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Showcase Joanne Sato

 

In this month’s Showcase, Joanne Sato shares her very rewarding experience of getting out of the classroom with her students and working with them on a stage.

Showcase

Joanne Sato

I work in the English department of a Catholic women’s college and have recently been involved with the English Speaking Society (ESS), which participates in an annual English play contest. The students’ obsession with Zac Efron and “High School Musical” prompted the choice of “Grease” for this year’s play. Elegant, willowy, quietly spoken Japanese women transformed themselves into slang talkin’ American teenagers, a fascinating and, at times, hysterical process—a process that started with the teachers up on the stage and ended with us sitting in the far corners of the auditorium, watching the students blossom into budding pronunciation coaches, make-up artists, dance teachers, and producers of their own version of 50s America.

We won three out of the four awards on offer, including best play. The emotions that I experienced that day were shocking in their intensity, beautiful in their shared nature, and powerful in their vindication of my past 10 years in Japan. Here is English in an EFL context with no textbook, being used to negotiate, motivate, encourage, design sets and costumes, coordinate dates, chat, tease, joke, sing, and cry. My colleague who has been involved with the play contest for many years always said ESS kept ELT alive for him and I am inclined to agree.

I believe this teaching opportunity outside the classroom has challenged me as a teacher—it has informed the continual regeneration of my classroom practice. While I may have given up many evenings, the rewards both personally and professionally have been huge. Where is English alive in and around your EFL classroom?

Joanne Sato works at Sakura no Seibo Junior College. She can be contacted at <sato-j@ssjc.ac.jp> and found twittering <@SugarJo>.

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