Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
As I stated in my first article about avoiding mistakes in teaching English communication in Japan, teaching is a learning process, for both students and teachers. In this article, I would like to present four more mistakes to avoid. Some are mistakes that I have made and some are mistakes that I have seen in teaching English communication in Japan. While I hope you can learn from the mistakes presented here, I hope you also understand that mistakes are inevitable for both students and teachers. My suggestion is not to angst about making mistakes. Mistakes are the diving platforms for teachers to find success.
1. Using too much Japanese in the classroom
I generally avoid using Japanese in the classroom. While judicious Japanese use is not a problem, very few teachers appear to do that well. Observing other English communication teachers and their classrooms shows teachers speaking Japanese for a variety of reasons: to practice their own Japanese, to become friends with students, because they cannot communicate what they want to in English, and because it is easier. Normally, none of the above are valid reason for using Japanese in the English communication classroom. Use English, making yourself a better teacher and helping your students to learn more.
2. Depending on student homework for the lesson
As a teacher, I have given many different kinds of homework to students ranging from homework in textbooks to presentations to give in class. I often plan correcting the homework, listening to a presentation, or having a class discussion based on the presentation. This can work beautifully when the homework is done, but is problematic when homework is only partially done or is not done at all. Homework is treated with more respect in the United States than in Japan. Always have a backup plan if your lesson depends on student homework. If your backup plan also depends on student homework, you may want to have a backup plan for your backup plan.
3. Not asking for student feedback
Many teachers fail to ask for student feedback. Some teachers are new and not aware of the necessity of asking for student feedback. Some of these teachers are not new and are tired of asking for feedback and receiving the same feedback year after year. Teachers have new students every year, requiring teaching the same points again and again.
4. Understanding about grammar and hammers
As the expression goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. Students in Japan are very grammar focused. A frequent item that comes up in feedback is wanting to learn more grammar. Understanding this thirst for grammar and showing students other ways that they can learn are part of being a better teacher. Learning grammar is essential, but grammar in Japan is often taught as an academic discipline with little connection to mastering a language. Grammar is not focused on as a tool or a part of the language. Many students emphasize grammar studying and de-emphasize studying listening and other important tasks. Teachers should try to teach their students about balancing their studies.
These issues are four more of the mistakes that English teachers can make in the communication classroom in Japan. I hope you have found these helpful. As teachers, we can make mistake after mistake after mistake. However, we can learn and grow from our mistakes just like our students. Getting better at teaching and learning are both processes involving substantial trial and error.
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