is our boss at the city office, and the guy we go to with any issues. He sends us e-mails from time to time, which can be pretty hilarious…
Thanks for your reply. Have a nice trip in winter.
And take care not to drop off in the sky high. Wow.
Enjoy the color of the Shionoe leaves. Thank you.
Getting cold these days.
You should not overwork when you are coming down
with a bad cold. Stay alive anyways, please.
Don’t eat anything and everything, such as doors or desks.
Here’s Takamatsu Information. Have a very happy Christmas!
Hello! How are you doing?
Weary and feeling blue?
Cheer up! You do not have to sigh.
Please smile and laugh and spread worms and insects from your mouth.
There are tens of thousands of women in the world.
So, with these in mind, you can understand why I thought it would be good to have video capabilities for his opening address. Still not sure why he commented on me specifically…
The first day of the conference was for the middle school English classes. So the presentations were aimed at showing howto work better as a team, and also what games and activities are appropriate for that age of students. Not much of it was relevant to me and my situation, since my current JTE is really gung-ho about planning and I just go along with what she tells me to do. If my teacher were to go to another school, I would be a bit scared. She really is a great teacher, and as I said does more than her fair share of the work.
The next day of the conference was a little bit different though. This time the talking was from our representation at the prefectural office. This was just some PSA type stuff, and only lasted until the lunch break. Though, when we reconvened, it was arts and crafts time. Ever year, we do some sort of activity that is representative of the local culture and history. Last year it was sewing designs onto spherical bags of rice shucks, a toy from the region popular many years ago and now preserved by the historical handicraft society. This was a tedious process that no one even finished half of, and the incredible samples that they showed us at the beginning left one feeling a bit like like getting ripped off by an infomercial. This time around however, we were going to be making Bonsai trees.
For the uninitiated, this is the art of growing miniature trees in small pots, a practice widely popular in Japan. They can become impressive specimens after a generation or, though the most incredible ones can easily be 200 0r 300 years old. Takamatsu established itself in the art of Bonsai and produces about 95% of both the white and black pine tree varieties. In order to attain their beautiful shapes, it is necessary to make some snips and to contort the young plants with the use of guiding wires. This was a bit confusing at first but we got the hang of it. When the people directing the activity came around, they would yank away at the branches. We were all too afraid of breaking these saplings to bend the branches as ruthlessly as these professionals. Floating around was a TV crew, who would put a camera right on top of you. Then, rather than sitting and doing nothing, we would feel obligated to touch our trees and stare intently at them, as if we had any inkling of what we were to do. Well, I acted well enough I guess since I got my face on the evening news. A great number of my students were asking about it when I was back to teaching on Friday.
My pre-magnum opus. The swirled wires are what I used to shape it.
Finally, Thursday was the last day of the conference. This day was aimed at addressing English education at the elementary school level. This is the first year that English is a mandatory part of the 5th and 6th grade curriculum, so some school teachers are a bit nervous. They are kilometers away from being qualified to teach the language, which is where we come in. The purpose of this was to demonstrate some effective lessons and games to each other and also the the teachers who came to learn. I too had to give a short presentation on what constitutes an effective communication activity. I identified ‘Fun’ and ‘Conversational’ as the most important characteristics. I pitched a game I use in the classroom, but the presentation sorta flopped. Likely a preparation issue, but playing it with 50+ people does not work so smoothly as in my smaller classes. Also, the explanation part was a killer, having needed translate all the rules for those Japanese in attendance. With any luck they will never ask me to do that again, but should they, I’ll have a much better idea of what to prepare for.
By the end of the conference, I returned to work with a couple of new games and activities in my repertoire and a nice baby tree. While these events aren’t all that fun, this is the only time each year where all the teachers on staff get together in once place. Even though Kagawa is the smallest prefecture, there are some teachers living on the outskirts that are quite separated from us. I’ll be looking forward to next years vacation from teaching and the craft time for sure.