International Schools / Courses
Several schools in Toyama offer an International Course. This gives students with an interest in English and international issues a chance to develop this further. The students on these courses are usually quite motivated when it comes to learning English and are interested in meeting with and talking to ALTs. Therefore if you are teaching at a school with an International Course (IC), you will probably find that the IC students are the ones you know the best.
In my school, the IC course begins from the second year. Potential students for this course are those who have demonstrated high English skills especially during the first year and have expressed an interest in studying English. Since it’s very competitive, students do an interview after which the teachers select the top performers. At my school, the students are usually selected by the third tern in their first year.
Since this course becomes their specialty, students focus on a wide range of issues, with more frequency of English classes. For example, Cross Cultural Understanding, where we try to understand cultural trends and patterns and critically analyze them. Current English, where we discuss world issues and news, and Expressive English, where the focus is on communicating both through speaking and writing. Students are usually well-rounded by the end of the end of the second year. However, in the third year with the pressure of studies, the quality of work seems to drop. So, some schools offer a refresher course that will help them to feel prepared for the dreaded university entrance exams.
My school offers the students in the international course different chances to experience English in a “native setting”. Each year, students apply to be part of a homestay program for two weeks to a school in their sister city in San Francisco. Again, the program is on a competitive basis as the top 20 students get selected. The IC kids love programs like these as they get a chance to travel. They will work triple times as hard just to make sure that they get on this program! Also, students from this same school usually visit the school in Toyama each year on their study abroad program, so each student will eventually get a chance to be in a “native setting”. Your school will probably have something similar in place.
In the past, international high schools had two ALTs. However with the cuts this year you may find that you are the only ALT, or you have another ALT that visits for a few lessons per week (like my school), or you are in fact the ALT that visits an IC school a couple of times a week. You may teach entirely separate classes, or you may work together for example practicing interview tests with students during Eiken practice classes.
In theory, the kids that choose the IC are interested in English and will therefore be more motivated to learn and to interact with you. This is usually the case, but as always there will be a few kids who refuse to take part, interact, or show any kind of interest whatsoever. Don’t be disheartened though, as lessons with my IC students are usually my most rewarding as they are the ones who are most interested in life abroad and also foreign movies/music. Last year I had one student who would happily spend hours debating the British music scene with me! They will ask you questions and genuinely want to know about your life at home.