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re: paul's post

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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Posts: 24
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 3:00 am    Post subject: re: paul's post Reply with quote

Hey Paul, just wanted to clear up the mud a bit. I never said "act like a clown." I was teaching at an Eikaiwa, and the student I was referring to was in a "housewive's class" where not only her but her other three classmates told me that they didn't want to learn, they wanted to chat and nothing more. I could have stressed it and ended up having all of them quit because they were not spending their afternoons enjoyably. I chose not to. I understand your frustration at teachers who want to be as lazy as possible. Did you read where I wrote "Help those who want to learn"? That's what I did.
I always prepared for my classes, if for no other reason than that going into an unprepared class is torture. I didn't do that to myself or to my students. When they didn't want to learn grammar or vocab or listening we focused on culture, and yes we didn't try to race the clock because they, my paying students, didn't want that.
I know where you are going with your post but I resent being told that I was a lazy teacher. I was in my school between 11-12 hours per day, every day. Maybe the one thing I did differently than what you would advocate is that I chose not to bang my head against a brick wall.
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Joined: 28 Jan 2003
Posts: 4672
Location: Western Japan

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 7:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You never said you were performing like a clown. Maybe not in so many words but this is what you did say:

"Then again, I was supposed to play the pop star for others of my students.

How I pray do pop stars act? Most of the ones i have seen use dramatic wide gestures, are gregarious people who love being in the spotlight. Not much different from teaching, if you ask me.

Is playing the pop star such a bad thing? As long as the students are speaking english, making progress all power to them. In my classes I try to take the emphasis off me and get all the students doing the work- student centered learning, developing autonomy indpendent of the teacher etc. If they dont want to learn well tough. I wont pass them.

Basically, if you teach in Japan you will be all over the place. As you will never fit in anyway and many students are paying simply to watch an alien perform"

Im not sure If Im losing something in the translation here but you are implying that the teacher is supposed there for the entertainment of the students, an alien performer, a dancing seal, what have you. By th nature of this job you are supposed or required to do something different than the 'chalk and tall' or lecture style of the traditional Japanese classroom. Call it a performing seal, dancing bear, clown, performing alien, whatever thats the message i get.

Were any of your teachers at home expected to behave like foreigners do in a language classroom? Then again many of your university teachers are not etaching english in japan and have a different way of getting their message across.

Anyway we are probably talking apples and oranges here as the needs of your students and mine. Your students see English as a bit of a diversion, a break from the husband, are paying their own money and expect to be entertained by the gaijin. If you can not fail students or

My students have to work for their grade and although the class focusses on fun and being enjoybale, the students know at the end of the day they learn something. thay have to attend class and perform if they want to get a passng grade. Maybe not so possible in an conversation class where the customers do what they want.

If I inferred you were lazy I apologize, however Glenski and I have seen teachers who put on a full-length movie for their student so they can go out and read the paper, get students doing exercises and drill so they can read time Magazine during class or go out for a cigarette. Teachers come to Japan and bleat about their lousy work conditions and low pay but will not do anything about getting extra training so they can get better jobs or become better teachers. Does NOVA or GEOS have a library of teaching resources that teachers use? Are there training tapes or videos? What do most conversation teachers do to increase their teaching skills? How many conversation school teachers attend seminars and courses at your school? I can introduce you to many, if you are interested.

Im not saying that is you but the large majority will tell you they came for the money, the culture, the travel, the women, low stress and the marked lack of using any brain power (EFL is not rocket science etc). the less they can get away with in class the better. Teaching in a professional manner or concern for their students comes way down the list.

Just when you said 'take it easy' and 'Go easy on her class' thats the inference I got. You are not being paid to be popular or be their friend. You are being paid to teach them. You dont have to act like a school master all the time but if you give them an inch they will take a mile if you ask me, and you will simply be remembered as 'yasashii' and shinsetsu' rather than a good teacher that helped them learn.

Just my two cents worth.

PS My teaching environment is probably different than yours thus the gulf in perception. A lot will depend on the needs and goals of your students but i dont think you are really doing them any favors in the long run.

PS In an afterthought to your last post about not understanding your students- do you also speak their language i.e Japanese? Knowing how students think and how they approach the task of learning English is made far easier by you having been up that road yourself i.e. actually knowing what it feels like to be a student learning a foreign language. Often the best teachers are the ones e.g. non-native speakers who know where the students are coming from.

