A day at Japanese elementary school

In 2015 February, I got a chance to accompany the volunteer group of English speaking foreign nationals to Kasahara elementary school in Tajimi. A whole day at the school was a great experience. Kasahara school used to organize this kind of interactive sections for students every year. They aim at providing their students a chance to interact with English speaking foreigners residing in and around Tajimi city. Our group had university students, Company employees as well as other foreign volunteer members.  They allocated various classroom sections for each of us. They emailed us the details of the classrooms and the topics to be prepared for each section in advance.

About Kasahara elementary school

Kasahara elementary school is situated in the Kasahara region of Tajimi city, Gifu prefecture. The best thing about this school is that they give much importance to English language education. So most of the people in and around Kasahara have developed an interest in the English language. It is this school which is sowing the seeds of English during their very basic grade of studies, that helps them to maintain that passion for English throughout their life.

No shoes inside the school

Like entering Japanese homes, at school also students and teachers have to remove their shoes and wear special slippers. Students arranged their shoes in allocated racks at the entrance of the school. Whenever they go out of the school building (for playing or so), they used to wear their shoes. Every student was perfect in arranging their shoes neatly on the rack.

With second grade students

My first section was in the second-grade classroom. There were four foreigners including me. We introduced ourselves and kids asked various things to each of us, everything in English, which they prepared in advance with the help of their class teacher. Kids sang songs and played various games in which we also participated. We were asked to explain to the kids a group play of our childhood (in English) and do it with the kids. Thus four games were explained to the students which we played with them.

With fifth-grade students

The section with fifth-grade students also started with a self-introduction and interactive section. Then we had lunch with the students. Students served lunch among themselves and for three of the volunteers who were allotted to their class. The healthy lunch provided there included a steamed veggies, broccoli, Rice, Milk, and some snack. The student volunteers carefully served food with the help of their class teacher who also ate with them.

Japanese teachers used to eat lunch with the kids which are the same food served for kids. It was an element of great surprise for me. Every kid ate their lunch without leaving a bit behind. Some of the kids started talking to us in English which also was surprising to me. As most of the Japanese people don’t know English or hesitate to speak English, those kids were very smart and talking very actively at the very first moment we met them.

School lunch

After the lunch, they arranged the plates on the trolley in which the lunch was carried to the classroom. They cut the milk packets and bound it for recycling. After that, we also were invited to play with them at the school ground. It was during the Setsubun festival when kids play the ghost game. We also played with them running around, wearing the ghost mask, fleeing away from the ghost etc. All the teachers were playing with the kids of their home classes.

After the lunch break, kids returned to the school building and started cleaning the school. They cleaned the floor using brooms and wiped floors and stairs with towels. Each grade of students was supposed to clean various parts of the school building, which they did perfectly within the time limit.

Then we accompanied the students to their classes. I reached the fifth-grade classroom where we had lunch. Students prepared notes and presentation charts about various kinds of houses in Japan. They talked about the peculiarities and types of houses in Japan. Their explanation provided a great knowledge that the houses in Japan vary according to to the climatic difference in the various regions. Houses of Hokkaido, Okinawa, and other parts have its own peculiarities which were new information for us. Then we talked about the kinds of houses in our nation showing various pictures, drawings etc. The class teacher asked each of us to evaluate the performance of each group of students.

The last section allocated for me was with the first-grade students, where again we had an interactive section, self-introduction, and songs by students. Then we sat in circles to play a game with the kids.The teacher gave pictures of animals to each student and three volunteer members. English names of the animals were used throughout the game, which is part of teaching English to the kids.

Meeting for the volunteers

After all the three sections, there was a meeting for the volunteers and the school authorities. The volunteer people talked about their experiences during the day. They pointed out the good thing they found at the school and made suggestions on improving the English education.

The school provided each of us Toshocard(cards that can be used to buy items from a bookstall) worth 2000 yen as a reward. It was a journey back to the old school days, where we actively played and participate in other activities with students. For us, who were looking at the Japanese schools and students from outside. it was a golden chance to experience a totally different school atmosphere provided at Japanese elementary schools.