Every year in the late fall there is an international event that brings a number of us to the small island of Naoshima. This rock is renown for both the unique works of art that are scattered about and also the quality of English education. Officials come from all over Japan to observe some of the English lessons. In addition to taking part in one of these seminars quite recently, I was able to return to the island to participate in the 8th annual Meet The World event. This was my second time participating (which goes against my nature of doing something only once) because I knew there was more that I could get out of it.
With a number of my peers, I boarded the ferry at an all too early 8am and chatted as we made the one hour voyage. Following a quick shuttle over to the school from the jetty, we convened in a room for tea and coffee before making our appearance before the rest of the school.
While up on stage, the event was kicked off and each group of students sought out their respective foreigner and brought us back to sit with them. From here, we did some basic hellos before rotating and doing introductions with the other groups. Energy was abundant as even the young kids were anxious to try out their English. The rest of us teachers can all only dream of having students like these. They were mostly questions relating to likes, dislikes, and favorite foods. We of course were gushing with the clown-esq energy on that this job requires, but it was indeed a lot of fun. The length of my hair and turning of my eyelids inside out made me a very popular man as well.
Once we made our rounds to a couple of other grades, we returned to home base and they then led back us to their classrooms. There we had our formal introductions with them and they interviewed us with a number of prepared questions. Again, these were mostly likes/dislikes but what more can you ask of 2nd graders? The next step was playing a Christmas gesture game, which was actually really quite good. I’ve since recycled it and used it in a number of my other classes to the same cheers of excitement that it drew in Naoshima.
This was the ‘Christmas Tree’ gesture. Kids who did the same one as I chose lost and had to sit down. The last remaining students were the winners.
Finally, it was time to start the classroom rotations. Here we were led by our groups over to the classrooms of the other lower grades where we took part in their games and activities. This was one of the reasons that I wanted to come back, since the year before I was on the upper grade rotation. The students in this younger age group were endearing with their use of English, and it took a lot less effort for me to remain interesting… Activities included a musical chairs game, a cake activity where we had to make transactions, and also two rounds of administering the activities in our base room. These included magnet fishing, pin the snout on the pig, and using fans to coax foam cars across a finish line. This was all good fun and the students explained the rules and cheered in English throughout.
Here is a video of the Musical Chairs activity
Finally, it was the all important lunch time where I had a nice bento and wowed with my ability to catch orange slices in my gaping mouth.
My lunch group and I
After this we all made our way back to the gymnasium where we had a sort of finale group activity. A song was sung by our host Thomas about the teachers who came, and included our pictures on a slideshow that paired with the lyrics. The students had to rush over to whichever teacher was mentioned for some high fives, and then the song progressed. At the end, the event was closed and we all got ready for the art tour.
Last year there were two options for the art tour, and wanting to try the second choice this year was another of those reasons that I came back for this event. However, unlike last year, we were not offered the same opportunity to choose and instead all were going to be seeing the same exhibits I had already seen. Not wanting to waste my time, and also having someone to get back to on the mainland, I took the earlier ferry along with another teacher in the same boat (har har). Despite a rather circuitous trip back, we made it, and the evening concluded in some large (for Japan) burgers with everyone before finally heading home.
The event was a lot of fun, just as it was last year, but now I feel like I’ve quite done it and wouldn’t feel much of a tug to offer my services a third time.
Here was the thank you card I got from my group of kids.