Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A personal reflection at the end of the first month of the year.

It has been a month since the new year started perhaps a good time to reflect what went through my mind so far. I've got a few projects in hand, the Action Research on L1 usage, potential HV presentation and TED Tokyo speaker's workshop on this Sunday. I applied to the presentation a few weeks ago and got e-mail from one of organizers of TED Tokyo yesterday. In the application form, I wrote my thoughts regarding English education in Japan particularly on L1 use as a bilingual language teacher. My presentation would uncover what has been going on in the language teaching industry and classroom at school via my personal observation. I assumed nobody would take what I think and try to bring a bit of change seriously because I am just a person in a crowd. Although I personally think everyone has something extraordinary to tell, I never believed people would be interested in my own story for I haven't done anything extraordinary. But I suspect the catchy title - Would you like some BLT Sandwich in a language learning? might have attracted their interest. In fact, what I have contributed to the world is a small private language school for young learners with a little idea.

After my own daughter's birth, I set up Sunnyfield English to facilitate a learning space for local children via learning English. I never wanted to expand the business or numbers of students. In fact, I wanted to keep it as small as 2 to 3 classes a day for 5 days a week with 30 to 40 young learners in order to maintain the homy atmosphere and close relationship with them. However, from last year, the numbers of students started to drop and now become the half of the number used to be. The reason is crystal clear that children grew up and left our house and I haven't found the new ones to look after.  When my daughter was much younger, teaching at Sunnyfield English was the only job I had and I used to take a pleasure in organizing some events and did a bit of advertisement via posting flyers from time to time. Since some of friends of my students kept on joining, the number of students stayed almost the same for about 10 years. I was able to support myself graduating from 4 year university while my daughter was in elementary school while making a nothing fancy but comfortable living by the tuitions I charged. I certainly appreciate all the children and their parents for their support and understanding of my practice. After completing my BA in English literature, I went on learning further and got myself on a Master's program last year. In spite of my passion in this field, my interest and attention has been paid to more personal and professional development as a facilitator but not as an owner of the school.  Nevertheless, the biggest motivation and inspirations to keep this place is those children's laughters and the twinkling eyes when they discover something. I feel so blessed and spirited when I am with children in last 5 or 6 years. I suspect I see the little tiny chubby baby I held 13 years ago in every one of children I meet. In other words, I became one of the mums who blindly and helplessly love her children. It can't be complete unconditional because of little expectations I hold towards them but "humanly" unconditional and compassionate love. There are not much I can do for those beautiful creatures by sharing only an hour a week but one thing I believe I might have a chance to do is to plant the love of reading into the heart of them.  Unfortunately I can't go and read a story a night by their beds like I used to do for Momo but fortunately all of my children have their own mums who can possibly enjoy the stories children bring back to their homes as they leave my classroom. I might be naive to think that a language instructor can bring a bit of change at home but this goal would remain as my life time goal. And if this can be realized more pleasurably with a help of L1, I say why not! In order to keep this wishy-washy dream, this year I promised myself to tell the society where I am and what I do more actively, meaning making flyers and posting them.
After all, If TED Tokyo are willing to listen to what I think, my little idea which is planting the love of reading in the heart of little ones while utilizing children's L1 via BLT Sandwich, might be worth spreading.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Snowy day in 2013 : The first post :-)

The first snow in Tokyo area. It fell quite heavily so that I stayed home and watched the legendary movie, The Load of the Rings. My partner is a big fan of the book and passionately told me about the author, the legendary Tolkien. According to him, this stories were written for the author's grandchildren. I can't imagine a better gift than an amazing original story with full of adventures and wisdom. It is one of classics that would be told and enjoyed from generation to generation. Like most of classics of children's literature, it has some anecdotal episodes that could answer one of unavoidable question of youthful minds: What is the point of my small being?

Having watched three hours of movie, suddenly I was struck with mixed sentiment of heartwarming and heartaching. The latter was for those children who study so hard to enter a school they (or their parents) wish to go without having time to enjoy such a fantastic story on such a cozy day. My daughter was one of them last year and I still remember the awful sentiment I had as I sent off the little fragile back to the test site. Fortunately, she passed the test and has started the completely new life last April.

Almost a year has passed and she has been into the brass band, playing trombone 7 days a week. In spite of the extremely busy schedule and daily challenges she faces as a teen, she has become cheekier, more cynical and critical, experiencing the sweet and bitter taste of a human life. Whether the school she goes to is the right one for her or not, she is in the system, trying to figure out the puzzles she finds daily. There are more than a few things I don't agree with the school policy, especially the way they force students to study all the time, focusing too much on the results, not the process, ignoring the spontaneous and autonomous intellectual curiosity that each children possesses. However, it is not my role to decide whether she should bear the complete teacher-centerd and dictator style of education or not. After numerous sleepless nights, hysterical screams and tongue-biting moments, I have become a little tougher and fairer mum. Now I, at least, try to let her hold the ownership of her life's path. And I hope I have shown her enough to know that when she falls and needs my hands again, I will be there for her.

I have no talent to come up with a story that can make a great classic for children's literature but I might be able to learn and practice the wisdom I have given from the great story.

"This task was appointed to you, Frodo of the Shire. If you do not find a way, no one will. "

I would like to share this quote from the story with my daughter and think about the meaning of the quote together as we walk along the bumpy and dusty road stretching ahead of us. Who knows! she might find such task and might become the one who "change the course of future." 

Happy 2013 to you all!