The Thing About Teaching...

I've been (sort-of) teaching for what...about six months now? I'm pretty sure that makes me an expert on the subject. So here's my biggest frustration with teaching a foreign language thus far: the hugely varying apptitude of my children for learning...and the lack of a relevant course of action to raise the class mean in that regard.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about the fact that today I had my last class of 1st Year English for the academic year and noticed that while some of my kids can actively go through a piece of text a pick out the verbs/nouns/etc., another large portion of my class can't even read.

This is alarming. What's more alarming is that in the Japanese education system there's not much that can be done about it. In my 2nd Year classes I'd often be amazed at my students lack of English skill, but due to their general aversion to learning I chalked it up to lazyness and missed homework assignments. However, upon final review of my 1st Years for the year I've discovered that there's a huge subset of kids who drop under the radar, unable to read basic words in English like "on" and "this", and who graduate into their second year doomed to sink further and further behind.

Now I don't know that this is the case for other courses, I can only speak for English. But I can imagine that the same thing happens in science, math, and even Japanese. It's because the children are not held accountable for their grades or examination performance, they are simply passed on to the next grade as long as they show up for school (and sometimes they don't even have to do that, see "hikikomori"). Japanese students are simply expected to memorize things and pass their high school entrance exams, everything else is pretty much ceremony, routine and other BS with the underlying purpose of instructing them on how to become "Japanese" (ie- fit in to Japanese society).

I know in the West we hear a lot about the Japanese education system and how the children are better educated and whatnot...but I can tell you right now, a Japanese kid wouldn't survive a day in an American school. And no, I'm not talking about school violence, I'm talking about the fact that they'd be expected to express their opinions and do their homework, otherwise they wouldn't be advanced to the next grade.

Now this isn't new. I've known for some time that many of my kids aren't stellar at English, and I don't expect them to be...but I think that they should be able to read "on" and "this", and I think they should be held accountable for their performance. I've offered my time to tutor students after school only to be met with "that sounds like a good idea" and no follow up, or "after school the students have club activities."

Okay, I understand that. But during school they're essentially failing English. What are we going to do about that?


Blogger Lindsay said...

hmm, that's funny that japan doesn't hold their students more accountable for learning English when they put forth a lot of effort to bring in native English speakers to teach them...

Blogger Lindsay said...

p.s. do the students have the option to learn another language instead of english...in which case do they have other programs similar to the JET one?

Blogger aliciajean said...

Again, our worlds collide, my friend.


I couldn't see the show because of my work schedule, but it sounded awesome.

Blogger aliciajean said...



Did that work?

If not, the rest of the link is

Anonymous Kud said...

what really sucks is that there are kids who want to learn english, but because they didnt understand something in the beginning, they got behind and the teacher and textbook refused to wait for them. i sometimes get the impression that the teachers think those kids are dumb or just dont want to try, but the truth is that the system is more obsessed with meeting deadlines than actually providing an education.
ive found the only thing i can actually do is try to give my students in elementary school the best possible foundation that i can... i actually teach the 5th and 6th graders much of what is in the first year textbook, so that they won't be struggling too much in the beginning... but, at the same time, it is difficult in elementary school to get the kids to read anything (and the teachers discourage me from doing that), so i have to rely mostly on speaking. but, i think its better than nothing.

and, btw, how are you doing, man?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you claim that you're an expert of language teaching, it's your job to make those student be able to communicate in the language. It sounds like you sucked as a teacher :-)


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