In my work I have to write a new ‘Teaching Essay’ at the start of every school year (April), which is the start of my yearly one-year contracts. It’s a drag, really. How often do I have to say (basically) the same things? How many ways can I say the same things? Every year I ask the Japanese staff to describe to me what they want. I don’t really need them to, I am just hoping that they might phrase it differently in the belief that the way they phrase it might help me / give me direction to reshape the same old essay anew.
I don’t want to work at home. I did that for years, knocking myself out, spending a small fortune of my own money on classroom materials (excellent materials!) that no one every provided. So I don’t want to do that. All my work has to be done at school. When my last class is finished I am totally finished. Unlike Japanese teaches I can immediately walk out the door. My non-class time is totally my own. It means that whatever I do has to be easy/simple enough that I can walk to my desk, find something to teach in less than five minutes and understand immediately how to use it and how long it will take. After years of experience, it’s not possible for anyone to pay me enough money to work at home. (Well, maybe it is still possible if the sum is big enough.)
Right now I greatly enjoy the fact that my obligations are limited to teaching lessons - period, end of story. I don’t take attendance. I don’t administer tests. I don’t write report cards. I don’t meet parents. I don’t attend school events. I don’t attend staff events. Oh, at one time and another I did all these in the past, but no more. When the final bell goes I’m out the door and my time is my own with no obligations to anyone. On to other things.
I am intent on presenting my students with practical English - listening, speaking and writing that they can use in their lives, and things that truly reflect real life situations in English-speaking countries - situations they themselves might encounter if they are tourists, or homestay students, study abroad students, and even right here in Japan if they interact with foreigners here. In addition, it is important to me that my lessons and materials are functional, meaning that they can be used with different levels of students with minimal alterations, used easily, and with minimal preparation. I mean, ready-to-go lessons that reflect real language for real situations. Each year I plan my lessons to progress in a certain sequence that I think is important and that builds on itself over time.
I want my students to be happy in class and at school. Towards that end, it is very important to me that I enjoy myself, too. If I don’t enjoy myself, I doubt that the students can, either.
More important than grammatical perfection is simply communicating their ideas. Successful communication is more important than how pretty or polished it is. I habitually find that the best students (or, the ones that I enjoy the most) are the outgoing personalities who at least try to speak, even if their speech is not perfect, than quiet youngsters who demonstrate superior accomplishment or aptitude on paper.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games approaching I know that the Japanese Ministry of Education has a goal for 50% of high school graduates to successfully achieve Eiken grade 3 or higher, and that schools are failing in this goal. I hope that in cooperation with Japanese English teachers I can help more students achieve this goal. I also know that already Japan is experiencing a tourism boom. With greater numbers of foreign tourists than ever before it is increasingly useful and desirable for Japanese to wield at least a minimum of face-to-face communication without fear.
I want my students to enjoy themselves - at school and in life. I want them to make the most of their time. Principle virtues include: enjoy yourself; work hard; make the most of your time; be helpful; and, don’t judge others.