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Help Towards More Culturally Responsive Classroom Management
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Mr_Monkey



Joined: 11 Mar 2009
Posts: 661
Location: Kyuuuuuushuuuuuuu

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 5:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

aynnej wrote:
Thanks for posting this, japanology. As others have said, it's very interesting. I had a similar problem this last academic year at a private Jr/Sr High School. I don't know that I can offer any advice on creating a more culturally aware classroom, but I can relay a few class management tricks that helped me improve my situation (albeit ever so slowly) over the course of the year.

I taught grades 9, 10 & 12 (Jr High 3, HS 1 & 3). In the 9th grade class, there was a JTE present with me at all times. In the 10th grade classes, the JTE had to split her time between two native-taught classes. I was alone with the 12th grade class, but they were motivated students studying TOEIC prep, so I never had any problems with them whatsoever. I taught Oral Communication to the 9th and 10th graders. As in your case, the students considered it a "fun" class and tended not to take it seriously. Another challenge was I only taught at this school once a week, so it took longer to get to know the students and establish some consistent routines (this was a part time job on one of my days off from my eikaiwa job). But I understand from FT ALT's that teaching at a particular school only once a week (or less!) is pretty common.

In my 10th grade classes, there was a clear improvement in classroom discipline when the JTE was present. I definitely understand the situation you describe, with the students being better behaved in the classes taught by Japanese personnel.

So, here are the "tricks" I used:

1. I used a timer to control warm-ups and guided/free practice. I rarely let any exercise go beyond two minutes.

2. I put the students in pairs/small groups myself, and forced them to switch partners at least once. It takes a few minutes to do this, but after a couple of classes they'll understand the English you use ("You're A, You're B," or with hand motions "Pair, Pair, Pair, Group of three," etc.), and you can do this quickly. I found that if I let them choose their own partners, they'd just mill about and speak in Japanese. Plus, by changing where they sit, I could break apart the trouble makers.

3. I used rewards and punishments. This was tough, as I didn't have much input as far as grades were concerned, but it wasn't impossible. The grades for the O.C. classes were based on attendance and the results of five interview tests given over the course of the year (which they couldn't fail -- the lowest grade was a "D-"). In cases of really bad behavior, I could have the JTE take away the student's attendance point, which I did do a handful of times. But on a daily basis, I used rewards and punishments that relied on their more immediate desires/fears (desire to be accepted by their peers, fear of looking foolish, etc.).

3.a. I bought a fuzzy die at the 100-yen store. If I heard a student speaking in Japanese during warm-up/free practice time, the student would have to stand, roll the die, and answer that number of questions in English.

3.b. If a student consistently spoke in Japanese, I had a "special seat" in front of the whiteboard where they'd have to sit. Then, they would be my partner.

Three A and Three B became a kind of joke, with the other students laughing and saying things like, "Oh, Yoshi, you sit in the special seat!" I think that's important, because there is a danger of ostracizing/dehumanizing the student, if a teacher via his/her demeanor is too strict. In that case, I imagine these things might backfire. The class might clam up entirely and turn against the teacher. Maybe they'd be well-behaved, but they probably wouldn't learn much English.

3.c. We clapped. It's a small thing, but it worked. At the end of each exercise, I'd have a pair stand in front of the class and demonstrate whatever we were doing. Then, we'd clap. By the end of the year, the students were jokingly clapping all the time and telling each other "Good job!" in nearly perfect North American accents.

3.d. I gave stickers. Yes, I know we shouldn't have to basically bribe students to do what they should do anyway. But it was a negligible amount of cost/effort that saved me a huge amount of heartache. A lot of my fellow teachers have said that their Jr./Sr. HS students would scoff at stickers as being for children, but I found that, even if they outwardly shunned the stickers, they secretly wanted them. Especially when you and the class clap every time one is handed out. Smile

4. I made them accountable for classroom English. At the beginning of the year, I made a handout of classroom English with Japanese translations. When a student looked at me with that deer-in-the-headlights look or gave me the "Eh??" or "Wakanai!" I'd pull out the Classroom English sheet and point to the sentence I was using.

