This morning we had a little meeting about our planned lesson, which involved my team teaching partner explaining to me very slowly and carefully today's reading -- a beautiful monologue by Akiko Ono (better known as Aki), the hero of One World about the plight of Japanese cranes.
"These are Japanese cranes. Ainu people call them the gods of the wetlands.
Cranes used to live in many parts of Japan. However, people hunted them and little by little destroyed the wetlands. Because of that, the cranes almost disappeared.
Then in 1924, some Japanese cranes were found in the Kushiro wetlands. The discovery made people happy."
Her speech made me happy. As did my team teacher very slowly explaining to me what the reading was about, as though I were one of the students and not a native English speaker. With lots of pictures. I was asked to explain "almost" and "discovery".
Completely shockingly, the lesson was less than enthusiastically recieved. The students didn't care about Aki's moving speech, and weren't moved to start speaking English after reading her words in their textbooks. They refused to answer basic questions about the content and read in monotone voices when asked to recite Aki's powerful words for themselves. I think it was their form of protesting the destruction of the wetlands.
We racked our brains trying to understand why listening to Aki talks about cranes and wetlands for 25 minutes failed to spark enthusiasm in the students. Why they were not touched by such poetry. Why it seems that reciting textbooks for two years has not made them able to speak English. Whether we should focus more on pronounciation or intonation or stress. What techniques we can use to make recitation better for the students. It was a rousing discussion in Japanese, and so of course I was able to follow and contribute fully. All in all, I felt that our discussion will change the way we teach, and give the students more tools with which to speak, read, write and listen to English with confidence and skill.
Okay, so I had a crappy day at school, and needed a whinge. It seems to be happening more and more frequently, probably due to a combination of feeling underutilized at work, having a lot of time sitting around with nothing to do, and knowing that the next two months are something I just have to finish before I can go home.