I think that education is fascinating. I always have. When I was in class with a burnt out teacher I often thought: I can do a better job than this! I can remember that I frequently got in trouble in science related classes, either for screwing around (usually with the bunsen burner or acids and bases) or not paying attention. Mr. Melstrom in sixth grade always tried to bust me for this by asking me questions the hardest and most technical questions about his lessons which I had stopped listening to, and he NEVER stumped me except when he asked me to parrot back what he had been lecturing us on when I was talking. This resulted in multiple detentions instead of meeting the challenge of stepping up the material of the class and re-engineering his ineffective teaching style. Yes, I often reflected on how I could be a better teacher than him when I sat, waiting for the hour after school doing nothing to pass. Well, now I get to test all of my theories every day at work. I am always thinking:
How can I help my kids think critically?
How can I teach them to try and see things from different perspectives?
How can I maintain their interest?
How can I work together with the JTE to accomplish both of our goals?
How can I help my kids to be creative and to express their honest opinions?
How can I make my kids confident?
What tools can I give my students so that they will be able to pursue what they want to learn about outside of class?
How can I develop them to their fullest potential?
How can we have fun together?
And the list goes on. I think about this every day, and I often gain inspiration outside of the classroom. I also do research on education and teaching methods in my free time. I am not the best teacher, but I am constantly trying to improve with the ultimate goal of helping my kids however I can. I am trying to be like every teacher that ever inspired me, like every teacher who made the extra effort for my class, like every teacher who made learning interesting and fun.
It makes me angry to hear other JETs complain that they have nothing to do at work, and that they are bored. What a f*cking cop out... All of these lazy gaijin can seem to do is to complain about the same old shit. They are letting down their kids bigtime. If they would take the time to set goals in class, make continued efforts to coordinate lessons with their JTEs (I know that this can be hard, but if you stop trying after someone or something discourages you, you are a quitter!!!), and constantly analyze the lessons that they had taught, trying to think of ways to bring out the full potential of their kids, then they would be helping everyone. God forbid you do some research on your own! Or spend your own money to invest in books, or rewards for students who do a wonderful job! Its time for you to start thinking about your kids. If you sit on your ass, little Hiro will become yet another apathetic English-fearing run of the mill Japanese student. Invest the time, and help these kids! If you can't do this do everyone a big favor and quit! After all, you must have at least some qualifications that can get you some money with some other job that better suits your needs!
That being said, to begin your repentance you can start playing games in class and put some thought into your lessons. Below are a few games and resources that I have compiled, to help you reform:
Interactive Classroom Games And Other Resources
A lesson on directions is great because it is useful, and only takes minutes to review, lending itself to numerous interactive games. If the students ever go abroad, they will be able to find their way around in English speaking countries because they can understand directions, or maybe they will be able to help a lost gaijin find their way around in Japan. It can be reinforced with other games like scavenger hunts, or by making blindfolded students navigate through a course (to reach various waypoints) and timed.
English skills practiced: Giving and receiving directions, orientation and motor skills.
Equipment needed: A large map, a car magnet, and various other magnets of your choice, a set of smaller maps and directions for every student.
Directions: Break people into groups of three, or any group number divisible by three. One person is a robber, one is a witness, and one is the police officer. Have the police officer leave the room or close their eyes, and instruct the robber to pick a place to rob, and a place to hide with the witness watching. Once this is settled, place the cop car at the scene of the crime, and instuct the witness to give directions to the police officer leading to the hide out. Time how long it takes to complete this task, and have different teams compete against eachother. To make this more difficult, you can pick a place to stash the money, and a different safehouse for the robbers to hide in.
Gesture Racing Game
English skills practiced: Non-verbal communication (gestures), vocabulary review.
(To learn how gestures help in learning a foreign language, you can look here: http://www.medianet-ny.com/research.htm, and search Google for many other interesting studies.)
Directions: Divide your class into two or more teams and have them face the back of the classroom, form a single file line, and sit down. Then tell the first student from each group a word (such as monkey, chicken, and fish). After you say ?go? the student must convey the meaning of the word through gestures to the next student. The student at the end of the line fastest to give a correct answer scores a point for their team. After a match have the students switch places within the same team.
Kanji Drawing Lesson
English skills practiced: listening to directions, drawing, studying the English meaning of kanji
Materials: Paper and pencil
Directions: Teach your class shapes, adjectives, and directions such as:
Line, straight, curved, perpendicular, vertical, horizontal, square, rectangle, long, short, center, up, down, left, right, etc?
Draw a straight line, Draw a curved line, Make a Circle.
Use these directions and words, directing them to draw a kanji, for example:
Draw a vertical line. Draw a horizontal line through the middle of the vertical line. What number is this: It?s ten (ju).
Basketball Games (from The Ultimate Playground & Recess Game Book, by Guy Bailey, p. 38):
Around The World
English skills practiced: Geography, questions and answers, TPS, reading
Materials: Flags, World map (to match the flags to), basketball
Directions: The goal of this game is to make baskets from ten (or however many you want to use) spots in a semicircular pattern around the goal. I play this game using two or more teams using different baskets to compete against each other. The player chosen to shoot first shoots from spot #1 (at the base of the key). If the shot is good, he moves up to the next spot. If he misses, the next player then gets a turn at shooting. Play continues with each player shooting from the current spot.
The first team that first successfully makes all the shots wins.
In this lesson, you can teach about foreign cultures and customs very easily, while practicing questions and answers, or it can just be used to learn the names of different countries. Have the people get into a couple of groups (at different courts) and set up a key. At each spot, I place the flag of a foreign country. The whole team asks the shooter a question about the country (for example, What animal is from Australia?), and then the shooter must answer (example: A kangaroo.) before they can shoot.
English skills practiced: spelling, Total Physical Response(TPR) type learning, speaking
(to learn more about TPR, check this website: or Search Google for Total Physical Response)
Equipment needed: Basketball
Directions: This game is best played with groups ranging in size from 2 to 6 players, but can be played with more. The game begins when the first player takes a shot from anywhere on the court. If the ball goes in, the second player must make the same shot from the same spot. If the second shooter misses, then he is assigned a letter ?H?. If he makes it, no letter is given, and the third shooter must make the same shot. Whenever a shooter misses a shot, the next shooter gets a chance to make a shot which must be duplicated. As the players make and miss baskets, the opportunity of the first shot will pass quite frequently between all of the players. The letters H-O-R-S-E are assigned to players that miss shots that must be duplicated. Once a person gets all 5 letters they lose but I let them keep playing to maintain interest. You can substitute any word you like instead of ?HORSE? to review vocabulary.
Other resources to explore:
To find ANYTHING on the web do a Google search: http://www.google.com
Basketball Games were modified from: The Ultimate Playground & Recess Game Book, by Guy Bailey
Kip Cates? Global Issues in Language Education Newsletter. For a sample newsletter, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Innovative Approaches To Early Childhood Education (The Reggio Emilia Method)
I highly recommend researching Active Learning , if you want some excellent ideas on teaching techniques that are tried and true.
Break from the norm and be an inspiration to them, not another disappointment.