5. I utilized the JTE's as much as possible and asked for their help. Sometimes, if their English wasn't that good, I wouldn't really want them doing the pair work with the students directly, but they could still monitor them, give hints, etc.

In the case of my 10th graders, I asked the JTE to switch the times she came to my class (sometimes at the beginning, sometimes at the end), and pointed out the students who were misbehaving so she could monitor them.

In one of my 9th grade classes, I had a problem with a group of baseball players. They refused to do the pair work, knocked books off from desks, "play" fought. Part of the problem was that the JTE was fresh out of college and not very assertive. Plus, he was physically smaller than some of the baseball players. I told him in the U.S., those students would be sent to the principal's office. And that someone could get hurt. He spoke with his supervisor, then the next week told me "I didn't need to worry about those students." Basically, he said it was okay if they didn't participate. They were extremely disruptive, though, so I persevered, told him we had a duty to provide a safe classroom, we are the adults and are responsible for the students, etc. He gradually became more assertive, we took away attendance points, I had them sit in different sections of the classroom. The situation still wasn't ideal, but it did improve.

Sorry to go on and on. Not sure if this is exactly what you were looking for, but hopefully you'll find it helpful.

I don't have any advice about not being a "clown" in the classroom. Personally, I've made my peace with this role -- I have no qualms about using fuzzy dice and stickers in the classroom. When I remember my school years, the best teachers were the ones who had engaging lessons, so I don't really see my tactics as being being juvenile, just hopefully engaging. In my opinion, professionalism comes from dedication, regardless of the teaching methods one uses.
This.

There's more than a fair share of common sense in the quoted post. I would summarise it as work with not against.

However,

Kionon wrote:
Japanology wrote:
Sounds very interesting. I want to know how Nihonjinron effects MOE language policy. Maybe we can compare notes. I'll show you my thesis if you show me yours? What is Kokutai?


...Oh boy. What is kokutai? That's pretty much what my thesis tries to answer. Literally it means "Country Body" (国体). There's no simple answer. However, some of the ways it has been described: "State Shinto," "National Polity" "Essence of National Structure" "Unity of Religion and Government" "Emperor System"

Almost all conceptualisations of kokutai from 1825 to 1945 rely on an understanding of Japan's unique creation by creator kami, and its imperial line being founded by the sun goddess Amaterasu Omikami. Further, all of the Japanese people were descended from other kami in the service of Amaterasu Omikami. This literally would make everyone in Japan part-god. In the earliest versions of kokutai, there was this idea that while Japan's kokutai was best, every nation had a kokutai. From the late 1800s on, there were various Imperial Rescripts on Education where education of the masses (unknown during the feudal periods) were to be in the spirit of kokutai. By 1920, there were vigorous debates among Taisho scholars as to the meaning of kokutai and how it fit into the Meiji Constitution, however there were few people who believed that any nation had a kokutai except Japan, that kokutai was itself Japanese. In 1925 it became illegal to say otherwise. And in the 1930s the textbook Kokutai no Hongi was handed out to school children, which explained the most radical ultranationalist version of kokutai conceptualised and I feel was largely used to justify the Mukden Incident, Manchukuo, and later the actions of the Pacific War...
This is also very interesting.

I've personally (i.e. not through any particularly principled research) come to the conclusion that one of the primary functions of the Japanese compulsory English curriculum is to reinforce national identity through the teaching of a foreign language.

It explains a great deal:
  • The status of the foreign teacher/assistant/face as often little more than a "human tape recorder", or, even worse, the "Genki Gaijin" who bounces off the walls and entertains the kids, infantilising the foreign.
  • The incredibly limited exposure to natural L2.
  • The stereotypical reliance on Japanese as the medium of instruction.
  • The reliance on (utterly, utterly inadequate but very extensive) dictionaries: FLs need to be difficult in this model of education.
  • The absence of a requirement for demonstrable L2 proficiency in the teachers.
  • The focus on translation and memorisation of lexically useless items over functionally useful language for the contexts that most Japanese will actually encounter.
  • The use of katakana to render the foreign script - a way of appropriating the language for one's own ends.
  • The lack of focus on the pragmatics of English - even down to the level of teaching kids to say "I have a question!" while sticking their hands in the air - I know you have a question; your fucking hand is in the air.
  • The ridiculous potted situations where the main protagonist in the textbook (the linguistically and culturally ambiguous "Ken") seems to do nothing but explain the most utterly banal aspects of Japanese culture to a foreigner. "We Japanese take our shoes off when entering a house." No shit, Sherlock...
  • The foreigner is there to do we-don't-know-what-but-certainly-not-stay-forever.

