Born to Teach

By on May 7, 2014
Greg Selfe has three loves: his family, Japan, and teaching. Seven years ago, he owned two educational development companies in Vancouver, Canada which he sold to make a permanent move to Japan. His involvement in education did not end there. A few years after moving to Tokyo, he started Hello Kids Myogadani, a preschool and kindergarten in the education district of Bunkyo. TF talks to Greg to find out more about the school.


TF: Why did you start Hello Kids Myogadani?

Greg: Up to this point, I have been involved with education for over 10 years and being involved with this same industry in Japan has been a dream of mine for quite some time. After moving here, I focused on curriculum development (based on an international standard of childhood progression centered on early education: years 2-10, immersion-style teaching techniques, classroom development as well as perfecting my own personal teaching style through Hello Kids Setagaya, our Sister school). I never wanted to be the owner per se, rather a full time teacher of children between these ages and it was from this ambition and long-term vision that all of this started. I will always be a full time teacher at HKM for decades from this point as well.

TF:  What’s unique about HKM’s teaching approach?

Greg: It is called the thematic style, I like to call it immersion-style, both are one in the same. Students of any age need to maintain a steady and progressive level of advancement but to confuse or change a teaching direction within one day or even over one month can be detrimental to this goal. It is to this end that I have fully developed this immersion-style method at HKM which we use daily. It means each lesson and theme connects to many different activities throughout one day used as a means of review and challenge. Over months and years this method really helps our students not only learn, but practice their English in all types of natural and useful situations. From park-play and team games, craft and presentation time, worksheet and technical building time to free play and imagination time and so on – each day is very exciting for our students. We practice what they learn from our initial circle time – in 8 different ways throughout each class essentially ensuring each student can build a core-natural level of English comprehension, from listening and speaking, to reading and writing – everything comes together under this style.

TF: Tell us about the different classes at your school and who they are for.

Greg: We have several different classes at HKM. Our weekday morning Preschool class works with children from 2-4 years, our weekday morning Kindergarten class from 4-6 years and our After-school classes and Saturday class work with children from 3-10 years (which also includes our wonderful elementary student`s class).

TF: What’s the teacher-student ratio at your preschool class?

Greg: I don’t believe students can truly learn through this style without a healthy and comfortable level of communication with not only fellow students but teachers as well. We always maintain a 1:3 or 1:4 teacher to student ratio at our school especially during the weekday morning class programs.

TF: Tell us about the teachers.

Greg: I am the Principal and Owner but most importantly, I love and am thoroughly driven to teach which is the only reason I started this school almost 5 years ago now. I have hired a Manager to run our school`s operations so I can maintain this clear focus. I am one of the Main school afternoon class teachers and Head Teacher of our Annex school Kindergarten class.
Jeffrey Akiba is our Manager, he was born in the US but also grew up in Japan, so he really understands both cultures thoroughly. Jeffrey`s long-term goal is to manage his own Jr. High School English program so it is my commitment to help him with this dream in the future. He also loves to teach so during some afternoons, you will find him showing off his passion with the younger afternoon class students.
Hitomi Beckwith is Head Teacher of our Main school. Hitomi is from the Philippines but grew up entirely in International schools from 2-20 years. She is a dedicated and thorough teacher who truly loves to see children make progress week after week, a true asset to our team.
Natalie Olive is our Head Teacher of the Annex school afternoon classes. Natalie is from Australia and has been with me for 4 years now. She is a truly dedicated and mature teacher who finds meaning in every class she instructs. Students have become very fond of Natalie, often writing postcards to her when they travel abroad.
Christopher LeClair helps lead our Main school Saturday class. Christopher is a highly energetic and passionate teacher. We are very lucky to have him part of our team.
Cora Torazon also helps lead our Saturday morning class.  Cora is originally from the Philippines, but has lived in Europe and North America for a large portion of her life. She is an incredibly positive and innovative teacher who always provides exciting ideas and lesson plans for students to further build their interest in English.

TF: What can parents expect from your curriculum?

Greg: I have built our curriculum based on an internationally recognized standard for early childhood and childhood development. Our curriculum focuses on complete English comprehension, from reading and writing to listening and speaking skills development as well as natural level enhancement. Our curriculum also includes leadership training, problem solving, gross as well as fine motor skills development. As an example, to prepare our Kindergarten class students for Japanese or International Elementary school, our curriculum also covers the study of comprehensive science, geography, world and Japanese culture, mathematics and much more. Within our immersion-style environment, every student has a wonderful chance to stand out and challenge their imagination and overall abilities to the fullest.

