2016 J-LEAP Report: Yasuharu Higure

December, 2016: Breeze Issue #110

A Free Monthly E-Newsletter for Friends of Japan & Teachers of Japanese

2016 J-LEAP Report
by Yasuharu Higure

San Dieguito High School Academy
Encinitas, CA

Hello! My name is Yasuharu Higure. I teach at San Dieguito High School Academy (SDA) as an assistant teacher.

SDA is located in Encinitas, California, about 30 minutes from San Diego city by a car. We can see the Pacific Ocean from our Japanese class and even the beautiful sunset in the evenings!

Currently, I help teach in Japanese 1, 3, and 5 with my lead teacher (LT), Rie Tsuboi. Usually I assist my LT by hosting games, checking students’ answers, walking around in the classroom and supporting students. Sometimes I make a presentations about Japanese culture. My LT is one of the most experienced and distinguished teachers I have ever met. She always respects my opinions and ideas and gives me advice about everything, not only about school, but also life in the US. She plans classes with many fun activities and projects. During the activities, I have been surprised by the creativity of our students every day since I had started teaching here! Students have a passion to study Japanese so much and show their positive attitude in the class every day. Sometimes, some students come to me and ask me to help them study and practice Japanese. I feel proud of teaching them and enjoy working with them. We have an after school tutoring session every Thursday. I help students who are studying for quizzes; however, I cannot always take care of every student who studies there so students in higher level help teach the students in lower levels.

SDA has a Japanese National Honor Society (JNHS). It is a group that is comprised of students who study Japanese. Students independently plan and host many volunteer activities and events about Japanese culture, for example, Japanese movie night, beach cleaning, etc. I sometimes attend their events and it is a good opportunity for me to communicate with our students outside of class.

There are a variety of events in SDA outside of those hosted by JNHS, like concerts, dramas, comedies, sports, and so on. Sometimes I attend their performances and it is fun to watch our students enjoy school life through their favorite activities. In October, I participated in SDA’s homecoming week. I tried wearing costumes for each day’s theme. Whenever I attend any school events, students and staff always welcome me and I feel like a member of the SDA family already.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday, I go to middle schools after classes in SDA to give after school classes for Japanese language and culture. I go to Carmel Valley Middle School every Tuesday and Diegueño Middle School every Wednesday. I teach greetings, expressions, characters, and words in Japanese, as well as Japanese culture. We also practiced origami, kendama, otedama (Japanese juggling balls), Japanese songs, bon-dance wearing yukata (Japanese traditional clothes of summer), and made Japanese traditional lantern by paper. At Carmel Valley Middle School, I teach with a Japanese teacher from another high school and her JNHS students. At Diegueño Middle School, SDA’s JNHS students come to help my class. In both middle schools, high school students make the effort to help middle school students improve their Japanese. Sometimes they also give presentation about Japanese culture.

“Japan” is so familiar to people who live around here and they have many opportunities to experience Japanese culture because of the many kinds of events that are held here. I attended a Japan cultural festival held in the Encinitas city library. People enjoyed Taiko performances, Japanese traditional dances, and tea ceremony. Encinitas has only one sister city in Japan located in Amakusa near Kumamoto, Japan. Students in both cities visit each other. Every year, 20 high students from Kyoto and Toyama visit SDA. The students here have many opportunities to use Japanese that they learned in class. Also, San Diego and Yokohama have a sister city relationship. There is even a San Diego-Yokohama sister city society that hosts many events for the people who live nearby. They can enjoy not only Japanese events, but also buy things from Japan because there are many Japanese supermarkets, stores, and restaurants in the area. I ate Halloween version of Japanese snack that I bought at a Japanese supermarket and my friend in Japan saw the picture of that and asked, “When did you came back to Japan?”

In November, J-LEAP 6th Year Assistant teachers had training in Boston where we shared  our successes and challenges so far. It was a good opportunity to know that each AT is doing their best at their respective schools. After the training, I attended the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages) annual conference, the biggest conference for language teachers in the US. I got a lot of ideas to make class more joyful by attending various sessions.

Almost four months have passed since I arrived in the US. Living and teaching here is full of surprises for me. Sometime I enjoy it, but sometimes it confuses me. However, people around me are eager to help. I sincerely appreciate my LT, two host families, other ATs, friends, and my family in Japan. They supported me in various situations here in the US. I would like to keep doing my best by making our Japanese class more joyful, and help students grow up to act as bridged between the US and Japan. That is my dream.

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