“My philosophy on teaching is that every lesson should be fun and that you should gain some benefit from it. I strongly believe that the Smith’s School of English, ESL system of limiting class sizes to three is a distinct advantage. I also feel that you must be comfortable making mistakes (if you don’t make mistakes, maybe you don’t need to attend lessons). The main thing is that we can all learn from our mistakes – you, me and the other students. My Japanese language ability is full of mistakes but I still try to use it and improve it. I love… music, all sport (including athletics, swimming, golf and tennis); walking and most importantly I like to laugh a lot. I love animals. My favourites are dogs and horses – but I certainly would never eat them. Yuk! My other love is travel, especially within Japan.”
The first paragraph of this post (the one above) is a copy of one that appears on the English page of my Smith’s School of English – Koenji webpage. In it I speak about having fun and learning from having made a mistake.
The longer I stay in Japan the more difficult it becomes for me to distinguish between the American spelling and the English spelling of words. As I come from Australia and want to provide a consistent approach to spelling I always use English spelling (English [Australian] in Microsoft WORD’s ABC check) although in Japan we are subjected to the use of American spelling in most English newspapers and magazines etc. which therefore becomes embedded in our subliminal minds. Is it any wonder then, that I sometimes write a word on the board, think that it looks wrong and subsequently must check it to see if it is incorrect because as a teacher I ought to be as accurate as possible at all times.
In Japan it is said that the teacher is regarded as always being right and should not be challenged and therefore we as teachers need to remember this as if we don’t our students will accept that what we write or say is spot on. I am conscious of this fact and try to dot all my “Is” and cross all my ‘Ts”. Just as our pronunciation of words will automatically be copied by students so too will what we write. We are after all the student’s role model and as such we must endeavour to set a perfect example.
In Japan there is a very strongly ingrained, don’t make mistakes culture. The amount of checking and re-checking that goes on in banks and offices attest to that, and to say the least, it is mind-boggling, inefficient and extremely costly.
In summary I think that we and our students learn by making mistakes, not only in the classroom but in our everyday lives, and that we should encourage our students to always have a go, be it in their English lessons or in their quest to attain specific personal or business goals. It is imperative however that our students do not learn and/or copy our mistakes, be they typographical, grammatical or of any other form.