May. 29th, 2008 02:00 am
tobu_ishi: (Default)
[personal profile] tobu_ishi
In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn...
-Disney's Tarzan

So, the sixth graders I taught in elementary school this winter have become first years at Uryu Middle. They've been making my professional life a little better, every day I spend with them; they see me as a real teacher, someone to greet and joke with and look up to and ask questions unsolicited, and when I'm leading an activity alone in class, the way Mr. Onodera usually leaves me to do? They're awake, alert, listening, engaged, wondering if next I'll put on a paper pirate hat or start a shouting chant of a grammatical point.

It feels wonderful. And I know Mr. Onodera has been a bit skeptical of my methods, my obsession with activities and personalized simple dialogues and stubbornly deviating from the textbook readings. He's a traditionalist; he believes strongly in the prescribed texts and lessons. But he's been giving me more leeway lately, especially with the first years, and today?

Today, I experienced something very much like a triumph.

Mr. Onodera and I have so far, in class, covered a number of the same things I studied with my sixth graders last winter. I had the idea back in January of running them through a cobbled-together two-month prep course for middle school English, after seeing the way last year's kids struggled with basic grammatical constructs like "THIS IS AN APPLE". We uncovered the bones of a few simple, common sentence structures and looked at the why and how, as well as running through greetings and doing a few quick touches on particles.

In the last few weeks, I've had the satisfaction of watching many my first years display equal or better comprehension on their sentence-order worksheets than the second years. Granted, their work is easier, but they tackle it more capably than I'd even hoped. This is mostly because they're a bunch of crackerjack-bright kids, but the language-teaching system in place here leaves them to fumble so blindly for the guidelines that I think it really helped to spell out a few, early on...

...anyway. They've done quite well so far, but I've not--until now--had any result I could clearly point to and say, "There. This happened because I did my best as a teacher. I have accomplished something."

Today, Mr. Onodera decided to skim over several grammar points, in a push towards constructing sentences outside of the "This is --", "That is --" mold we've been working with until now. Stepping up to the blackboard, he wrote in bold letters,

A vs. AN

Then he turned to the class and asked, rhetorically, "So, what's the difference?"

A ripple of excited whispers ran through the classroom. Audible within it were at least five or six kids piping up in a tangled little chorus, nudging their friends, not quite volunteering. "They're the same...right?" I won't lie; my heart leapt up in my throat with hope. Mr. Onodera had time to register surprise, and then one boy raised his hand. Ryutaro.

"Well," he said, confidently, "they mean the same thing, but A comes before words that begin in a consonant, and AN comes before words that begin with a vowel. It means something like 'one' of something."

Mr. Onodera was flabbergasted, and dawning on a bit of confused pleasure. "Huh...I haven't taught you that yet," he said, looking around at our students, "but you sure know a lot about it, don't you?"

And the chorus swelled. "Ari taught us!" "We studied it last year!" "We learned it from Ari-sensei!"

Four months. It has to have been at least four months since I stood in front of that class, pointing at colored paper cutouts stuck to the board with magnets, rotating them in and out of sentence structures, getting everyone to yell "A APPLE!" and "AN APPLE!" with me to better understand the awkwardness of the former and the way the latter rolls off the tongue. Four months, and now...this.

You know what? I have wonderful, amazing, brilliant kids.

You know what else? I think I'm really teaching them. :D

Date: 2008-05-29 04:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh, that's an amazing story! :D It's things like this that remind me why I'm studying to be a teacher. I hope that one day I can make a difference in someone's life as you have clearly done here. Congrats! ♥

Date: 2008-05-29 05:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! It's only one step, but it felt amazing to make it at last. ♥ You probably have ten times my training by now, but I suppose flailing in the dark makes you that much more grateful for the light. ^^

Date: 2008-05-29 04:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow, That's awesome. I can tell you he probably won't question your methods again. ^_^ Good for you!

And your kids sound SO CUTE...*loves middle school kids*

Date: 2008-05-29 05:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, to be honest, I'm sure he will...but this is a step, and hopefully he'll remember it. And the important part is that they remembered it...and I'll remember it, forever. ♥

Date: 2008-05-29 04:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have to say, i've loved reading your tales of paper pirate hats, and your goofy non-traditional teaching methods. I learned so much more from my crazy wacky teachers than from the ones that stuck to the book. I'm so glad you're getting warm-fuzzies from your students. You should continue to teach in that special Ari-way you do. The higher-ups might look at you funny, but those kids are never going to forget their crazy English teacher.

Congradulations, Ari. You've earned it.

Date: 2008-05-29 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Man, that's a really sweet story. Congratulations! I wanna sit in on your classes. XD

Date: 2008-05-29 06:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
*grin* Ari is amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing!!!!!

Date: 2008-05-29 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

Date: 2008-05-29 10:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! *hugs excitedly* XD That made ME feel proud!

Date: 2008-05-29 10:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
that's so great Ari! omedetou!!!!

Date: 2008-05-29 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

You're probably teaching them the basics of English better than I was taught.

Oh, that fuzzy feeling. I tend to teach a lot of people the basics of drawing, then watch them surpass me...

Date: 2008-05-30 10:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Heeee! Yay! That's awesome! :D

Date: 2008-05-31 11:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh wow, Ari, that's wonderful! Congratulations!

Date: 2008-06-02 05:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]

That is so cool :)
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