To make the students relaxed in my English lessons has been the most important task as an English teacher for me. For that purpose, I was smiling all the time, joking every five minutes, showing funny videos with an iPhone. And furthermore, I even believed that not wearing a tie in the classroom could help them get relaxed.
There is no doubt that Japanese junior high school students are so stressed. And I was afraid that studying English could become a burden for some students. If it's too heavy, some might quit coming to school. I just wanted them to feel happy when they studied English at school. I paid great attention to the students who are poor at English. But because giving only easy questions to those students would have appeared a preferential treatment and would have hurt their pride, I had come to give all the students tasks that are easy enough for those low-proficiency students.
One day, an ALT and I were making a teaching plan together. And he came up with a new activity to try. Although it was an easy activity, I couldn’t accept his proposal. I thought it would be too difficult for them. The ALT said, "You should believe in your students!" At that time, his words made me realize that I had been spoon-feeding them all the time and never let them try. They might have felt my lessons were easy but have never been satisfied with the lesson itself.
Now I am learning English at a graduate school. My teacher, Dr. Shizuka is very strict. In the sixteen commandments, which he is always advocating, he tells us Japanese teachers of English not to make the students relaxed but to put pressure on them. He also tells us to think how we can make them struggle against their tasks. That impressed me so much. However, can I teach my students in the same way as Dr. Shizuka does? Should I get my own Piko-Piko hammer and hit them every time they make mistakes? No. I don't think I need to copy him. I have an individuality different from his. However, I can keep his DO-S sprit in my heart.
Now I am trying to figure out how I can combine a warm atmosphere with moderate tension. Dr. Shizuka's lessons have given me one important suggestion. Teachers must give an appropriate task to each student in the lesson. What is meant by “appropriate”? I think a task that they need a little more efforts to accomplish is appropriate for them. Last year, because I was really afraid of Dr. Shizuka's lesson, I met one teacher who was learning at the same graduate school at that time and asked for his advice. He said, "Of course, you had better practice your pronunciation, but he would give you more difficult tasks to struggle against even if your pronunciation were better." In fact, Dr. Shizuka gives us appropriate tasks according to our respective proficiency levels. If they were too difficult or too easy, they wouldn’t work. So we English teachers need to watch the students carefully and understand their proficiency all the time. And for that reason, we must be proficient enough to pay attention to them while we are teaching. If the students are struggling against their tasks, I can just encourage with a smile and let them try it again and again. I can give them enough time to try it and effective advice to achieve it. Now I believe that’s the true kindness for our students.
Nowadays, some of the students who don’t like running are absent from school to avoid joining marathon training in a P.E. lesson. They sometimes become nonattending students in the worst case. I think the young Japanese students need more experiences to overcome difficulties. In our English lessons, we can give them good opportunities to face such difficulties. They can do anything in English lessons if they try. I hope those experience would make them strong enough to survive their own lives. And I just want to be beside them with both a smile and a DO-S spirit.