I would suggest that none of these make sense unless the goal is not for the kids to learn English but to learn to be Japanese.

If we work with such a system of language teaching, do we not, in effect, become the instruments of the goals and practices we dislike?
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 9:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr_Monkey,
You are entirely welcome to think as you wish, but I seriously doubt that there is any conscious effort at play here to retain J identity in many of the points you made.

Katakana use as a ploy to retain identity? No. It's an alphabet system they developed, and because their own language lacks phonemes it's their only way to express phonics.

Relying on expensive and extensive dictionaries a guise to keep J identity? No, just a marketing product with tons of information crammed in them. Are they being used well? No, I agree with that, but it's not because they want students to keep some kind of self identity; it's because nobody teaches them to use them properly.

Focusing on grammar-translation is not a ruse to keep J identity. It's a traditional method of teaching that they cannot shake because it's part of their culture. It is not designed to maintain the cultural identity. It's an ineffective way of teaching certain concepts like foreign languages, and in this case it's kept because they can't get rid of entrance exams, not J identity.

J identity was actually felt like it was being lost recently (a few years ago). That's why school policies changed to adopt certain courses to help students retain their cultural image by teaching patriotism, and some thought it was more a strategy to teach them nationalism instead.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6669061.stm
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OneJoelFifty



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 11:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I can see the influences of Japanese identity in the junior high textbooks, but I don't think it's part of an overall policy to teach English to enable the spreading of the gospel of Japan. Japan is a very unique country that many foreign people know little about, and I'd expect Japanese people to realise this and have elements of explanation in their English program.

When you think about it, what are people from two different countries likely to be interested in and talk about when meeting for the first time, anyway? The textbooks also contain a lot of information about English-speaking countries, I'd say a fair balance.

The second reason I don't believe it's a policy that's having a direct effect on teaching (even if it is the goal at the very top level), is that it gives far too much credit to the Japanese beaurocratic system. Local branches of government can't even get consistency in their practices between schools in the same town, let alone implement something effectively across the country.
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Kionon



Joined: 12 Apr 2008
Posts: 226
Location: Kyoto, Japan and Dallas, Texas

PostPosted: Wed May 23, 2012 11:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think the influences of nihonjinron or kokutai (which would probably be placed under nihonjinron now) on the Japanese educational system are ones that are intentional. At least not by most involved. There isn't any conspiracy. However, to argue that kokutai is dead as some scholars both in Japan and in the West sometimes like to argue, I think is just false. It's just very, very subtle.

The way most Japanese view Japanese itself as an extremely difficult language that any foreigner who learns it must be exceptional (frankly, I find Japanese syntax to be pretty simple and generally straightforward--writing is where things get crazy). The idea that the Japanese national and ethnic identity has no room for racial others (which is a fairly new idea, late Meiji, through Taisho, and then heavily propagandised in early Showa*). Even the peace movement in Japan. If you read some of their tracts, it comes off as though the problem with the actions in second world war were not problematic because Japan tried to take a leading role in world affairs ("the whole world under one roof"), but rather that it lead the world in the wrong direction... it is Japan's actual divine mission to be the epitome of pacifism, and if everyone will just act like Japan, war would stop...


*One of the officers involved in the Mukden Incident, Ishiwara Kanji, even publicly broke with Tokyo once he was informed that new territorial possessions would not be afforded equal status with the Naiichi (or Japanese central islands) and that their peoples would not be treated as equal Japanese citizens. Ishiwara's objections were so strong and public against an expansion in Asia and in opposition to Pearl Harbor that Tojo actually placed him under house arrest. A "hero" of the Mukden Incident, Tojo could not spend the political capital to execute him, although the research I've done strongly suggests Tojo wanted to.
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Tsian



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 85

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 12:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OneJoelFifty wrote:
Japan is a very unique country that many foreign people know little about, and I'd expect Japanese people to realise this and have elements of explanation in their English program.


