Chris Garth, the instructor for JCMU’s 2016 Teaching English in Japan program, writes about the lessons both he and his students gained from the course:
The 2016 installment of JCMU’s Teaching English in Japan (TEJ) program just finished up last month, and I think it was a resounding success. This being my first year at the center, I was curious what my students would be like and how they would interact with all of the English-language learners that they met here in Japan. How could I teach them so much of what I know and love about teaching in just a short five weeks together?
Experiential learning. In my own life, I think that it has probably been the most effective and enriching way that I have used (or been subjected to) to expand the breadth and depth of my knowledge. When I spent seven years in Taiwan studying Tai Chi, Northern Praying Mantis, and Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu, my teacher Zhou Bao-Fu would take me through steps of conceptualizing the reason for movements, practicing them in the context of a set form, using the movements in sparring, and then reflecting on their usefulness in other ways. Little did I know, I was being guided through the learning process in a way that stuck very closely to what David Kolb described as the cycle of experiential learning.
In planning for this year’s TEJ program at JCMU, this type of learning is what I wanted most to provide to students. Why would you (or should you) come to Japan to do a teacher-training course? You can sit in a classroom and learn theory at home. The point is to come and interact with the people that you would like to one day teach. The point is to understand the strengths of the students and some specific challenges that they face. In order to do this, the students this year had many opportunities to work together with English-language learners of a wide variety of ability levels. This active participation included:
- Doing classroom observations and spending time with students at Johoku Elementary School here in Hikone
- Working together with the 40 girls who came to JCMU as part of a special English day program from Mukogawa Women’s Junior High School in Hyogo, near Osaka
- Assisting in a class on presentation skills for students at Hikone Higashi High School, a prestigious “Super Science” school located next to Hikone Castle
- Two days at Seisen University, observing and assisting with the classes of JCMU instructors
- Observing and assisting in my TOEFL iBT preparation course for highly motivated students from Shiga University and Shiga Prefectural University
- Playing an integral part in our May and June Wednesday Nights activity series, an initiative to engage the local community with students visiting from Michigan
I believe that it was the availability of such a range of different experiences that allowed this year’s TEJ students to excel in their studies. I saw incredible growth in them as teachers in terms of the way that they applied the methodology we discussed and practiced in class to their communication with Japanese English-language learners, and the way their interactions informed their ideas in subsequent discussions. What I noticed most of all, however, was the realization in themselves that they could do it; they could be confident, skilled teachers.
We would like to thank Mr. Garth and all of the 2016 TEJ students for taking the time to talk to us about their experiences learning TESOL methods in Hikone! To learn more about what the program entails and how to apply, visit the Teaching English in Japan webpage.