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Getting the students motivated... Help! 
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Post Getting the students motivated... Help!
Hello all!
I'm currently teaching at a junior high in Japan and for most part I really enjoy my job. I am an ALT for all three levels. I really love the first year students as they are 'genki' and pretty well rounded. I believe the JTE is really good and so we have a great class.

The problem is that my second years are, well basically pains. I know that 2nd year students tend to be less motivated since they don't have exams to worry about, and I'm sure they're going through a lot of changes at that age. I'm also at one of the "roughest" schools in the area. Kids often walk out of class; play basketball with paper balls while the teacher talks, fight, light firecrackers in the hall, hit teachers... the list goes on.

These 2nd years don't pay attention to either me or the JTE. But, she still teaches. When I come up with an activity, they won't use English, no matter how much I explain that they can't use Japanese. Don't jump ahead and assume I should let up. I mean, all they have to do is say "How much is..." in English. I'm allowing them to say the noun in Japanese and the price. I just want them to hit the target language. So after demonstrating what they can't do, once the activity begins they do exactly what they shouldn't. So the activity becomes a pointless game of find your partner without speaking English.

I thought, OKAY, maybe my activities are a little loose. They need more controlled activities. I've tried that as well. They have no shame in not participated; it ruins the flow of everything. There are a few good kids in the class so when I see them do work I will throw some stickers on their desk as a pass by. I don't want their effort to go unnoticed.

So, please! What can I do? I feel like telling this teacher I don't want to do her classes anymore because it's pointless. I don't want to talk to kids that don't want me there. Am I wrong? All the awesome activities on MES are rendered useless with these kids. Help!

Fri Oct 06, 2006 10:23 am

Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 12:21 pm
Posts: 75
Location: Alberta, Canada
My last two JR High's (I do three months per Jr High school in my city, different kind of arrangement, which I don't mind!) have had those same kind of classes, except they were 3rd year!

Unfortunatly the Japanese teacher just keeps teaching through the classes(ignoring the noisey students) and I am always the one going around telling them to quiet down or taking away what they were playing with!!!(they didn't like that very much)

Maybe group activities would work rather then having them walk around one on one? I've had alot of success with group activities(spelling, sentence making, decoding) the past couple days.

If I end up giving out rewards, I have the students come up to the front of the class and pick out a sticker or whatever I'm giving away. I don't place it on their desk as I walk by as most students don't pay attention to where the teacher walks!

I'm sure someone else will have a few more ideas for you!!

But I do know how you feel which is one of the reasons why I will not be teaching in Jr High schools again in Japan once I am finished this contract. :shock:

Fri Oct 06, 2006 12:10 pm
Post A Few Ideas
If you can get your students to be interested in "you" as a teacher, they'll soon be interested in whatever it is you have to teach. Can you make them laugh, think you're neat, show your human side? Don't be afraid to act foolish to get a laugh (or even to surprise them with a funny voice once and a while), share stories that make you original or give details about your likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc.

If you put yourself in your students' shoes, you'll soon remember that the classes that you probably most liked in school were the classes where you liked the teacher (for whatever reason made him or her likeable).
Remember that this age group is in-between. They want to be respected and not be treated like kids, but they still like that slap-stick, physical humor that often makes children laugh.

Also, if you are not using games as a substantial part of your teaching with children then I truly believe that this is the way forward. The way I have been teaching (and many others like me), is truly revolutionary compared to what I experienced in school (not THAT long ago!)

My own experiences with this have been very rewarding, with children coming to learn from me in their free time, and wanting to continue, missing me when I was gone, etc.

Also other teachers using my games have reported similar great results.

As well as looking at games on many sites, and in forums, you can receive some free on the website below.

Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:42 am
I think my situation is a little bit different then a rapport issue. I am fun, I am witty, I am silly, I am charming, I am understanding, I am interested in them, I am I am Iam Iam Iam.... on and on.

All I do with these kids are games games games. At my school they view the ALT as the games teacher. I am here to show them that English can be fun. Although I am working half way through my MA in TESOL and thus quite able to give solid lessons, I have accepted the role, Master of Game Ceremonies. The problem is, the kids won't bite.

There are a few kids that "get it" but I'm afraid they stay silenced because of the loud mouths in the class. As I said before I'm at one of the roughest schools in my region and not the first ALT these kids have seen. I'm at the top of my game when I'm making fun of some of the students. That's not a very good thing so I'd just like to know what I can do to crack these "kids."

I've realized that yes, I need to control my activities more, and so I won't try the "everyone for themself" classroom activity. I was told that they don't work well in pairs, so my only option is group work. And even in groups they don't participate. Any more suggestions?

Mon Oct 09, 2006 7:42 pm
Site Admin

Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
The best bit of wisdom I can give you is___ 'We're not saving lives here, Scotty!'

It's tough to be in the situation you're in and obviously these students aren't appreciating your efforts as a whole, but rejoice in the successes no matter how small they may be, focus on the positive responses. It sucks when it happens, but there's always someone who comes up to you at graduation, that says they really liked your class, and that was a class you gave up on.

I understand your frustration and your feeling of wanting to teach, even though they don't want to be taught. My advice is keep on with it and don't look to them for your motivation. Trust that someone will come up to you and say thanks for caring, thanks for trying, 'I really liked your class.'

And when it starts to get to you, just remember ___ 'We're not saving lives here, Scotty.'
Trust me, it helps.

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:43 pm
Profile WWW
Thanks for the meaningful advice Mark. I have accepted my role here and the English teacher inside of me is hiding in a corner. I knew coming into this that I would be under utilized and probably become a human tape recorder. But that's not really what's bothering me. I just find it quite strange and akward to give directions to students who aren't listening. Do I have too much respect for myself? I just don't see the point in talking when they aren't listening, and the JTE is bound to have to give the instructions in Japanese.

Maybe I can get through to some kids, and yes, that will really make my job worth it, but at the moment how do I cope with the sense of pointlessness? I would much rather be doing something that I felt had no educational value as long as the students were listening. Ahh, I will try to keep my spirits just in case it takes the kids a longer time to warm up to somebody. I won't give up... just yet, ha.

Tue Oct 10, 2006 11:25 am

Joined: Thu Feb 09, 2006 1:36 pm
Posts: 386
Location: Tohoku Japan
'We're not saving lives here, Scotty.'

LOL, thats a good oneliner!,

I must remember that


Tue Oct 10, 2006 3:36 pm

Joined: Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:17 am
Posts: 29
Location: Taiwan
Scotty, I feel for you. It can be disheartening when your putting in a lot of effort and not getting the expected reponse from your students. Humour works wonders for my younger learners but doesn't go down as well with my older students. For that I need to look more closely at their current interests (basketball, Internet activities, etc..) and teach to their interests. Good luck Scotty with your future efforts.


Learning should be fun!

Mon Oct 16, 2006 3:32 am
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