TF: What’s a typical day like for regular preschoolers?

Greg: Classes start from 10am and end at 6pm, although students do arrive early and pick up later as well. Our morning class runs from 10am-2:30pm, our afternoon classes from 3-6pm.
Morning classes:
Broken down sequentially from 10am:  Free-play time is used to let students settle, it also gives them a great chance to finish their previous day`s project or try something new. We then move into circle time, worksheet time and park time before lunch. After lunch we have quiet story time, which then leads into craft time and presentation time before home time. The entire morning class is centred on one goal per day – students have a great many chances to practice and explore their day’s topic in many kinds of ways.  From 3pm we follow a similar routine to that of the morning classes, with the exclusion of lunch. Each component is made a little shorter but we still do cover a great deal in each class keeping each student incredibly inspired to learn more, further challenging themselves.

TF: You have just started a new kindergarten level. When do you start accepting kindergarten aged children?

Greg: Although our Kindergarten class has just started (April 1, 2014), we have 7 students enrolled already that have simply moved from our Preschool class. These students had been waiting for our Kindergarten class to open so we are very happy to provide them with a beautiful new learning space just 2 doors beside our Preschool. Students can join us anytime, at the beginning of the month or throughout the month. We usually have excursions every month around the 15th to allow our students to further practice their English outside of the classroom so if you were thinking to join us, before the 15th of each month would always be best as these are always a lot of fun. Student-to-student projects and presentations are another way to help practice and use the English we teach, Also, through our extensive relationship with the Tokyo Mothers Group, we will be conducting special pot luck days and other special events to give our students even more chances to interact with other similarly aged students from different countries. This really is a special class, well suited for students to prepare for elementary school. Whether students continue on from our Preschool class or join directly into the Kindergarten class, we maintain a continuation of our curriculum and class-quality throughout.

TF: Tell us about your upcoming music concert with Eric Jacobsen.

Greg: Having held one music concert in 2012 with Eric, it provided me a chance to see just how ambitious and confident our students have become – going on stage with us during song times and during our special play times as well. Continuing with community events like these are a very important part of just building a happiness and freedom around English I feel. The concert will be held on Saturday, October 14th at Bunkyo’s Sho Hall from 10-1130am. We expect 300 people to join us again for this event. Please contact us for more details.

TF: Do you offer special summer programs?

Greg: Yes, as you can see from some of the pictures included in this article, we offer a yearly summer camp program based from our Main and Annex schools (please contact us for exact information, summer camp is usually held from the last week of July to the first week of August). Students can attend all or even some of these days (1 day: 10am-3pm/7,560yen). We create our own crafts, conduct daily summer camp theme-based activities, experiment with water and ice, design and eat our own snacks and so much more. This very special program has built up a reputation over these past 4 years. We also offer a 1-week Canada excursion usually from August 2nd – August 10th – I take some of our students (6-10 years) to Canada during this wonderful, independence-building journey. We have many opportunities to interact and gain friendships with many Canadian friends of similar age through rock climbing, canoeing, hiking, horseback riding, low rope walking, craft and special activities which really fill up each day. This is always an incredibly memorable experience.

TF:  Do you have extended hours for working parents?

Greg: Yes, parents can drop off and pick up their son or daughter outside of our 10am-6pm class times. We simply need a phone call during that day, or to discuss a more permanent arrangement beforehand.

TF: Why should parents choose Hello Kids Myogadani?

Greg: We are a very dedicated team of teachers here. Being Principal and Teacher working amongst the team daily, every member is really here to play a crucial role in every student’s development – I wouldn’t want to work with anyone who didn’t feel this way. Our team, combined with our comprehensive curriculum, teaching style and overall fun and inspiring classes, special programs and excursions help to make us a leading school for lasting memories and overall development for every student. Speaking with any one of our students you can see the difference a positive, nurturing and progressive school can bestow on any child, or even peeking through our windows during class times, I’m sure you would be able to hear our students laughing and trying their best – our love of what we do is very easy to see everyday from Monday to Saturday.

Teaching from the heart…
Students gain a comfort and pride,
To try and succeed is to feel alive,
This is what I find special,
Effort always increases their level,
As a Teacher and father, I can see,
To care and support is to help believe,
Students can do it, let`s cheer them on,
Challenges are there to overcome.
by  Greg Selfe

To find out more about the school, check out:
Tel: (03) 5842-5811
Miyamoto Building 1F, 5-36-2 Koishikawa
Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 112-0002

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