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Dealing with native teachers 
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Joined: Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:10 am
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Post Dealing with native teachers
How do you deal with the whole 'Dare Dare can't do that.' or 'That is too dificult for the chillins'??????????????
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to Japanese teachers.... you tell them what the subject is for class today and they get a panic look on their face and say 'oh ===== sensei that is very difficult' or 'they can't do that'
How do you usually deal with this???


Thu Sep 20, 2007 10:04 am
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Joined: Mon Jun 18, 2007 11:33 am
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I think in order to answer your question, you first need to understand a little about the reasoning behind this coddling attitude.

I think professor Yoshida from Sophie University in Tokyo said it best when he said the English education system in Japan is a comparable to a fish living in a fish bowl versus the open ocean. He says the fish in a fish bowl depends on the owner to feed it and to take care of it in order for it to survive and grow, but a fish in the open seas is forced to adapt to its environment and learn on its own.

In Japan, English is taught in an analytical way, more like a science rather than a living language, and correct pronunciation doesn't seem to factor into the equation. English theory is emphasized instead of actual communication. Giving the tools to the children that allow them to grow and learn on their own is a foreign concept. One example of these tools is Phonics. The whole point of Phonics is to teach the children to read on their own without anyone's help. In Japan, I think Phonics is even more important because a Japanese student's average English vocabulary is decent, but it's impossible to sync up the words on the page with the words they already know because the typical Japanese student learns English through rote memorization.

Lesson 1 - A B C D ...
Lesson 2 - computer, apple, house, guitar

Rote memorization coupled with the use of the International Phonetical Alphabet is a double-sided dagger backstabbing Japanese students from effectively learning English. Of course, this is my own personal opinion...

Anyways, going back to the initial question....what to do when your ideas bounce off those panicky-faced teachers?

My first suggestion is rethink your approach strategy. You said, "I TELL them what the subject is for the class..." How about using the Japanese culture to your advantage? Explain what you want to teach as an IDEA and take the humble approach of asking for opinions and suggestions about how to make it better. But here's the kicker, you already know what they are going to say so prepare your backup plan in advance. Have your backup ideas already ready to 'dumb down' the subject. Explain your initial goal but also explain alternative 'easier goals' just in case your goal isn't attainable. I believe most teachers wouldn't mind trying new things out in the classroom if they know you have given the idea a lot of thought.

I think I posted this example on another thread but it fits perfectly here. I taught at a preschool here in Japan for 3 years. One day, I came in and told the teacher I wanted to teach numbers. She seemed fine with the idea until I told her that I wanted to teach 1-100. Well, after scooping her jaw off the ground, I told her not to worry because if the students couldn't grasp what I was teaching that I had backup plans. To make a long story short, within one hour, I had successfully given 5-6 year old kids the tools they needed to visually read most numbers 1-100. The teacher came up to me after class and said she didn't think it was possible because SHE HAD NEVER LEARNED THAT METHOD IN SCHOOL.

If the "Let's try it!" method doesn't work, you can always do what my good Irish friend always tells people....just punch them all in the nose!

I hope that helps...

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Thu Sep 20, 2007 11:14 am
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actually does and doesn't. the thing is that I teach at 3 elem. schools. I made the mistake at one of them and told the teachers let's work together and teach efective english communication... the other two schools I didn't invite a sharing of power in the class. Well the school where I did well it has been a head ache since.... I like the teachers but when ever I tell them of the days plans well I get the above response a lot of the time....
The other two schools i don't coddle the students and I don't let the teachers either. The disparity in level is between the jointly taught school and the other two schools is huge.
It's just a pain dealing with the whole 'oh ----sensei taro kun can't do that...


Thu Sep 20, 2007 11:32 am
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Joined: Wed Aug 16, 2006 2:46 pm
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Hi Misakev,

I totally hear you on this.

I could never figure out why some English was always considered "difficult" and some was considered "easy" ( even if it were more challenging). It always seemed really random.

It's only this year that I've figured it out. If it's a word the Japanese teacher has already learnt, they think it's easy. If it's something they themselves personally don't know then they think it's hard!

