C U NXT Year ; -)

When it comes to spelling and grammar, I am usually a snob. I turn my nose up when “over” and “more than” are used incorrectly, and I die ever so slightly if I read, “there” when I should be reading, “their.” Further, if a friend texts me, “THX UR AWSUM,” or, “UR A QT,” the relationship is immediately over.

However, with my students, I value understanding and enthusiasm more than grammatical ability. As a result, I did the unthinkable. For my last lesson with the first-year students, I taught them obnoxious cell phone lingo. OMG. I KNO. IM SRY : -( PLS forgive me.

When I arrived in Japan, I soon learned that a new realm of emoticons exists. From “simple” happy and sad faces—(^o^) and (-_-)—to more elaborate faces such as (*^◯^*) or even impossible faces such as ☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆, I was not only illiterate when it came to words, but also emotions. For my students, “English” emoticons such as : -), =0 and : *( were equally novel. After teaching abbreviations such as “GR8,” “ASAP,” “@” and “WKND,” they played a matching game using the new words and faces.

Some students even started writing slightly inappropriate texts for their friends. For example, “let’s XOXO ASAP” and “CU soon to XOXO,” but—whatever—it’s English communication, right? Finally, every group wrote me a farewell text. The messages were absolutely FAB. Check them out for yourself and you will realize why I LUV these students.

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Obama’s left hand

After studying vocabulary to describe physical appearances, my students wrote speeches about their favorite celebrities. Although most chose Lady Gaga, Ichiro Suzuki or Justin Bieber, Kayo described Barack Obama.

Therefore, in honor of the 57th presidential inauguration on Monday, I want to share her speech:

Obama 1

“My favorite celebrity is Barack Obama. He is the president of the United States of America. He is brack. He has short hair. He is tall and smart. He was elected president again in last week. He is left-handed. It is said that the president will be successful left-handed. I want to become a good president.”

As the speech prompt instructed, Kayo notes three physical characteristics. Obama is black, has short hair and is tall. Then, she moves on to Obama’s handedness and predicts that because he is left-handed, he will be successful. Obama has also encouraged her to do the impossible–become a good president. Thus, without getting all political, like Kayo, I hope you have a faith in Obama’s left hand and optimism for the next four years.

School’s out for English camp

In early June, the average American high school student can’t manage to get to school before the bell rings. When she does arrive, she can’t sit through the remaining periods because there are mere days separating her and two months of lazy, crazy, hazy summer vacation days.

The concept of summer vacation is slightly different in Japan. Rather than spending two months on summer getaways, my students spent the first two weeks of summer vacation in summer lessons. Because my school has an athletic focus, the last two weeks are spent training for matches, meets and games. To those of of us who spent our summer days picking strawberries, scooping ice cream and procrastinating our summer reading assignments, such a concept seems daunting. However, my students seem to enjoy spending their short summer vacation at school with their teammates.

While my athletically-gifted students spent hours practicing their swings, kicks, spikes and shots, I volunteered to to be a counselor at two English camps. Although none of my students applied to attend, I am determined to convince them to take two days off of soccer and baseball practice and do so next year. I’ve already convinced them that speaking English will help them if when they make it to the Major and Premier Leagues.

During the camps, I worked with students from all over the prefecture who have a passion for learning English. I also had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most inspiring and friendly ALTs. With our students, we played games, did scavenger hunts, made skits and took a break from our daily school routines.

I enjoyed working with both the students and my fellow English-teaching friends in a more relaxed atmosphere. One of the most rewarding and enjoyable parts about teaching in Japan is seeing students express their personalities in English. Having confidence, a sense of humor and courage is hard enough for any 15- or 16-year-old, however, when asked to display these traits in a foreign language, the task could seem completely impossible. But, not for these kids. Their eagerness, curiosity and happiness was contagious and made me remember what a joy it is to be living and teaching English in Japan.