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Why I do what I do - December 2001
By now most of you will have probably had the chance to see Genki English in action, or at least try the homepage ideas out in your lessons. If not, check them out and see what all the fuss is about!!
But still I keep getting asked "Why do you do it?". Well sometimes I feel the same, but then I think back to reasons behind it all.
I am a physicist, and yes, one of my targets is to one day get into space! Those of you who know me, know I can do it! And for those that don't, then just think about the fact that my town, Tamagawa, now has a Minor Planet named after it! All because of the NASA project I taught there. "Dekiru to omottara, dekiru deshou!". And if I can do it, so can you and your students!!
We still have many problems in the UK, but one of the main aims of our education is to install this sense that we are all equal.
But I also see in Japan that Japanese people are still in the mindset of "Nihonjin" and "Gaikokujin". Even this year we have seen problems with Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to Yasukuni Shrine and the Fuso text book. The problem is not whether the facts are right or wrong, the problem is that Japanese people didn't understand WHY the Korean and Chinese people were so upset.
If Japan is to remain as one of the great nations in the world, then this situation must change. And it is through skills such as languages, where the kids can communicate directly with other kids, or through learning about the World in your lessons that your kids will learn this understanding about other peoples.
But of course it is not just Japan. Whenever I watch TV and see a problem somewhere in the world it is invariably made worse by a lack of education, from problems of AIDS in Africa to revenge attacks on Muslims after the horrific events in New York and Washington. Therefore you, as teachers, have the responsibility to make your teaching as effective as possible, to teach your kids the best you can, so that these problems cease to be problems in the future.
So why concentrate on elementary schools? The reason is simple: because we can! In junior high we are tied to curricula and ways of teaching that produce a product barely resembling English. But with the new Monbusho guidelines we are free to teach to the best of our abilities and to meet our students' needs. That's why Genki English is so important; it is the most effective way of teaching primary school age kids.
If you go into a class unprepared and unconfident you won't get your message across, and as one ALT I heard recently said you are effectively stealing the kids' day.
However if you go in there being genki, interesting and having fun then they will respect what you say and hence learn so much more. It's not simple, but I think that we can change education to be more effective and better than ever before; not just here, but around the World. Thanks to the Internet, new technologies and the freedom afforded by the new Monbusho curriculum, then if we try hard and believe we can do it, then we can make a HUGE difference! Not me, not you, but everyone working together. That's why I try so hard at this!
So I leave you this time with a wish that you'll remember why we do what we do, to be Genki, and a message of peace and goodwill for the season.
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