Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring has come to my house.

Look at the pictures above. As you can see, all the snow has gone. The buds on the cherry and plum trees in my garden will be ready to bloom in a few weeks.

In Japan, “spring has come” is often used when a son or daughter has passed an entrance examination to an upper-level school. In that respect, “spring has come” to my daughter. After one year of hard work to prepare for and take a series of entrance examinations last month, she is now heading out of our house to enter university in Tokyo.

Last weekend, my wife and I helped my daughter move to Tokyo. We brought a lot of her belongings in my car and we ended up staying overnight. She will be living alone temporarily, but her brother will join her in the near future. He is currently studying abroad, but he will resume his studies in Tokyo soon as well.

I feel very lonely without her, but I hope she will soon find a peaceful life and many good friends in Tokyo as well as success in her academic learning at university.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gyosei Koko puts some muscle into its English education program

In the vicinity of my college, there are its affiliated schools, Niigata Chuo Junior College and Kamo Gyosei High School. Gyosei Koko is unique and well known in that it is the single high school in Niigata Prefecture offering a nursing course.

Recently, the school won a grant under the auspices of the Niigata Prefectural Government. The grant, which runs for a certain period of years, is offered to private senior high schools that have plans to foster international human resources and to improve their English education. Programs offered under the grant include special Saturday English classes, access to on-line English education, a school excursion to Singapore and special tutoring to help students pass difficult English proficiency examinations and college entrance examinations.

Another of its programs was a three-day intensive English seminar that was held in early March at Niigata University of Management. I was involved in the seminar, helping design the program. I also collaborated with the high school teachers in charge.
During the course of the seminar, about thirty-five students learned oral English under six native-language instructors of English. The purpose of this program was to “give the students opportunities to express themselves in English and have cross-cultural experiences. It went well, in the end, but it was not without some bumps.

There was a good deal of confusion at first as to what the school was attempting to accomplish. The vague quality of the directions only added to this. To be fair, the school had never attempted such an undertaking in the past.

I was glad to see that Gyosei Koko is trying to strengthen its English programs through this grant, but there is obviously some room for improvement. In the near future, I hope to give the teachers an awareness-raising workshop in English that will encourage the teachers to be even more ambitious in order to take full advantage of this opportunity.