Terrific Tuesday

Hello everyone. I was supposed to start writing on this blog yesterday, but due to my lack of computer savvy I managed to somehow mess up the simple task of signing in as a blogger. Well, I'm here now, and excited to join the elite group of writers here on the blog. I have to say that although I've been quiet on the blog and on the website, I have read everything and have thoroughly enjoyed it all.
In case we haven't been formally introduced, my name is Marianne Nieman. You've probably gotten an email or a thousand from me at some point in this year. I'm carrotop18. Yep, that's me. I am from the United States, specifically Indianapolis, Indiana. I went to university in New Orleans, Louisiana (which I am happy to say is no longer full of water and slowly filling back up with people) and then I taught 2nd grade (7 and 8 year olds) in Atlanta, Georgia for a couple of years before starting my new life here in Japan. This is my second year here and unless something life-altering happens between now and the date I need to turn in my contract, I will be here another year.

Let me tell you a little bit about my experience teaching in Japan. I live in Saga City, in the Ken apartments, along with 13 other ALT's. I work at Ogi Senior High School 4 days a week, and at Kencho the 5th day. At my school, I teach 12 classes of 2nd or 3rd grade students. I have about 480 students who I know by face but definitely not by name. I am incredibly bad at remembering student's names. I can tell you what sport they play sometimes, or where they want to go to university, or even where they live in some cases, but I can't even begin to tell you their names. Anyway, I love my job and my school. The kids are great, even if they are smartasses sometimes. In my 3rd year classes, I predominately teach writing. I don't know how many of you incorporate writing into your classes (or if that is even an option with your level) but I really recommend it. I have learned so much about my students through reading their writing. They write things that they wouldn't necessarily have the patience to work out in spoken words.
Let me give you an example. Last week I had my students write a personal statement. I explained to them that in the US and many other countries, when you apply for a job, you have to write a brief summary of yourself, including where you work, what you do in your free time, your interests, your personaility, etc. As I'm grading these essays, I get to the essay of one boy in 3-2. While he started out telling me that he was going to college for something, but he went on to tell me that he really wants to do something else. When he grows up, he wants to be..... a famous human beat box. According to him, he is actually pretty good at it. I think he deserves an award for having the coolest hobby EVER and for standing out of the crowd by being unique. That's the coolest part about reading the kid's writing- I would have never in a million years have guessed that this boy in my class, who I only know by sight, has talent in the area of human beat boxing. But because of his writing, now I know.
Maybe your kids have some cool, interesting, unique talents as well. They may have trouble telling you but I guarantee they are dying to let you know about it somehow. I know many of you have hours and hours of free time at work- may I suggest that you use some of this time to try and find ways to connect with your kids on a more personal level and find out what those talents are. Maybe writing doesn't work for your kids. Then try something else. Maybe have them bring in something special to them and talk about it (even if it's only a sentence) or draw pictures. Do something, anything that lets them express themselves. They spend the rest of the day writing notes and sleeping and regurgitating useless information. Be the person who lets them be themselves for a change and gets them to open up. I am positive that getting to know the kids individually, even if you don't know their names like me, will make this job a lot more worthwhile. The more you get involved with the kids, the less you think about that evil supervisor you have, or the weird kocho sensei, or the lack of communication in your office. I know all that can be daunting, but really we are here for the kids. Make them your number one focus at school, and school will improve dramatically.
I have also found that the more you know about your students, the better their behavior will be. Students know when teachers care and don't care. Even kindergardeners can tell if you are sincere or not. Students who act up do it half the time because they want attention. If you are showing them attention and they know that you are interested in what they are doing with their lives, then usually they will try to be interested in what you have to say back and therefore pay attention more in class.
I challenge every single one of you to learn something unique about some of your students this week. Not all of them, of course- not all at once, at least. But pick some students who you have never talked to before and find out something unique about them. I will do the same. Let me know what you find out. You may have the next great writer or the world's fastest runner sitting in your classroom. I have the future's most famous human beat box sitting in mine.

Comments? Complaints? Discussion topics? Cool hobbies? Bring it on.