Today I decided to change my lessons in all of my classes, increasing the duration and range of games played. I have decided that not all games need to be tied into practice of English, as long as they serve the purpose of motivating the students to develop their language, cognition, social, motor, and various other skills that will be of use in the future. This ties into my plan to create an educational environment which will encourage creative and critical thinking, with the ultimate goal of providing my kids with the tools to learn on their own, and to motivate themselves independently of the curriculum based education.
I am quite happy with most of my shogakko lessons, and the kids still have a spark in their eyes and WANT to learn more English. The Hoikuen kids also like English lessons, but they forget everything rapidly, and many of them can't yet speak Japanese!
I think the best thing I can do for my kids is to support them in enjoying their childhood experiences. I believe that with positive associations, my kids will turn out better in the longrun if I concentrate on important areas and cut down on unnecessary educational activities. This is my way of upping the quality and cutting away the excess quantities. They will have plenty of time to vegetate and to perfect their techniques to deal with rote, mindrotting work when they reach Chugakko.
As for Chugakko, the best I can do (since we have to stick to the text and do boring drills to prepare for the outdated entrance exams) is to concentrate on the students whose interests in English and foreign cultures have not completely collapsed, and hopefully make a small difference. It is discouraging to note that with the jump from Hoikuen to Shogakko and from Shogakko to Chugakko, the rate at which the students pick up English dramatically decreases. This in itself is not necessarily bad, but the plunge in morale as Chugakko progresses is indeed a sad, sad thing to witness.
There is hope at the end of the tunnel, though. After teaching High Schoolers this summer, I found many of them to be highly enthusiastic and hungry to learn English. This is also true of many college students who I have met. I know that my kids have the potential to become truly engaged in the pursuit of real education, and hope that that potential comes to fruition. This years work is indeed cut out for me. I will do my best.