Oita Sofukan High School
October 2015 – January 2016
Oita Sofukan is a strange school, even by Japanese standards, much more like UK college than anything else here. Classes run for 90 minutes, from around 8am to 8pm and students attend if/when they can/want. There’s no uniform, there’s a canteen, you wear outdoor shoes indoors and you have your own personalised timetable.
So really, only similarity is the language and that there’s a teacher!
My understanding is that the school is a mix of kids who couldn’t attend regular high school, either for family reasons, financial reasons or behavioural reasons.
Despite having full size classrooms, classes rarely number more than 6-8, which the students generally spread out all over, and their attendances can be so infrequent that they don’t even know each other’s name – a little embarrassing when you’re playing an ice breaker game where you have to remember everyone’s name!
The level of English I found no different to that of Mie Sogo, perhaps the small class sizes facilitating learning, though equally, many classes I only taught once, never getting past self introduction, with only a few classes on WInter Vacation and two on Valentine’s Day – so not necessarily treading much new ground.
Oita Sofukan was also my only experience as a true Assistant Language Teacher, wherein I was told what the plan was, and contributed my voice and talked a little about my experiences. It made class far more improvised, and exciting, but I could see how quickly the novelty could turn into apathy, as you really didn’t need to prepare much for the class, especially compared to planning an entire class!
Even though classes were 90 minutes, I enjoyed the ad hoc nature of sometimes turning up and having to improvise a whole class, but the only downside was the hour and 20 minute or so commute in the mornings, but at least I could get a Starbucks en route and pretend to be important!
All in all, I enjoyed visiting this school. It had less pressure than Mie Sogo since I felt more like a visitor, and the teaching more laid back since I was in addition to their learning, rather than being a part of their learning.