Hamamatsu – Teaching 1,500 kids!

This must be a record, teaching English to 1,500 kids in one day!!

First was a school with 600 kids. First impressions were good as the head teacher asked if he could speak a bit of English. However I then asked about what sort of lessons they do here and he said that they have 10 hours a year of “international understanding”, in which the children learn about Japanese culture. Hmmm.

But anyway the show was cool, the kids were a little tired, but with 600 kids it’s so easy to get a great atmosphere going and they got all the motivation stuff straight away, which is after all the most important.

Then off to the next school and that was brilliant. There were supposed to be 800 kids in this show, but they had decided to bring in all the kids from the neighbouring school to make it over 900 kids!! I was totally cool for that, if you’re going to break a record, you might as well do it in style! The two head teachers greeted me and they were fantastic, like a manzai group! We had a great lunch and they were totally into the whole international understanding thing, talking about lots of stuff and they were so positive.

This school also has 2 school mascots, which are two kids dressed up in huge costumes, and as it happens one is called “Gen” and the other is called “Ki”. They were so popular that they did a warm up routine before my show and the kids loved it!! I was also thinking of trying out the show with the video screens for the songs for the first time, but now with 900 kids and newspapers and a load of parents present then I figured it was probably best to play it safe and do the normal show. And things went really well. Just getting the kids genki is no problem when there are so many of them, even the 6th graders were going mad! The sound system was a little funny in that the speakers were only on the left hand side. The teachers who controlled the sound system were on the right hand side and as the kids were so loud they couldn’t actually hear the music, so kept turning it up and up! That was just crazy, and for the first time ever I had to ask to turn it down as combined with all the kids and the rain the sound was just too big!! I also planned to just do the cut down version of the show, rather than the super-duper mega version that the best schools can do, but I slightly over estimated the kids as they were really shattered at the end! So message to me; keep it short for schools that haven’t had many lessons before! But afterwards the kids came up and were totally tired, but mega excited, which was great.

So after all that it was the main even of the day with the teachers seminar. I only had an hour and a bit, but they had seen the show so knew the kids could do it. I started with my intro and warm up, then went into questions and answers. They asked pretty much the usual questions with just one new one “Why English and why not any other language first”? Good question! I also remembered my experience from the show and made everything as short and concise as possible. Anyone can do a 3 hour workshop, the trick is in knowing what to cut out to make it one hour long and today I think I pretty much got it right for the first time.

So after answering all their questions, and getting plenty of looks of relief and happiness for the solutions, I finished off with the war speech and some of them looked like they might cry. These schools had decided not to do full on English lessons, but it looks now like they might give it a try. One of the head teachers gave a great closing speech and everything was really cool. So eventhough I wasn’t 100% happy with how I did the shows ( ever the self punishing perfectionist), the teaching seminar I felt went just as it should, the teachers loved it, and that is a nice feeling.

So very tired I went back to the hotel and noticed a Subway right outside. A well deserved treat after giving 1,500 kids a head start and hopefully their teachers the confidence to continue!

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...