One of my favourite things in my classroom is a cork board which hosts dozens of pictures from around the world. I have a passion for photography and travel, and a few years ago I realised that the bare walls of the Nagaokakyo school were the perfect canvas for displaying some of my favourite travel snaps, from my home country in the UK, from exotic places such as Angkor Wat and of course from around Japan. But as is so true with much of language teaching, it’s always better to give the opportunity to contribute to the students themselves, so I started pinning up students’ travel photos and they now dominate the cork board.
Most students love to go over their travel photos in class, and so whenever someone went away somewhere I used to ask them to give me a copy of their best picture. Now thanks to the proliferation of digital cameras, all they have to do is send them by email and I can print them off in the classroom. As a result I’ve received pictures from some fascinating places: all around Europe including France, Italy, and the World Cup in Germany; the USA including a lovely shot of the Grand Canyon; Australia, New Zealand and some very appealing Pacific Islands; some far-flung places in Japan – my favourite being the huge Jumon tree in Yakushima – as well as other interesting places around Asia such as the Xinjiang-Uyghur region of North West China.
Perhaps the most unusual picture though was from a trip one of my students took to North Korea! It makes you realise just how interesting the students at a Smiths School of English can be, and the cork board has become a great source of discussion for many classes. I would recommend every classroom getting one.