2019 J-LEAP REPORT
BY Miharu Hadano
Shaler Area School District
The new chapter of my life in Pittsburgh!
Every day the students come into the classroom and greet me in Japanese with their lovely and beautiful smiles. My students make me realize how great and lucky I am to be here and how special this moment is.
Starting a Japanese class and seeing all the big smiles from the students makes my day so much happier!!
Hello! I’m Miharu Hadano and I teach Japanese at Shaler Area High School and Shaler Area Middle School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania!
It’s been about 2 months since I started working as an assistant teacher alongside my wonderful lead teachers, Balsomico-sensei and Baleno-sensei. Every day has been very challenging and stimulating as I am just starting out my career, however it is thanks to their dedication that I’ve been enjoying my time at school.
In this report I would like to give you a glimpse of my life here in Pittsburgh!
Working as a Japanese teacher at Shaler Area High School and Shaler Area Middle School
When I first came to the Shaler area in Pittsburgh 3 months ago, I was very surprised at how curvy, steep, and up and down the roads are. I got pretty intense car sickness before I got used to driving here. However, this area is a really quiet and peaceful place that is surrounded by a lot of nature and wild animals such as deer, rabbits, and squirrels.
Shaler Area High School and Shaler Area Middle School are public schools and are located in the northern part of Pittsburgh. I’m very glad that my students decided to learn Japanese as a second or third language, in spite of having options such as French, Spanish and Latin. This is because I think that out of all their language options, Japanese is the most challenging language for them to learn. Therefore, I would like to support my students as much as possible so that students can enjoy learning and stay motivated to challenge themselves.
At Shaler Area High School, I help teach six classes every day. We have five levels in Japanese from Level 1 to Level 5(AP). Balsomico-sensei and I have been using Japanese as much as possible in the classroom because we believe that it’s very important to let students listen to Japanese as much as possible in order to have them try to understand what we’re saying. Therefore, we demonstrate our conversation in Japanese when we want students to learn a new grammar point, when we explain how to do activities, and also when we want them to concentrate on learning. I think that immersing the students is a great way to learn a new language especially when learning outside of Japan. This is because most of the students don’t have an opportunity to listen to Japanese outside of the classroom, so for students, our class provides them with precious time to listen and speak Japanese. Also, I believe that they feel a sense of accomplishment if they can understand something in a different language. So I would like to continue to use and communicate with students in Japanese as much as possible.
I also work at Shaler Area Middle School once a week in a Japanese level 1 class with Baleno-sensei.
We try to introduce Japanese culture in the class, as the students just started their language learning journey and we want to peak their interests in various ways so that they can enjoy our class. We’ve taught Japanese purikura culture, origami, rajio taisou (Japanese radio exercise) and J-drama so far. It made me very happy to see the students’ excitement when they discover new things and also when they try to understand a different culture. I would like to incorporate even more Japanese culture into our class to make it enjoyable, educational, and fun!
Teaching with both of my lead teachers has been very meaningful to me. I was very nervous when I started to work as a teacher, and even standing in front of the students and speaking loudly was intimidating. Thankfully, I’ve been learning a lot of things as a teacher and also growing as a person through working with them. I am in awe by how much their students love them, and their impact as teachers. From what I’ve seen, I feel a part of the reason students take Japanese class is because they enjoy learning Japanese with both Balsomico-sensei and Baleno-sensei specifically. It is from this observation that I have realized how creating a great relationship with students is also important to keeping them motivated in their Japanese studies.
We had a homecoming event in the community on September 21st. Shaler homecoming is a very big event, even in comparison to other nearby communities, and one of its main draws is its a grand street parade. We had a Japanese booth and sold “onigiri”, “maruyaki”, “matcha cookies” and “sushi rolls”. It’s organized by JNHS(Japanese National Honor Society) which is a Japanese club at Shaler Area High School. I also participated in the event and wore a Yukata, which is Japanese traditional summer clothing. I thought it was a great opportunity to show a lot of people who are living here what Japanese food culture is. Students were really enjoying it!
Spending my time with my host family.
I feel I’m very lucky to have my host family here. They have been very kind and nice to me, and the most blessed thing is that they accepted me not only as a guest but as a part of their family. They have been showing me around Pittsburgh and teaching me a lot of things that are related to Pittsburgh, English, culture, history… I have enjoyed my time with them very much.
When I am with them, they make me remember that I am here in the United States and I am making a difference at my schools; with all of life’s stressors it can be surprisingly easy to forget how important and meaningful that is. I really enjoy having dinner time with them as it gives us a chance to share stories and talk together. They support my new life in Pittsburgh and it is thanks to them I am able to enjoy every day. Thank you very much!!
Lastly, I would like to mention Japanese-Language Education Assistant Program (J-LEAP). I’m very glad that I got this wonderful opportunity to work as an assistant teacher in the US. Through J-LEAP, I was able to meet Year 9 members who work as assistant teachers all over the US, great teachers, and staffs who are involved in the program. They have all been very supportive and helpful, especially during hard times or difficult situations. It’s a genuine pleasure to be here with their support. I really appreciate it. Lastly, I would like to express my deep gratitude by saying thank you to Balsomico-sensei and Baleno-sensei.
Thank you very much for reading my report! Doumo Arigatou!