Archive for category Kawasaki Nova
I was not at my best after last evening’s festivities. Thankfully, my hangover headache went away just before my group kids class started.
Today was the first day of the new NOVA textbook. The new textbooks are currently only available for low level students, but we did receive a set of good lesson plans to use with the existing outdated textbook for mid and high level students. The new plans are a big improvement over some of the teacher created lessons that are currently being used. This should greatly cut down on lesson prep time and open up a lot of old lessons for students who are stuck in level.
So far there is a mixed reaction to the new textbooks and lesson plans. Students are not used to the new method, and don’t want to pay for new teaching material. Teachers who have created some of their own good lessons are not keen to follow a script in the classroom. Nobody likes change, but I think that when people get used to the new lessons they will like them.
I got training on the new teaching method today. NOVA is switching their system as of Friday. There will be a lot less preparation time with lessons, and also a lot less flexibility. This should ensure an even quality of lessons with different instructors, and a lot less thinking for us teachers. I am not sure how I feel about the change yet, but I am optimistic.
(2014 Update) The NOVA teaching method was long overdue for a change. The old method was based on an English textbook from the 1980’s used to teach English to immigrants in America. The pictures and dialogues were hilariously outdated. One lesson in particular was based around a letter written to a hotel to make a reservation in the future. Who makes hotel reservations by letter?
There were 40 lessons per level. Teachers were supposed to find some target language in the lesson material (usually grammar or vocabulary) and invent a situation where the student would use that language. The lesson often had little to do with the textbook material. Coming up with a situation and building a lesson around it was not always easy to do. Lesson quality and difficulty could vary wildly depending on the experience and creativity of the teacher.
The newer system was based on teaching a variety of language for a particular situation. The situations are usually common like choosing a restaurant, asking a friend for a favour, or hotel complaints. The lesson would introduce some vocabulary and sentences that could be used in the situation, and provided a chance to practice the new language. At the end, students were given different parts in a role play situation and had to use the new language.
The new lesson material was created by a team of experienced teachers, and provides templates and all needed material for better lessons. Since the lessons matched the textbook material, students could review outside of the classroom. It was a huge improvement for both teachers and students.
Today I went to NOVA’s Shinjuku head office for CAT training. CAT is NOVA’s level check system. I assume that CAT stands for something like “conversation ability test”, but with this company it could be anything.
NOVA divides students into different levels of ability, with 7 being the lowest level and 2 being the highest. There is no level 1 for some reason. Nobody really knows why, but the most common reason I have heard is that level 1 is equivalent to a native English speaker. Also, there are three divisions in level 7; 7C, 7B and 7A.
CAT is used when a new student joins NOVA, or when an existing student has been recommended for a level up. The training is used to make sure that level classification is consistent across different NOVA branches. During training we listen to examples of students of different abilities, and follow through the level assessment decision tree.
The system is actually pretty interesting. For a new student, you start with a brief conversation. Based on how they do, the next steps are some tasks using English and a situational role play. After the tasks and role play, the decision tree will tell the instructor which level the student belongs in.
My favourite role play situation is for level 5 – the student is on vacation and their luggage did not arrive. The instructor plays the airline staff. To successfully complete the situation, the student must inquire what happened to their luggage, when their luggage will arrive, and if the airline can do anything to help them in the meantime. I enjoy being the unhelpful airline employee.
There was a test at the end of training, which I think I might have failed. For some reason, every teacher from Kawasaki NOVA who has taken the test recently has failed. I am not sure if this says something about the training or my branch. (Probably the branch!!)
The insane scheduling continues! At the end of the day I had to stay an extra 30 minutes to finish writing my files.
After each lesson, teachers are required to evaluate the student’s performance during the lesson. There are a few categories to rank (vocabulary, pronunciation, etc), and then a space for comments. Proper comments should include specific references to both strong and weak points during the lesson, and to provide suggestions on how to improve. Good comments help the next teacher, and also provide information to the students if they request to see their files.
Writing a proper evaluation and comments can take some time. Naturally, doing evaluations and comments for four students takes four times as long.
In the evening classes, there are 10 minutes between lessons. During busy months like September, it is likely for a teacher to have four students in every lesson. If you get out of your lesson a few minutes late, it doesn’t leave much time to squeeze into the overcrowded teachers room, write comments, give files to the next teacher or put them away, and locate your next lesson’s files and room number. That time gets smaller if you need to take a bathroom break. The easiest solution is to write up the student’s files after the last lesson of the day.
Recently with all of the full classes I have been regularly spending time after the last lesson finishing up my paperwork. It’s no fun, but it needs to get done.
Once of the recent additions to Kawasaki NOVA is a teacher named Andrew from Canada. Unfortunately for him, I am already Andrew from Canada, and I have been around for almost a year now.
Teachers are usually referred to by their first names by students and staff. In the event that there are similar names, the country of origin comes into play. For example, a branch could have a British Steven and an Australian Steven. Having two Andrews from Canada is guaranteed to cause confusion.
I asked the secondary Andrew what his middle name was, and he said “Archibald”. I asked him if he was okay with people calling him “Archie”. He said yes.
Before he could ask why, I quickly went to the front office and asked the Japanese staff to change other Andrew’s name to Archie in the schedule system. Apparently I now have some level of credibility, because they made the change without question and without confirming with any of the supervisors.
Once again, I am the only and original Andrew from Canada. Victory!
Today was the opposite of yesterday. My afternoon was busy, but my evening was INSANE. So many students!!
September is the second busiest month at NOVA, and my afternoon was a good example. Lots of full classrooms, lots of new students. My evening was normal, which is to say busy for other branches.
January is the busiest month at NOVA. Apparently a lot of people decide they will study English as a new year’s resolution.