But can't this be equally said about almost any country?
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OneJoelFifty



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 463

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 1:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tsian wrote:
OneJoelFifty wrote:
Japan is a very unique country that many foreign people know little about, and I'd expect Japanese people to realise this and have elements of explanation in their English program.


But can't this be equally said about almost any country?


In some respects, yes. But I think Japan is fairly unique in that it's one of the most developed cultures in the world, with such a rich history, yet receives relatively little attention on a global scale. As we know, it's not somewhere that's opened it's borders to foreign residents, and it remains fairly closed-off to the rest of the world. Maybe it's an English perspective, but the amount of things I didn't know about Japan in comparison to other countries before I got here was (and is!) huge.

Yes, there are other countries I don't know a lot about, but not that compare to Japan as a global power, and that have a need to study English due to their position in the global economy.
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Mr_Monkey



Joined: 11 Mar 2009
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Location: Kyuuuuuushuuuuuuu

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never said it was a conscious decision. Not all curricula are planned, overt or, indeed, intentional.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 2:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, you did say it was "one of the primary functions of the Japanese compulsory English curriculum" (emphasis was yours). I guess that was the confusing part.
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pnksweater



Joined: 24 Mar 2005
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Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 7:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MEXT approved textbooks for the junior high school level do approach the subject of English from the view of explaining very special Japanese culture to foreigners. The explanation I received was that they felt this was the context students were most likely to use English in. I have studied many languages. None of them were taught from the approach of the learner explaining their own culture in the foreign language. It is an usual approach and responsible for many of the face palm thing people say. Finding “Japan has four seasons. How many seasons does your country have?” in a textbook was quite an eye opener.
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SeasonedVet



Joined: 28 Aug 2006
Posts: 236
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 9:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

pnksweater wrote:
Quote:
MEXT approved textbooks for the junior high school level do approach the subject of English from the view of explaining very special Japanese culture to foreigners.

That seems to be the case doesn't it.
I think it's useful to have some of that included but if it is the whole view or the angle of approach, i am wondering what the aims really are?
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Japanology



Joined: 17 May 2012
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for this aynnej. Great CM ideas for these unique learners.

Quote:
Another challenge was I only taught at this school once a week, so it took longer to get to know the students and establish some consistent routines.


This is a good point. I only have them 1 or 2 times a week for 45 min. And I've also noticed that the classroom climates have settled down over time. My other colleagues think so too. Rapport is a big part of getting our classroom mngt models close to the Japanese one.

aynnej wrote:

Quote:
there is a danger of ostracizing/dehumanizing the student, if a teacher via his/her demeanor is too strict. In that case, I imagine these things might backfire. The class might clam up entirely and turn against the teacher. Maybe they'd be well-behaved, but they probably wouldn't learn much English.


This rings true at my school too. I think I messed this up abit at first but adjusted not long after. So true with these unique learners though and import to know.

Quote:
In one of my 9th grade classes, I had a problem with a group of baseball players. They refused to do the pair work, knocked books off from desks, "play" fought. Part of the problem was that the JTE was fresh out of college and not very assertive. Plus, he was physically smaller than some of the baseball players. I told him in the U.S., those students would be sent to the principal's office. And that someone could get hurt. He spoke with his supervisor, then the next week told me "I didn't need to worry about those students." Basically, he said it was okay if they didn't participate. They were extremely disruptive, though, so I persevered, told him we had a duty to provide a safe classroom, we are the adults and are responsible for the students, etc. He gradually became more assertive, we took away attendance points, I had them sit in different sections of the classroom. The situation still wasn't ideal, but it did improve.


Wow - good for you. We have had scenes like this too. Very tricky. I wonder how often Japanese teachers have this kind of problem?

I like these ideas:

Dice / stickers / boy&girl seating / timers / learn names! ( big 1 for me )
Utilize JTE AMA Possible / relevant rewards and punishments / know/use the leader / visual aids / signals and routines

This is a good list of Classroom Management ideas that work well with our Japanese learners. My last workshop/inset was a presentation of ideas like these.

aynnej wrote:
Quote:
I'd say the difference is in the expectations the JTE set for the students. In a team-teaching scenario, it's hard for a native teacher to gain respect without the support of the JTE.


