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10 September 2020: Teaching in JapanPeople sitting at dining tables and looking at a projection screen

We had a narrow window of opportunity this week when the hotel we use as a venue was able to accommodate us and social meetings of more than six were legal.

Both our President and our 1st Vice President were away. The 2nd Vice President chaired the meeting. He presented Paul Harris Fellowships to two of our members. We congratulated them both.

Our speaker told us about the seven months she spent as a volunteer English teacher at Showa Schools in Tokyo. She was supposed to spend a year there but her trip was cut short because of the Covid-19 crisis.

She went to Japan with Project Trust. Following her application, she went to their base on the Isle of Coll for a selection event. This involved team and community events and a trial teaching session. Of those who attended approximately half, including our speaker were selected as volunteers.

After her approval as a potential volunteer, she had to raise funding of £6,200, to which our Club contributed. She then went on a training course to learn about Japanese culture and teaching methods. She had already studied Japanese at school. There were eight volunteers being trained to go to Japan and volunteers in other groups training to go to two other countries.

In Japan she lived in a house some way outside Tokyo. This was shared by sixty people. She had her own room but all other facilities were communal. Each weekday morning she left at 8 am to catch one of Tokyo’s (in)famous commuter trains. She said the journey was the worst part of her day.

At the school she worked alongside another English volunteer from Project Trust. In the morning they taught three one-hour English lessons to the primary school children. Lunch was spent in the English Room, where she had her desk. Pupils could join them there for informal conversation and help. On one day a week they held a more formal English Club during the lunch break.

Afternoons were spent teaching the secondary school children. After the end of the formal school day she would stay either to mark homework or to help run after-school clubs.

Her fondest memory of the school was helping one girl with Special Educational Needs. SEN is not recognised in Japan, so the girl had been marked as “difficult”. However, with the speaker’s help her behaviour improved and she developed a real interest in English.

Our speaker enjoyed improving her knowledge of Japanese and taking part in Japanese cultural events. She particularly enjoyed being part of a team carrying a two-ton shrine through the streets, even though that left her with a bruised shoulder.