From Web to Iwate: The Tohoku Virtual English Class Trip

Kaitlyn Wu (Grade 10) reflects on the Tohoku Virtual English Class’ (TVEC) October 13-15 trip to Iwate, where they met with and taught their students in person.

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The Tohoku Virtual English Class (TVEC) is a group of  ASIJ middle school and high school students that teach English to fifth and sixth grade students from different schools in the Tohoku area. TVEC started four years ago as a way for ASIJ students to offer support for recovery after the 3/11 Tohoku earthquake and aftermath. The class has continued to grow ever since. This October, five tenth grade TVEC members, Hana Schulz, Anzu Kinoshita, Samantha Walker, Emma Anderson and myself, as well as two advisors, Ms. Auckerman and Ms. Hakone, had the opportunity to travel to Iwate Prefecture to visit Sakari Elementary School, the first school to coordinate with TVEC for English lessons and cultural activities.

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As a club that offers lessons virtually through Skype, there are a few limitations on how we teach the topics and how our students learn. However, given the opportunity to travel and teach our students face to face, we were able to interact with the kids on a more personal level, do group work, mini presentations and improve their English in new and fun ways. We were also lucky enough to talk to Mr. Urashima, one of the first teachers to accept the virtual English class. Talking with him gave us insight on the hardships and struggles with arranging and creating an educational program for kids.

When we weren’t teaching, we had time for excursions and to experience local culture. Visiting scallop farms on thePacific Ocean side of Iwate was an adventure. We learned how scallops grow by joining fishermen on their boats, and also what was done to help restore the ocean after the earthquake. It was a really eye opening experience. It was also wonderful to catch a local festival that we didn’t plan on seeing. It allowed us to celebrate with the community and learn a little more about their culture. Lastly learning calligraphy, a beautiful aspect of Japanese culture that we don’t get to experience often, was a great way to end our trip.

Going to Iwate was such a fun and rewarding experience. It’s not very often that you get the opportunity to do so much outside of school and teach kids at the same time. A big thank you all the advisors, Mr. Mita (former ASIJ staff) and Dr. Thornton (Deputy Headmaster), who founded the program and made all of this possible.

Learn how TVEC had started and what students thought about the program by downloading our multi-touch book!