31 May 2010 ~ 11 Comments

Conversation 5/30/10: Goals

This conversation took place in a cafe in Yokohama the other day with a private student of mine.

Student: So, what do you think makes you a good English teacher?

Me: At my job? Or with you?

Student: Is there a difference?

Me: Well, yeah…

Student: What”s the difference?

Me: With you, I’m actually trying to help you improve your English speaking ability and listening comprehension…And I think I’ve been somewhat successful because…er…well, I’m patient, and I set small accomplishable goals for you which builds up your confidence, I think. Your biggest problem when we started, if you remember, was…well, besides pronunciation…was your confidence. But, now, I think you can hold your own with any native English speaker and won’t be stymied by a lack of confidence…

Student: You really think so?

Me: Oh yeah! You’re leaps and bounds beyond where you were 3 years ago when we first started.

Student: Thanks.

Me: My pleasure…

Student: What about with your Junior High school students?

Me: Well, that’s a different story…

Student: Ee!? You’re not trying to improve their English ability and listening skills?

Me: Well, kinda… but actually, no.

Student: Why not?

Me: Well, I like to set small accomplishable goals for myself as well…

Student: What do you mean?

Me: Getting my kids to actually speak and hear English…most of them…is virtually impossible. So, it’s no longer my goal.

Student: So, you don’t think you’re a good teacher with the kids?

Me: I do, but I don’t teach them English.

Students: Ee! What do you teach them?

Me: I teach them not to be afraid of people who don’t look like them, that speak a different language and have different ideas, and do things a little differently.

Student: Ah!

Me: Yeah, I teach them how to interact with people they wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to interact with. And I think every student that spends three years with me will go out into the world with little or no fear of the un-alike. To me that is much more important than whatever English they might be able to retain from my lessons. I mean, most of them will never use English in their lives…but what I teach them will probably make them more inclined to open their minds…if I can even approach achieving that goal, then I feel I’ve done a world of good. I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. And the students benefit, as well.  It’s a win-win.

Student: I agree. You are a really good teacher.

Me: Thanks


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11 Responses to “Conversation 5/30/10: Goals”

  1. Alessia 31 May 2010 at 8:24 pm Permalink

    Oh, cool. I think your goal is great! I was actually wondering… why keep teaching, if the kids don't give a damn? (By the way, that's the reasoning that many ex-teachers in my city had!) But then, it's actually very useful! I still hope you actually make them learn a bit of English at least!!

    Anyways, your course shouldn't be called English, but rather "Open-your-mind-when-encountering-a-person-who-is-not-Japanese course"! 😀

  2. Locohama 31 May 2010 at 9:41 pm Permalink

    Thanks for the shout Alessia! Yeah, it would be nice if I could teach a little English, and some students will actually retain what they've learned and go on to pursue their English studies further. But, these are rare cases and easy to discern. When I do I give them due attention to support their efforts. (-:


  3. Enico 1 June 2010 at 3:30 am Permalink

    I think you are a really good teacher, opening their mind will make them better person and not only a good english student.

    Great Loco!!!


  4. WC 1 June 2010 at 4:00 am Permalink

    Not that teaching them not to be xenophobes isn't good, but this article is sadly true.

    I've been learning Japanese on my own and it's going -way- better than when I learn Spanish in highschool. Like, I actually have a language partner and can communicate in Japanese. The schooling pumped me full of words, but gave me no ability to use them. (Except for some short songs we memorized… I can still recite most of them and remember what they mean.)

  5. James 1 June 2010 at 4:42 pm Permalink

    Great story.

    I've lived in japan for 2 years but just started as an alt in high school.

    I've been struggling with the active indifference of most students to what we do in class so what you wrote helps give me a new perspective on what to aim for.

    As you said, most students won't ever use English again and try are smart enough to know it.

    At the very least, I want them to leave school without the fear of the unknown that's so pervasive here.


  6. supreme nothing 1 June 2010 at 9:09 pm Permalink

    That's a great story! Well done!

  7. Blue Shoe 1 June 2010 at 9:22 pm Permalink

    I think that is an important realization to have. As an ALT, somewhere after the one-year mark I started to think similarly. A lot of the material these kids learn goes right out of their heads after their exams (or sometimes after that class)…but the impressions we make as cultural ambassadors (as cheesy as that sounds) are lasting.

    • Locohama 2 June 2010 at 10:01 pm Permalink

      Hey blue Shoe, thanks for the shout! An imortant and humbling realization but shouganai jan

  8. Zach 3 June 2010 at 11:34 pm Permalink

    You're a sharp cookie Loco. That is some good insight into the human condition.

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