It is that time of year again. It is time for a few of our students to finish their journeys with us here at COPICS.
The month of March is always bittersweet. Longtime friends finish their time with us and move on to the next chapters of their lives.
For our ninth graders, their journey was a long one. Many of them started attending our school from the first grade or earlier. They have studied English for many years with us and have achieved a high competency in speaking, reading, writing, and listening in one of the most widely used languages in the world. Some of them will move on to high schools elsewhere here in Japan, but most of them will go to America.
For this graduating class, preparation for studying abroad in the USA truly began when they were in the sixth grade. Their English curriculum was changed to the same textbooks native English speaking students in America use. The change can be very difficult for some. It is in a sense a trial by fire. Many students who had done well in English class up until that point all of the sudden cannot achieve the high scores on tests like they used to. They can struggle with their emotions as they come to grips with this new reality.
But they persevere and they overcome these challenges. As a teacher, it is an incredible sight to see. They surmount these hardships. We teachers constantly encourage them. Some students many times will say they cannot do it; it is hopeless. We tell them they can do it. Slowly but surely, the seeds of confidence are planted within them, and they begin to sprout. The students try a little harder, they get better results on tests. They try a little more, and things begin to make sense. Learning new vocabulary, spellings of words, or grammar concepts becomes that much easier.
Then they graduate to junior high, and that is really where they take off and fly. They go through this same process in the seventh and eighth grades. By the time they reach ninth grade, they are fully confident in their abilities. In this final year, they practice everything they have learned while adding to their experiences certain abstract concepts of the English language. They learn not just what to say or not say, but how to say things in a better way. They learn how to better communicate clearly and to avoid speaking in a way that is vague and confusing; these are problems many Americans themselves struggle with.
Aside from learning English, our junior high school students also must study science. Because the systems of high school in the USA and Japan are different, our students must begin studying first year American high school science from the eighth grade. In this class, they must put their English ability to use. They must learn how to sift through a vast amount of technical text to find relevant information for quizzes and tests. On some of those tests, they must write essays explaining scientific concepts in-depth. This is not just about writing correct words, but also demonstrating that he or she truly understands the scientific ideas behind what they are writing about.
We teachers at COPICS are truly blessed with the opportunity to teach some incredible girls and boys. We watch them grow not just academically, but as individual persons as well. Our graduating class of 2021 are wonderful students. They are funny, intelligent, and they have matured greatly, perhaps more than they realized themselves. We hope we will always maintain a connection with them no matter where they go or what they become. Our job is finished. Now it is time to see them off as they embark on their next adventure in their journey to adulthood.