Noilly Prattle: Call Me Mr. B. – One

Friday, April 5, 2013

Call Me Mr. B. – One

Plymouth, MA Harbor and the Mayflower
      It all started in 1992 when I was working as a Special Needs Teacher in Kingston, Massachusetts, my home State. My wife, young son and I were living in Plymouth, a neighboring town, when my wife read about a new school in Japan that sounded like it was interested in setting up a curriculum that integrated Japanese and English, so I wrote to the director and asked him if he was looking for an English teacher with previous experience teaching in Japan.

the school
      The school already had an Australian guy I knew setting up an English program. The director was pushing the international angle in his public relations and hired me as well—to make me the foreign “face” of the school--as it eventually evolved. It soon became apparent, however, that there wasn't enough work for two English teachers and the school didn't really know what to do with me.

      I was in a unique position since, being a licensed teacher in the US, it turned out that the school was able to use my American teacher's license to obtain a Japanese teaching certificate. This put me on a par with Japanese teachers in terms of contract and salary conditions as well as assuming the responsibilities of a Japanese classroom teacher. I was able to take sole responsibility for my classes without having to have a Japanese co-teacher in the room. Not being compatible with co-teaching (too much ego) this was a golden opportunity for me to experiment without being under the watchful eye (and potential interference) of another teacher. But first, I needed the right situation.

in the stained glass studio - c. 1986
      The school suggested various alternatives to English classes to make fuller use of my time. One suggestion, which I felt was right up my alley, was to teach Art and tie it in with English using simple practical English for directions and vocabulary—a kind of low grade “immersion”. I agreed to set up and teach Art classes for Grades 2 though 6 and be phased out of teaching conversational English classes in two years and devote all my time to the Art/English class after that.

free form lamp - hydrangea with butterfly
      A little back- ground might help in making sense of why I felt comfort- able with doing an Art program. First of all, I've liked to draw since I was a child and have been drawn to various types of visual expression over the years: studied mechanical drawing in high school; took fine arts classes in college and art institutes; got interested in photography; studied Japanese Ikebana [生花]; did stained glass with a Japanese artisan [先生 sensei]. I felt that teaching an Art class might also stimulate me into expanding and exploring new dimensions in my own visual expression as well as developing lessons and techniques for turning kids on to their own potential creativity. As an extra added bonus, kids make a terrific captive audience for showing your work. For that matter, so does your own blog.

     (Who needs an art gallery?)

Ikebana for Xmas decoration

To be continued...

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