This past summer we were in the process of searching for a Japanese Teacher for our middle school position. This teacher would be in charge of teaching Japanese 1 at the 8th grade level, as well as developing a brand new 7th grade exploratory program, which would rotate students about every 10 weeks or so. As you can imagine, the pool of applicants was quite small, since having a Japanese K-12 licensure is quite uncommon.
We ended up interviewing only two applicants; one over the phone, and one in person. During the interview I asked certain questions which would tell me more about the applicants teaching philosophy, focus in the classroom, understanding of proficiency, as well as their thoughts on assessment. We also talked about possible ideas for the 7th grade exploratory curriculum and its connection to the Japanese program overall.
In the end we hired Tanya Schubert, a graduate of University of Findlay, and that was the best decision ever.
In my previous blog I briefly discussed the success of our Japanese program, and how collaborating with one's coworkers to build a comprehensive language curriculum is crucial to its success. We work together to make sure that not only are our Japanese classes fun, engaging, and relevant at every level, but also to set the proficiency expectation bar high from the beginning. Our students learn about proficiency from the first day,whether in Tanya's middle school classes, or in my high school ones. We show examples of the ACTFL proficiency OPI's with learners of English, and use the SUSHI TALK I created based on Sarah Cottrell's TACO TALK. Our students know our expectations at the middle and high school level, and most importantly, the middle school classes serve as a introduction and connection to the overall program. It is so important to build interest at the lower grades for non-commonly taught languages, or all languages for that matter, so that students can anticipate taking the language for a longer period of time, and look forward to all the things they will be able to say in the future!
Tanya does amazing things in her classroom to promote our program, and to teach with proficiency in mind. She speaks in the target language 90% of the time. Can you imagine having a year or two of a language class with maybe 10-20% target language spoken, and then switching teachers and going to 90%-100%? You'd have to relearn how to listen. You'd have to relearn how to process. Most of all, the students' affective filter would be so high at the beginning. You'd spend a long time just trying to break that barrier down. Using the target language as the vehicle of her instruction, Tanya not only insures that her students are comprehensibly immersed in the language, but she also sets the bar for the high school courses, insuring that our program is connected and on the same page.
Tanya also does amazing things to ADVOCATE for our program. Her positivity is contagious. Her students think she's crazy and fun. This is KEY.
She set up a display in the glass cases at our middle school titled "Study Japanese!" She filled it full of Japanese artifacts we had, such as fans, chopsticks, dolls, maps, etc., The middle school students pass this display daily, and this way, they can learn a little something about Japan and maybe become interested in taking the language?
She has also brought up National Foreign Language Week, in which she participated in as a high school student, and how we can bring this to our students here. I am very excited for this.
Lastly, she is working together with our sister city Yorii, Japan which also has a HONDA plant, to set up a successful junior high school student exchange. Last summer 6 students and 2 teachers spent about 2 weeks in Japan visiting our sister city, schools, and staying with host families as well as touring Tokyo. This summer it's our turn to host, and about 18 students are coming to stay with us in Marysville, Ohio! We are so excited for this opportunity of cultural exchange! Tanya and her invaluable experience working as a translator/interpreter and administrative assistant, working alongside Japanese employees, as well as her experience setting things up for her university exchange students, really helps bring this project to life.
Having a fellow teacher like this as a coworker is an amazing asset. Stay away from the negativity. If you find one like this, cherish them, support them, mentor them, praise them, and most of all hold on to them and don't let them go!!!
You can read more about Schubert Sensei by reading her self-into in our fall 2015 newsletter here.
I am releasing this amazing image of both of us, in cartoon form, with our dogs.
copyright CJ Nemastil 2015
I am a high school Japanese teacher developing my own comprehensive and communicative Japanese program in Marysville, Ohio.