2019 J-LEAP Report: Madoka Tsuchiya


BY Madoka Tsuchiya

Kearny High School
Kearny, NJ

Hello from New Jersey! My name is Madoka Tsuchiya and I am an assistant Japanese teacher at Kearny High School. I’m currently teaching Japanese with my lead teacher, Davis Sensei. Today I would like to talk about my school, what I do, and what I want to do.
My school
Kearny High School is located just 16km (about 10 miles) from New York City and we can see a beautiful view of the entire Manhattan skyline from the windows of the school.  Just as New York City has a great diversity of people, I should say the U.S. itself, is referred to as a melting pot.  My students come from many different backgrounds. Many of my students have roots in latin American countries and they are bilingual speakers of Spanish or Portuguese.  I think this gives them greater flexibility for learning a new foreign language. This year, there are 90 students in Japanese class from 9th to 12th grade. There are a variety of reasons that they chose to study Japanese as their world language.  For example, many like Japanese Anime, or they are interested in Japanese cars, or they are just curious and have no specific reason. For students with  “no specific reason”, the Japanese class will be their first experience with Japan. I’ll be here only for 2 years, but I’d like to provide many chances for our students to get close to Japan and broaden their horizons as much as possible.
What I do
Just as my students have different backgrounds, Davis Sensei and I have different backgrounds. I am a native Japanese and have a lot to offer about real Japanese life and culture like Shodo, Japanese calligraphy. And Davis sensei  has 16 years of experience in Japanese-language education and knows how to motivate students to study. We believe in taking advantage of each other's experiences and characteristics that would be beneficial to make a wonderful class. Also thanks to the Japan Foundation and the Laurasian Institution, they provide us with training about lesson planning and advise us how to make co-teaching more effective. Now we are starting to make materials for lessons and I enjoy it.

The main job of the Japanese-Language Education Assistance Program (J-LEAP) is teaching Japanese language. In our class, I encourage the students to speak only Japanese. Also, I share school work responsibilities with my lead teacher, for example making quizzes or tests, grading students’ work, and  helping students before and after school.

I sometimes have time to introduce special topics about Japan.  We call it 'Bunka', which means culture. I choose the topic from Japanese websites or youtube,and make the content easy to understand and appropriate to high school students. I try to choose unique topics which cannot be found in published text books or is not familiar in the U.S.. This semester, I taught about 'Rental girlfriend business', 'Japanese school lunch and cleaning system' and  'Halloween in Shibuya'. I enjoyed the student’s reactions and received feedback, which I didn't expect. For example, about the school system, some students said the school lunch system takes too much time and cleaning their school is not suitable work for children. It was outside of my expectations. I found that I teach but I also learn from them a lot and gain new perspectives.

What I want to do
There are two goals that I would like to challenge myself with moving forward.  The first is to make a connection with a school in Japan. For example, If each student has a language exchange friend in a Japanese high school, it would be a good opportunity to use Japanese outside the classroom.  Also it would be a great opportunity if my students could collaborate with other Japanese learners, like the high school students of other J-LEAP 9th year members. I would like to motivate students to enjoy using Japanese as a communication tool. The second is to visit other Japanese classes. I have already visited some high schools to see and join their Japanese classes. I learned some new techniques and teaching methods from other teachers and it was useful. Also I would like to join workshops or conferences to deepen my knowledge of education. There is a lot I need to learn.

I'm here to teach Japanese, but I also want to teach something more, such as helping students to develop their ways of thinking, and cultivate communication skills from the perspective of globalization using Japanese language as mechanism. What they learn could  change the world. They are students and also pre-adults who have a lot of possibilities in their future. I want to contribute in any way possible, even if I am only a tiny part of it as a Japanese teacher. This challenge has just started and there is no correct answer.  But I am sure I can find some good answers as I collaborate with my lead teacher and my students who teach me the way to be a teacher everyday.

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