The Teacher Becomes the Student

This year I am teaching a special ECC class. It’s called a Returnees class. It’s made for kids who have lived abroad and/or have gone to an English-speaking school for at least two years. The kids in these classes speak like a native speaker and will often chatter away with you and laugh at your jokes…if you actually tell funny jokes, that is, which I don’t. Basically, these classes are a ton of fun, but I personally think that they’re a bit more challenging.

In a regular kids lesson, I have a set of vocab, a structure, and a ton of games to round out my English material. In Returnees classes, you have to make up your own lesson, and I constantly have to deal with the question of “Why?” from my naturally inquisitive kids who know how to argue with me when I say something that I may or may not have made up on the spot in order to answer their questions. I definitely have to be quick on my feet in that class.

Now, in the past, these Returnees classes were completely English-based, focusing on grammar, workbook activities, games, and class discussion. But this year, we have launched a brand-new program in the hopes of Returnees kids getting a better English education. What we’ve been doing is teaching school subjects completely in English. Our three subjects are Art, Science, and Social Studies. I’m the Social Studies teacher, and I tell you what, it is really challenging! Every month I have to choose a topic of study, then research it thoroughly so that I can teach it to kids ranging from age 8-15.

What’s great about it is that I’m also learning. I now know why ancient Egyptians mummified their dead and how to do it. Most recently, I taught my kids about Pompeii. Did you know that Mt. Vesuvius is the only volcano in mainland Europe and there’s no word in Latin meaning ‘volcano’ because they’d never seen one explode before Vesuvius? I don’t know about you, but I think that kind of stuff is really cool. So, I, along with the two other teachers, have been getting a well-rounded education as we make our way through history. Next up is the Vikings.



Since moving to Japan, I have both discovered and fallen in love with audiobooks. I always have an audiobook on my iPod, and listen to it on the train, while shopping, walking to and from work, and the list goes on. And surprisingly enough, I have found that I actually prefer to listen to books than to read them. When I read a book for the first time, I always want to know what happens next, so I end up skimming parts of the book that I don’t really feel are worth my time, or are essential to the story. By doing that, I end up missing out on parts of the story that are actually important or that will become important later, so I have to go back and reread. But when I listen to an audiobook, there is no skimming. I actually have to listen to everything intently, so I get a better appreciation for the book. But I am still anxiously awaiting the next big event, and most importantly, the big ending.

Just last month, I subscribed to For those of you not in the know, its a website that has thousands of audiobooks that you can buy and download. They have a good selection for the kinds of books that I’m currently interested in reading. Every month you get a book credit that’s good for any book you want, so I tend to buy the really expensive books on my wish list, since I only pay 7.99 a month to be a member. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. I’m currently in the process of choosing my next audiobook, so if you have any good suggestions, let me know.

One final thought: I never quite know what to say when I’m listening to an audiobook. Sometimes my roommates will ask me what I’m doing and at first I reply that I’m reading a book. But that’s not actually true. I’m listening to a book, but that sounds really strange, doesn’t it? Well, at least, I think it sounds really strange. So, I cant  quite figure out what to say, so I end up saying too much. Any thoughts on how to properly let people know that you’re listening to a book?