For many people in Japan, both in their work and personal lives, April is often seen as a time of new beginnings, and of transition.
This year, I am part of this process of rebirth and reinvention, as well.
After five years in Osaka, I was offered a very attractive position in Nagano Prefecture, which — having spent a lot of time in Nagano previously and familiarized myself with the place and the people — I decided to accept.
This position, however, is a pretty major departure from my previous work. Whereas before, my primary focus was private sector junior and senior high school students, my new job sees me taking on a public school position and — for the first time in my teaching career — being based exclusively at elementary school.
Now, those who know me and my teaching style, will know that I am not a song and dance man. Indeed, I’ve often said that those people willing to reduce themselves to the role of a mere entertainer or clown do the rest of us teachers a great disservice. With such an attitude, many veterans would say I may not be the right kind of teacher for elementary schools in Japan. But things are not as they once were.
Thankfully, after decades of hubris and mere token efforts, it finally seems that the education ministry is taking elementary school English seriously.
Big changes are afoot and these will bring with them many new opportunities and, no doubt, plenty of new challenges to be overcome.
From 2020, English will become an official subject for fifth and sixth grade students. Previously, English was categorized as gaikokukatsudo (foreign culture activities).
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