Do you speak any japanese at all and if so at what level? What is your language learning background?
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Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 11:54 am    Post subject: my story Reply with quote

If I may add a few notes from my language school experience...

I recall at least 3 classes that quite clearly did not want to study English grammar. One was super low level, one was intermediate, and the other was high-intermediate. The classes all were required to use a text book, which students purchased (so producing a grammar lecture followed by some practice activities was no surprise).

However, in each case, students didn't like lessons, whether I taught them or another teacher did. These same lessons were given to other classes of equal ability, and they excelled in stimulating students and having them work together to practice spoken English.

The 3 classes I mentioned above were among the hardest to "teach". Students whined or pouted every time something was put in front of them to drill or practice. They only wanted to chat, and usually only to ME! I even rearranged the tables & chairs one day so they could work in groups, and by the time I'd gone to my office to collect my teaching materials and returned, I found one class in the middle of putting the tables back into a horseshoe shape. I stopped them and said this was so they could work together more effectively. One 50-ish housewife literally moaned when she said, "But we want to talk to YOU!" (a direct quote that still burns in my mind)

As a result, I compromised a bit on teaching them, but here's the main point I want to make. In each class, whenever a new student signed up, he/she left inside 3 weeks even though he/she had signed up for 3 months. They just didn't like the lack of real teaching (or should we say real learning atmosphere?) that they'd expected when they forked over their money. This loss amounted to substantial money to the company, and despite my appeals to the staff, nothing changed. I suspect they were too stubborn in their traditional ways, and didn't want to lose the current (few!) idiotic students that didn't want real teaching. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But, I maintained my teaching methods about 75% of the time until the end of my stay at that school. In one class, this went on for 3 years!!!! What a shame, not only for me, but for ALL of the students.
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David W

Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 457
Location: Japan

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 1:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're working in an eikaiwa your number 1 priority, overriding everything else is to make sure the students you have now keep coming. If they're coming, they're paying.That means do whatever it takes to keep those students there. Be a clown, a professor, a martinet, a counsellor, whatever, just do it well and don't let them quit. Remember the customer is always right and if they wanna spend the 50 minutes listening to you rabbit on well it's up to them. In eikaiwa you've gotta know what motivates every one of your students, you've got to get to the bottom of why they want to study English. Eikaiwa is not and will never be about what the teacher wants. It's absolutely student driven.
Obviously you can't keep everyone happy 100% of the time and students will quit for any number of reasons so you absolutely must be flexible. One student leaving and another joining can completely change the dynamics of a class. The good news, in my experience, is that most of your students want you to be a teacher but you must be prepared for those classes where motivations other than learning English draw people to your class.
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Posts: 24
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello again all. Paul, just to be clear I left Japan in August of 02, after finishing a one-year contract. In answer to your question, I was studying Japanese through the Kumon system which is great if your focus is Kana. I learned Katakana and Hiragana and took the 500 basic Kanji test (and passed). I learned more practical (for me) material by taking a conversational Japanese course the year I was there. Basically my experience confirmed my suspicions that the majority of Japanese are visual learners, not in small part due to their Kanji-writing system of learning in school. I tried to work with that a little. I had some plays (one Charlie Brown play particularly worked well) which we would "perform" in class. The purpose was to start where they were comfortable (reading) but rapidly progress into some sort of oral communication. The easy humor quickly broke down barriers and led to good discussion of meaning, "western" humor and culture. Of course the idea did not work for my housewives but many other classes found it enjoyable and rewarding.
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Posts: 24
Location: Alberta, Canada

PostPosted: Fri Feb 07, 2003 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PS My teaching environment is probably different than yours thus the gulf in perception. A lot will depend on the needs and goals of your students but i dont think you are really doing them any favors in the long run.

Of course I was not doing them any favours. However, I was not a missionary sent to convert their heathen learning ideas. As paying adults capable of making their own decisions I gave this one over to them.

Quick addition - you asked about my language learning background. I am Canadian and as such had to study french from grade school through to university. As well, my parents spoke only German at home when I was younger so entering kindergarten was a bit of a shock because I really couldn't understand what was going on (my parents love to tell the story of me angrily asking "Why are you looking at me so very?!"). Of course me learning English as a child in an English speaking country is vastly different from the experiences of EFL learners abroad, but yes I do have some personal experience with language learning, even the one I taught in Japan.

PS Quote Buttons-can't seem to get the darn things right. Hope you get what I'm trying to say.
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