Day in the life - Crispin Chambers

12th September 2008 at 01:00
Head of Japanese at Tavistock College in Devon

I decided to return to the UK from Japan after the Kobe earthquake struck at 5.46am, January 17, 1995. It was terrifying - like our apartment block was being shaken by King Kong.

I'd been working for the Japanese government, but when I got back to Britain, I did a PGCE and got a job at Tavistock College, where Japanese was just being introduced.

We have more than 50 GCSE candidates every year, which is amazing when there are only about 800 nationwide. Last summer, GCSE results were outstanding, with 24 of the 55 candidates getting an A or an A*.

My first lesson today is oral work with Year 10s. Japanese only has five key sounds, so it's surprisingly easy to speak.

After break, I teach a Year 6 group from one of our feeder schools. I'm an Advanced Skills Teacher - the only Japanese AST in the country - and often work with local primaries. For this group, it's their first taste of Japanese, so we do the rituals, such as how to stand, bow and greet people. They enjoy the formality - it's so different from what they're used to.

During lunch, I meet the 30 pupils who are going to Tokyo in November to visit our partner schools. I'm trying to prepare them for a wonderful, life-changing experience. But there are worried faces when I explain how little personal space they'll have, and that their exchange partners may want to accompany them everywhere, even to the bathroom.

In the afternoon, I spend time with a new teacher who's joining our department. Then there's a staff meeting at which I'm able to report that one of our pupils has come second in the World Children's Haiku Contest.

After school, I do 80 lengths of the college outdoor pool and cycle home. The Japanese love endurance events and during my time there I got a taste for triathlons. I like a challenge.

Crispin Chambers, 45, was talking to Steven Hastings


1996-now: Head of Japanese, Tavistock College, Devon

1995: PGCE, Nottingham University

1993-1995: Civil servant, Kobe, Japan

1990-1993: MA, Japanese Studies, Sheffield University.

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