I hadn’t planned on posting today, but when I got this gem in one of my lessons today, I couldn’t resist. How do you know when a student understands what you’re teaching? That’s an obstacle a lot of ALTs – regardless of whether we’re teaching first year elementary students or kids in an academic high school – fight to overcome in the classroom. For me, I know it’s a struggle to tell when my students really grasp a new concept, since I never know if the synchronized “Yes, Alex-sensei”s are actually honest, or if they’re just Pavlovian responses to the question, “Do you understand?”
Thankfully, there are some pretty good signifiers. This week I was teaching my eleventh graders about common body idioms that we use in English. This lesson had an added bonus because whenever the kids had to write their own sentences using the idioms, I got plenty of “Alex-sensei is such a beautiful/nice/great teacher, so she makes me weak in the knees.” It was all I could do to just blush sheepishly and brush them aside. (And naysayers, I don’t care if they were lying, it’s still nice to hear.)
Casual English, I think, is one of the most difficult areas to learn, so I was pretty impressed with how quickly and firmly the majority of the kids grasped the meanings. One of them – in my absolute favorite 組 (“kumi,” or class), no less – really stood out to me. As soon I saw the doodles that one of my favorite (and brightest) students had drawn in the margins of the handout, I knew that she’d completely understood what the idioms had meant. She usually draws me pictures on her homework; I’ve gotten everything from scenes from Night at the Museum to depictions of her family being seasick on the ferry up to Hokkaido to detailed pictures of her family making homemade miso. This little masterpiece, however, is definitely my favorite.
Plus, seeing little drawings like this make my job an absolute blast; I find them both hilarious and cute. I’ve gotten dozens and dozens of them on homework assignments, but I’m still not tired of them. (And after a year and a half living here, I still have yet to figure out if all Japanese kids are born with the artistic gene or if Aomori High School kids are just great artists along with being mini geniuses.)
And thus concludes another cheesy “I absolutely adore my students and wouldn’t trade them for anything” post.