Akita – Bad, Good, Good, Newspaper and hospital

I need to write a book, and it will be really simple. “If you want your kids to have a good education, you have to have a good head teacher at their school.” I’ve visited however many hundreds of schools now and you can tell straight away what the kids will be like from the head teacher’s first greeting. Yesterday they were cool and the kids were brilliant. This morning however…. well I didn’t get a greeting at first, which is OK as head teachers are busy people. But we walked into the gym and they had a tiny CD player set up instead of the big speaker system. Even having explicit written instructions from the BOE, they still hadn’t prepared stuff! So I tried to wire something up with the big speakers, but they had it all messed up and it looked like they had already broken the system. It is annoying to see schools in Japan with equipment and teachers who never take the time to learn how use it. Whereas at the same time I get emails from all over the World from schools that are desperate for things like chalk or black & white photocopies of picture cards. Then the deputy head teacher said that the 3rd years won’t be attending, basically because the teacher didn’t want to bother! Again, I come up here for free, the BOE pays a lot of money for my travel expenses, parents are crying out for English education and some teachers just can’t be bothered.

But, for the kids you’ve just got to put all that to one side and give it your 100%!!! Which I did. But…. this was only the second time I’ve had a school where the kids didn’t cheer when I asked them to! Then the sound system wasn’t working at all, so I had to give up on the mic and just use my normal voice. Which is usually OK, but the teachers here just had no discipline and the kids were all over the place. Normally in that situation I’d stop, scrap the show and spend 30 minutes doing TPR type stuff to get them under control. Really that should be the teachers’ job, but I asked 3 times for the first grade teacher to help with some kids who were in danger of hurting themselves and they just sat there! So there was no way to do the What’s your name? song and I just went with the How are you? song, which doesn’t require organised chaos! But after an hour with no mic my voice was just about dead!


Given the rule, I had an idea what the head teacher may be like, and yes it was proved again today. He seemed a decent enough bloke, but a head teacher needs to have a spark to put the fire in kids’ eyes!

And I was feeling very drained! All day yesterday everyone was saying “aren’t you tired?” and with good shows I never am, you finish on a really great high note, and things are brilliant. But it’s shows like this that zap all your energy! And my lack of comments to the BOE people afterwards I guess added weight to the glowing reports I gave the schools yesterday!

But thank goodness the other two schools were like yesterday, absolutely brilliant!! The sound systems were all set up, the teachers were on top form and it showed in the kids who were just amazing.. They got the confidence bits down straight away and we had a right laugh going through all the jokes and stuff. Even the 6th graders were well into things, which is pretty cool! So luckily I ended up finishing the day really genkily! Then a quick chat to the Head of the Board of Education who seemed really cool, and took the time to check out this afternoon’s show ( and join in the Rock, Paper, Scissors song when the cameras weren’t on him!) : )

But…… after doing 3 shows, mainly due to the one without a microphone, my voice has really disappeared, I can hardly talk. So they took me to the doctors. Luckily though he said it’s just a cold, so hopefully things should be cool for tomorrow with 3 more schools, then a show and the main deal, the teacher workshop on Saturday, where NHK might be coming to film!

Oh, and yesterday’s shows got a pretty good write up in the papers!

Richard Graham

Hello, I'm Richard Graham. And when I was a kid I found school to be sooooo boring... So I transformed my way of teaching. I listened to what the kids were really wanting to say and taught it in ways they really wanted to learn. The results were magical. So I'm sharing it all with you now...