Wow, what a difference when people pay to attend. Today’s teachers were absolutely fantastic. We had a ton of questions, tons of attention, lots of activities and a fantastic buzz at the end of the day.
Activities wise we did:
* Write up a list of “joys” of your job ( for the bad days), and the problems ( to work on your good days)
* Wie heisst du? ( to see what it’s really like to learn with Genki English songs)
* Korean food game ( to see how the CD games make learning possible, or even preferable at home, how grammar should be experienced, not dissected)
* Soccer + Can you …? ( to see how themes build on each other) + game
* Time 2 + game ( to see why it’s important to practise before the lesson!)
* Where is Mr Monkey? + game
* Where is baby monkey?
* Genki Picture books. ( don’t worry about US vs. UK English, this is the only theme it occurs in!)
* Can you do it?
There were also many of the main points of Genki English:
* Teach what the kids want to say, not what the book wants to teach.
* Figure out the aim of your class, why, how, when and to what level will the kids go?
* Activities concentrate on what the kids don’t know. If you stick to only what they do know and they don’t improve.
* Rule one: Can you do it? Yes, I can!
* Rule two: Losing means try again!
* Rule three: the most important one, and I think you remember it…
Questions wise we had loads for example…
* I’m too shy.
“Shyness is the degree to which you can, or cannot, communicate with other people“. Not shy = can communicate with anybody. Shy = can only communicate with a few. It’s the opposite of what we are trying to achieve in English classes, don’t use it as an excuse. Build the confidence of your students using the ideas we showed in class. Find out what their passion is. Everyone has at least one thing they can talk about non stop. Use lots of claps in class.
* How do we reconcile having to prepare for tests and teaching English?
If you have two masters, you’ll get pulled to the left and to the right, but never move closer to either. Choose one or the other. Or have two classes, one for each.
* How to improve things with only one lesson a week?
Homework that the kids want to do. i.e. reviewing with the songs or learning new language with the computer games ( student packs). You saw how quickly you learnt something completely new.
* Then what is the role of the teacher if the kids can learn on their own?
“Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself” – Chinese proverb. The teacher’s role then is to check what the students are saying, give feedback and confidence and set challenges and activities to improve themselves.
* What to do when the kids are fed up with an activity?
Change it. If they know the English, move up a level. If they don’t, keep the same target language and change the activity. “Stupidity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
* The parents are always pushing for tests.
Sit them down at least twice a year. Ask them what they want, how and why and what and when. Explain about what and why the tests are as they are. They’ll come to the same conclusions you have. If not, fire them. Parent support is essential and your time will be better spent where it will be more effective. When they sign up, set out in the contract what your goals are for their students, what you promise to do, and what they promise to do ( or not do!) to support their child’s learning. Parental support is essential.
* How do you speak so loud for so long?
Take a voice training or singing course! It’s an investment in your business, because if you lose your voice, you lose your job. I’m only genki when motivating the kids, the new English comes from the computer and in the games I’m just the referee.
* What to do if you’re ill and can’t do a lesson?
This was the only tough question! The best idea I could think of was to make a contract with several other teachers so that in the event of illness you’d cover each other’s lessons. In a worst case scenario you could have your kids join your friends class for the day.
* What do you think of events?
Business wise they are great as they are a chance for students to bring friends who may enroll in your school. Educationally, if you have English based activities it’s a great goal for the students to be work towards. Goals are vital.
* How do we teach different kids of different levels in the same class?
Split them up. If the class is too slow or too fast it’s not fair on anyone.
* What about reading and writing?
Once the kids can speak most of the things they want to say, introduce phonics. Then a graded readers series. Writing I’ll leave to you to decide!
* I have to teach my company’s curricula. How can I fit in Genki English?
Most teachers in this situation use it as a magic spice to liven up what they “have to” teach. Adding in the Genki English songs and games can usually make even the most boring textbook a lot more interesting.
* How to link in with junior high school?
Forget it. You can teach to a level way above JHS level in a very short time. Aim low, get low. Aim high, get high. Look at the homework the senior high school students were doing yesterday, basically the same as we did in an hour with the elementary school kids!
The other main things that came up were to do with motivation, kids quitting and getting them to talk etc. Basically things that having the GE curriculum built around what kids do want to say rather than what the teacher wants to teach, helps solve most of these problems.
The other questions I’ll get round to writing up as blog posts in the future!
Then we all went out for a meal. The girls who had organised this weekend looked shattered, but they’d done an amazing job. And all the teachers were gushing so much about everything today. Wow, I thought it went well, but even more so after dinner. So today was amazing, gave me a big confidence boost to work even harder and it will be great to spread the word out to even more teachers. If you have a blog or are on Mixi, I’d really appreciate the help in letting more people know for next time!
Thank you everyone, I wish all the teachers in Japan were just like you. Your students are very, very lucky people!