Precisely! In my quest to close the gap between the classroom management model differences between non-Japanese and Japanese teachers I will need to explore this more.

But how? How do I engage with my Japanese colleagues on this topic. Trying to picture it ...

"Hey can ya pump up the kids today during homeroom speech for their upcoming English class? Can ya also tell them that if they don't respect their English class and teacher the same way as the do their other classes that you will know about it and they will be spoken to."

With language barriers and little rapport it's hard to get this in. Maybe I should just go for it and see what happens. I just don't want to start thinking that ...yeah they nodded enthusiastically like they will ...but did they really do it? Did they even understand me? Did they feel otherwise and just not let me know? It might end up like this ...just sayin.


Last edited by Japanology on Thu May 24, 2012 12:32 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
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PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Perhaps giving them something familiar to talk about is a logical starting point in any culture. I have found that to ask HS or uni kids to generate original thoughts or opinions is asking for trouble (silence). From what has been descibed, 2 problems emerge.

1. Over reliance on their own country, so that they believe those inane things and so that they have little else to talk about.

2. Simply being stymied whenever a slightly different approach is presented. Ex.
How are you? (typical opener)
How's it going? (stymied)
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Japanology



Joined: 17 May 2012
Posts: 35

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 12:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It explains a great deal:

The status of the foreign teacher/assistant/face as often little more than a "human tape recorder", or, even worse, the "Genki Gaijin" who bounces off the walls and entertains the kids, infantilising the foreign.


Rings a bell. The English teachers were put together for a group photo for the school newsletter - they took a few serious photos and then asked us to do the goofy face sorta thing - something funny. Well, this is the photo that was chosen for the newsletter. Right along with other unlike group photos of other non-English teachers. eh hem ... yeah

Thanks though Mr_Monkey - Others share your thoughts. Did you check out that article I quoted back a few posts:

Kayoko Hashimoto (2011): Compulsory ‘foreign language activities’ in Japanese primary schools, Current Issues in Language Planning, 12:2, 167-184 - http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14664208.2011.585958


Quote:
I don't think the influences of nihonjinron or kokutai (which would probably be placed under nihonjinron now) on the Japanese educational system are ones that are intentional. At least not by most involved. There isn't any conspiracy. However, to argue that kokutai is dead as some scholars both in Japan and in the West sometimes like to argue, I think is just false. It's just very, very subtle.


I see what you mean. I've been wondering about a few fishy things here and there but I highly doubt in an organized effort. Like OneJoelFifty said, it is giving way to much credit to a beaurocratic system.

But take this for example:

P.12 Grade 9 New Edition New Horizon Book

A Japanese student goes to Hawaii for a homestay experience and has a conversation with her new homestay friend about his Dad's Hawaiian shirts and how the early designs originated from Japanese Kimonos. Ending with:

"Cultures are mixing and the world is becoming smaller. Isn't that great?"

Here, they are using English to teach about Japan - but then they balance it out with a very international sorta statement.

I wanted to stop the class right there and say:

"So class - "Cultures are mixing and the world is becoming smaller. Isn't that great?" Well, isn't it? Hands for "yes" --- ok ---- hands for "no". Ok why?

and so on ... perfect chance to see what the students think. But couldn't. My team teacher had other plans to roll right along onto the key words on the right side of the page.
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aynnej



Joined: 03 May 2008
Posts: 53
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.

PostPosted: Thu May 24, 2012 1:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Japanology wrote:

Quote:
In my quest to close the gap between the classroom management model differences between non-Japanese and Japanese teachers I will need to explore this more.

But how?


That's the tricky part, isn't it? One thing I found was that my Japanese colleagues truly wanted to help, but they weren't always aware of the problems I was facing. Once the head of the English department found out I was having some discipline problems, she advised me to let her know whenever an instance of misbehavior occurred. Then she'd promptly scold the student. The student would apologize, then usually act up again within two or three classes. But after a while, they did get tired of being scolded and settled down a bit.