Needless to say anything JHS textbook style is then considered easy, but any real English is considered hard.

For example in our Halloween theme ( http://www.genkienglish.net/halloweensong.htm ) the teachers are always happy to teach all the words except "mummy". They insist that word is way too difficult for any kids, all because they don't know it themselves. But it you teach them it's "miira" first, they now know it and get more relaxed about it.


Once you figure that out it can become a lot easier to prepare the counter arguments like Patrick suggested.

Be genki,

Richard

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Thu Sep 20, 2007 11:59 am
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MES-Fanatic!

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will have to try that one with some teachers... But some of the teachers i work with speak very very good english. I still get it from them.... What i really think is it's a cultural thing... I noticed that the japanese tend to coddle the kids very much. I mean the idea of making the kids figure things out for themselves is practically un heard of here. It is one of the things that really drives me bonkers here....


Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:23 pm
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patrick wrote:
within one hour, I had successfully given 5-6 year old kids the tools they needed to visually read most numbers 1-100. The teacher came up to me after class and said she didn't think it was possible because SHE HAD NEVER LEARNED THAT METHOD IN SCHOOL.

..


OK I'm interested. How did you manage to teach the numbers 1-100 in one hour to a group of 5-6 year olds?


Thu Sep 20, 2007 3:54 pm
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funwithstories wrote:
patrick wrote:
within one hour, I had successfully given 5-6 year old kids the tools they needed to visually read most numbers 1-100. The teacher came up to me after class and said she didn't think it was possible because SHE HAD NEVER LEARNED THAT METHOD IN SCHOOL.

..


OK I'm interested. How did you manage to teach the numbers 1-100 in one hour to a group of 5-6 year olds?


I'll give you a hint. The letter "T". ;)

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Thu Sep 20, 2007 4:13 pm
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MES-Zealot!

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patrick wrote:
I'll give you a hint. The letter "T". ;)


Great idea, I'll try that in my next elementary class.

I don't want to appear too "native-like" here, but I suppose I would be wary of teaching these numbers to the little ones too. Unless they are in a setting where they have already been taught the numbers in their first language, I can't help but wonder if they are really grasping what you teach them. I've had a four-year old who can recite the multiplication table (1s and 2s) in Japanese and sing a song in English reciting the months of the year with fairly good pronunciation. This is from listening to her sister study. She could be a genius, but I think it's more of being able to listen and parrot a song.

Then again, if they can say it when they are young. perhaps it will help them "remember" when they are older and understand the concept...


Thu Sep 20, 2007 5:49 pm
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Misakev
Just wanted to add that I agree that Japanese teachers tend to be too cautious. Patrick gives great advice. Let them know that you have a back-up plan and are willing to change it if the students aren't catching on.
Once the teachers see that students are learning and remembering what you taught in your lesson, they are more likely to change their minds.

I had to laugh at your experiences with the teachers who speak English well. My hardest classes to team-teach are often with these teachers. It makes sense because they were successful in learning the language the way they were taught, so naturally that is how they choose to teach.

The way I teach is so UNconventional to them that they find themselves out of their "comfort zone". I ended up telling myself I will teach "my way" for a year and then start to ask for more input as a team. We will see how that works....


Thu Sep 20, 2007 6:44 pm
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Funwithstories can you describe your teaching method??? My thing is I hate to coddle... i don't coddle my kids at home. I certainly won't coddle the kids here.... I want to teach them. For me teaching is not just about giving info about your subject. It is also about teaching kids to use their brain. perhaps that is the problem...
The really funny thing is that the students, from the schools where I control the classes, who graduated really thanked me after they started Jr High.


Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:09 am
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My kids are here in Japan with me attending Japanese schools and I attend their classes to help out where I can. the first grader seems to have little need to think by herself and does lots of repeating. Given they only started learning Japanese a few months ago this is not a bad thing for her. When I teach English to this class the teacher is so happy to try different methods of learning and is very enthusiastic about the learning that takes place. I hope (probably in vain) that she may see how she could change some of the things she does in other subjects. I do sympathise with her however because it is incredibly difficult to change the way you do things if that is how you learned successfully, it is how the experts tell you to teach and there is no other role-modelling of different methods to see.
The third grade classes are more varied. The Principal teaches them maths and they are often given problems to solve and asked to explain their thinking. It is great that they use this approach but i don't think they then take the results and extend the kids as much as they should. I talked to my daughter and she said she would like more difficult problems to do.
Anyway what I am trying to say is that there are some areas where different (read better) methods are employed.

Advice for working with the teachers. If they are resistant then they need to see things that work and results that stun them. If you have to be covert about including difficult stuff then take small steps. I have found it useful to talk to teachers about learning English and languages in the teachers room and around the school. I have had success in making teachers aware of phonics and how important it is to learn.

Luckily I have three fantastic learners for children and they see this everyday at school which is a great incentive to talk about how we learn back home.


Fri Sep 21, 2007 11:29 am
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I use a combination of methods depending upon the class and how much time I have with them. In one school where I only see a class for FIVE times in one year, I used a mixture of TPR and phonics. At the end of the five days almost all of the students could respond to a series of commands like “Stand up slowly, go to the CD player quickly and turn three times. Go to the table, take the pen and put the pen on Ken’s head. Touch Ken’s desk and point to Mr. Kato’s chair. Sit down on the floor.” Most of the students could give these commands minus of few “the”s or “to”s. In addition I had a warm-up song (days of the week or weather depending upon the class) and covered the phonic sounds to (s, t, n, p, d, m, h, l, and g) In the last class I showed them the written words for the first time and had them match them to the pictures of the actions we studied.

It may seem difficult for the average 9-11 year old class, but the magic is that is all quite simple. If I started by pointing out the difference in word order or the meaning of the word “the” the students would have given up in the first five minutes.

My basic lesson plan started with a warm-up song. Genki English’s, “Rock Paper Scissors” is my student’s favorite for all age groups. Then I did a song or review. With a song I used mnemonics to help them remember the days of the week or gestures to remember the weather words. Then in the following classes we did a short game using the words. For review I put up a visual or letters on the board and give the students 30 seconds to recall them. Then I give them another 30 seconds to confer with friends before I randomly called on them for answers.

I then introduced 2-3 new letters. I superimposed a picture over the letter to help them how to pronounce it. For example for “n” I have the “n” as the rock on which the famous “Thinker” statue sits. “What sound do you make when you are deep in thought?” For the “h” I made it into a chair and had a very tired woman leaning up against the back of the chair. “What sound do you make when you are tired?” These two letter look similar but by presenting it with the pictures, not one of my students mistake one for the other.

I then choose 2-3 verbs to teach via TPR. TPR and the philosophy behind it is truly fascinating. If the only thing you think of when you hear TPR is the Head and Shoulders song, I highly recommend you look into James Asher’s Teaching Language Through Actions book. Basically you set up 3 chairs in the front of the room and sit in the middle chair. Have two students sit on either side and instruct them that this is a “Monkey See Monkey Do” game. In the beginning you say the command as you do it, gradually you have the students do it themselves. Then you switch students. You add “novel” commands that make student think. For example Sit down on the pen. Put the pen on Jiro’s head. When students can follow these commands you move on to the next one.

The last 5 minutes I try (though not always successfully) to give them time to process all the new information. For beginners I have them decide on how many of the words or phrases they want to say and then repeat them to me and their homeroom teacher. If they are comfortable doing so, I may have them turn to their partner and repeat what they learned or just practice saying them to their imaginary “finger friend”

In the following classes I try to recycle the words were already learned with new ones so we are working on them continously and not just one “theme” per class. The first 4 classes we focused more on input activities and the last day I have a game where the students use what we learned, for example tic tac toe or Connect Four.

At the end of the 5 lessons I give them the actions with the written words underneath. I use the pictures and written words together to help reinforce what they learned..

For those classes I see more of, we work on stories. I have a set of 3 structures that we work on and ask students to fill in the details, but this is for another long post.


Fri Sep 21, 2007 3:57 pm
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