January 25, 2005

Visiting speakers

Our last guest speaker of the year was a little different from the others: our purpose had been to provide Japanese speakers of English as role models for our students. Our most recent visitor was a native English-speaker who has lived and worked as a professional entertainer in Japan for many years and speaks fluent Japanese. Rodney and I had visited him at his theatre in Osaka, and had watched one of his shows. His speciality is improvisation, and I was hoping he would perhaps use his skills to have students do a little bit of improvisation or acting games, something to get them out of their seats and doing something. Perhaps he could talk about the relationship between improvisational theatre and communication; perhaps also talk about how he learned Japanese and why.

I had given him a brief background, and I expanded on that 5 minutes before he was "on": that judging from the responses to past speakers, students seemed a) to have no real goals or dreams, b) to be interested in tales of "real life" especially of hard times overcome.

First, he asked students if they knew why he was there, and then went around the room pointing to students and having them answer.

January 02, 2005

More on classroom dynamics

We have had two visiting speakers since the previous posting. The first of the two was a businessman who lived in New York for a while and brought back a NY cart which he parked near a local station and sold coffee and hotdogs. That's how we came to know him. We briefed him about what we were expecting, based on our experiences of the previous speakers: students seemed dull and uninterested in studying in general; they seemed to have few clear goals or dreams, if any; that they seemed interested in previous speakers' accounts of their hard times and real-life experiences.

He talked about living in New York, taking his family with him. He often bought coffee or doughnuts at a cart near where he lived, and he showed some pictures which included the prices, showing how cheap things are. He talked about the people who run these carts and what kinds of people they are, and their entrpreneurial spirit, and how this inspired him to bring a cart back to Japan. He also spoke about business and he encouraged the students to use their imagination and come up with a new idea for a business, something original. He also asked about their dreams or goals, and said "dream is business, and business is dream", meaning that to make a business can make dreams come true. He also mentioned the importance of image-ing and imagination, and pointed to one girl, saying, "I can imagine you walking in Paris in the Champs Elysees". If you can imagine it, he said, that's one step on the way towards making it happen.

(Some pix of our visitors can be seen here).