Of course, the J-staff is limited by time constraints -- they often have very busy schedules. Also, some JTE's aren't secure in their English skills, so they could be sensitive if they felt a native teacher was criticizing their abilities, and might therefore be less helpful. I often asked the JTE's for help in my Japanese studies (explaining grammar points, vocab words for English expressions, etc). Then they felt they could ask me questions about English grammar or idioms. Befriending one's JTE's can go a long way, I think.

Quote:
I wonder how often Japanese teachers have this kind of problem?


At my school, the troublesome students did cause trouble in all of their classes, not just mine. One of my Japanese colleagues caught a student who had cut class in the bathroom talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. The teacher said, "What are you doing?" The student thought it was another student and answered, "I'm talking to my girlfriend!" Very Happy

The problem in my class was that, initially, there were no negative consequences. In the Japanese-taught classes, the teacher could give the student a good scolding, quickly take away the attendance point, etc.

Incidentally, I think the discussion about kokutai is incredibly interesting. But, I wouldn't blame 100% of the disciplinary discrepancies between Japanese-taught and non-Japanese taught classes on kokutai. After reading this thread, I'm sure it plays a role. I could see how a strong sense of kokutai might contribute to some subconscious belief on the part of the students that the non-Japanese teacher is less worthy of respect. I could also see how administrators might (unintentionally, I believe) give less support to the English language program, believing it contributes to the westernization of Japan (which it undoubtedly does), and therefore erodes the Japanese identity. But a lot of the differences between the Japanese-taught and non-Japanese-taught classes can be explained by the language barrier and active nature of an O.C. class (as compared to a class where the teacher delivers a lecture).

It's a tough thing to study. When I was in school (back in the stone ages), there was no equivalent to an O.C. class. I didn't study French under a native French teacher until university, and the French classes I took in high school were not very communicative. Many ALT's in Japan are pretty young (<30, often straight out of university) with minimal to zero teaching experience. I wonder how a 24-year-old French teacher who didn't speak English would have fared in my high school. Remembering how cruelly some students treated the occasional substitute teacher, my fictitious French teacher may have had a hard time.

The one thing that would probably help the French teacher, though, was that U.S. students at that time weren't required to study a foreign language (although college-bound students always did), and they could pick the language they wanted to study. That alone would probably increase motivation significantly.

Quote:
With language barriers and little rapport it's hard to get this in. Maybe I should just go for it and see what happens. I just don't want to start thinking that ...yeah they nodded enthusiastically like they will ...but did they really do it? Did they even understand me? Did they feel otherwise and just not let me know? It might end up like this ...just sayin.


I say just jump in. You never know until you try, right? BTW, do you speak any Japanese? I think it would be tough to work in a Japanese school with zero Japanese language abilities (not that my Japanese is all that great). But, ALTs here in Japan manage with little to no Japanese all the time. Maybe some of the other posters can offer some advice at bridging the language gap.
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pnksweater



Joined: 24 Mar 2005
Posts: 173
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Fri May 25, 2012 6:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For discipline in the Japanese school system, the go to person is the student’s home room teacher. If he or she is heavily involved in a serious club activity (like baseball), the coach will have the greatest amount of leverage with that student. Use them sparingly. Chances are good they will discipline by tearing the student a new one. I’ve seen more kids smacked around in the staff room than I care to admit, too.

While having your home room teacher chew out the students for poor behavior may bring some order into the classroom, you also run the risk of kids clamming up for good. If do you want some help, you might want to have a Japanese English teacher facilitate your conversation. I usually approach it rather obliquely, along the lines of, “class 1-4 has been very genki lately. I hope it’s not disturbing the other classes.” Usually the teacher will pick up on your vague comment and make the kids shape up.

I highly recommend observing some of the other classes at the school. It will give you a better feel for what students are prepared to do in class. I’m not saying you can’t get students to have an open dialogue. It’s just that you’re going to have to lay the foundation for those kinds of activities. I find Japanese students much more willing to express themselves in writing than in speaking activities. Generally speaking, students pay attention in class to learn the correct information for tests. School isn’t really intended to nurture debate or free thought at this stage.
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