So, my classroom experience starts this weekend and I’m really looking forward to it. I have no idea what to expect, but I’m hoping it will start by addressing my major concerns.
I’ve already got a fair bit of teaching experience under my belt. I know how to put a lesson together, measure a bit of progress and so forth, but what I just don’t know is how to get around the language barrier. When I teach things, I teach them using analogies and similes, or I find some common ground with the pupil and explain it via a common teaching material. Teaching another subject in English is a piece of pie, but teaching the actual English itself? That’s where I’m going to struggle.
I mean, if a pupil isn’t getting an idea in a science classroom, I could relate it to a movie, or a game, or explain it in some other way that circumnavigates the mental block the kid is having to help them reach that eureka moment of clarity. But that approach requires me to have a basic level of understanding with the kid themselves. We need to have common ground and, if I’m to get around a difficult area, we need to have a common understanding and that is rooted in a common language. If it is that common language that I am trying to teach; that is, if I’m trying to teach the common ground from which all other common grounds grow, and the kid doesn’t get it, how do I get around that?
I remember back to my own school days, and particularly my own foreign language teaching, and I remember how plucky, idealistic foreign language teachers always started trying to teach the whole lesson in nothing but the foreign language. But their optimistic exuberance was quickly demolished by a sea of blank faces who just did not know what the heck was going on other than a sea of unintelligible words that sounded vaguely seductive or kind of threatening depending on whether we were in French or German class. They very quickly reverted to using English to plug the gaps; an option I won’t have, as even with my best efforts my Japanese is still rudimentary at best and hilarious at worst.
Seriously, trying to learn Japanese is hard enough, but I’m not helping myself with my choice of learning aids. It’s not a particularly difficult language; the rules are fairly straightforward to get the hang of. It’s just that when I come to try and apply the language, I realise that my only Japanese materials are Japanese horror films and Japanese computer games. There’s definitely something wrong with your learning priorities if you can’t say ‘The little girl plays in the field’ but you can say ‘The little girls demented evil spirit still haunts the well’. I can’t ask what the next train station is but I can tell you my Charmander will have evolved before we get there.
But I digress, and that’s what I’m hoping for from this weekend’s course; just something I can put in my back pocket to combat a total breakdown of communication between me and the pupil that isn’t ‘breaking down in tears’.
Wish me luck!