• Phil

Reflecting on the Year Past

This blog comes after an extremely long break indeed! In spite of all the coronavirus related restrictions, I’ve been very busy here over the last few months. Over the second semester we visited a lot of schools with the guest teacher programme, both for English classes and for traditional culture-based lessons. Considering the schools being closed for a couple of months at the beginning of the academic year, and the understandable reticence from nursery schools to hold events involving guests, we were hugely active over the past year. In fact, thanks to our being able to join English classes this year, we had our most active year ever!

Over the past few weeks, I have been looking over the data for past years with regards to the guest teacher programme to analyse any trends that exist, and look at ways to improve our activities. It turns out that we have been much more active over the past couple of years particularly, but as part of an overall trend: In 2016-17 we made 23 visits with the programme. That increased to 28 in 2017-18, then 33 in 2018-19. Last year we made as many as 49 visits; a number which increased to 53 this year gone. Unfortunately, due mainly to Covid-19, we were only able to hold an event at one of the nursery schools last year, as opposed to the average of over 6 in previous years. This is something we can hopefully rectify in the coming year, as I feel these visits are among the most important that we do. Although we don’t directly teach anything to the children, they gain a valuable experience in meeting people from other countries, and discovering that the world is a much bigger place than they thought.

Another thing to consider is the frequency of English classes that we have joined over the past two years. In the two years prior to my joining YIFA, English classes comprised only 12 percent of the overall total, but this jumped to 41 percent last year, and up to 75 percent in the year just gone. Last year, I was very happy to join the English classes in addition to the regular guest teacher visits, as I viewed it as a positive chance to let students meet lots of different guests, and to motivate the students to want to speak English more. I became extremely busy in 2019-20, especially in the second semester, but I was glad with the work we did in the guest teacher programme. Last year though, as the schools were closed at the beginning of the year, and the academic schedule became very stretched and schools were forced to prioritise ‘subjects’ above activities, we compromised by joining a huge number of English classes in lieu of regular guest teacher visits. We made the most of these visits, introducing various cultures at the beginning of the classes, and actively engaging in class activities for the remainder of the time, but, overall, the objective of our programme is better suited to the regular visits (i.e. ones where we have much longer, and can feel comfortable using Japanese). This year, due to some strange budgeting reasons (not well explained to me!), we had some classes at the end of the year cancelled due to going over an apparent threshold that had been set. This has created an issue in terms of the number of English classes we join next year, as, if we join too many, it means that will have a consequence in terms of how many regular guest teacher classes we can deliver. Therefore, I may have to set a limit on the number of English classes we join to make sure that doesn’t happen. The aim of the guest teacher programme is to increase international awareness after all, not to fill in gaps in English education. There is also another apparent issue of some nurseries which we have never visited (in the past 5 years at least!). If possible, we’d like to visit all the educational facilities across Yasu, so that’s something to think about too. Anyway, I’ll finish analysing the data before making my final conclusions.