Coaches of Communicative Confidence and how Smith’s philosophy differs from the majority of English schools in Japan
Coaches of Communicative Confidence: That’s what we call ourselves at Smith’s. We do not label ourselves as English teachers. You’ll see the term English teacher in frequent use throughout this website. That’s for the sake of the uninitiated who have not yet read this section of our website. To those of you reading it now, Thank you, from here on when you see the word “English teacher” in general use on our site please read it as “Coach of Communicative Confidence” (C.C.C.). At Smith’s we don’t consider the term English teacher to be accurate in referring to our job, unless teaching infants. One of the first core concepts dealt with in initial training here at Smith’s is this fundamental difference between what it means to be an “English teacher” and a C.C.C. here in Japan. We are in fact Coaches of Communicative Confidence. One doesn’t need a PHD or even a degree in order to be a good coach. Why then is there publication upon publication saying that you cannot or even should not work at an English school without a degree? Who knows? We completely disagree. A person can be a good C.C.C. whether or not they have the credentials to back it up on paper. In our system we have people who hold PhDs, master degrees, and those with no degree at all. They are all good. So what is the profession? Simply put, to coach confidence in previously taught skills!
Barring rare exceptions in adults and all infants, our students already have the technical skills of English. The Japanese government requires them at law to have studied these technical skills. If you want to see the defining difference between us being C.C.C.s and not English teachers here in Japan, write the following on the board in any adult English conversation class:
"Where do you live?"
They can read it. They do understand it. They may not be able to answer it verbally. That’s where our job begins. Oh, and know this: If the student can’t understand this sentence or form some type of answer, chances are neither you nor the majority of the teachers in this business in Japan today can teach it to them as a non-native Japanese speaker. To do so would require: An in depth knowledge of the grammatical structure of the English language, the ability to explain that structure, and most importantly, the ability to make that explanation in Japanese. Now, don’t worry. It’s more likely that the student’s answer will reflect an existing technical knowledge acquired through years of compulsory language education. They do understand the phrase but lack confidence in how exactly to use it without embarrassing themselves. That’s when our job begins. We coach these technical skills to communicative confidence.
The fact that so many Japanese people cannot vocalize these technical skills studied at school somewhat begs the question: If they spent so much time studying English at Monbusho (The Japanese department of education), how can we be expected to teach the English language with one 45 minute lesson per week? The answer is: we can’t, and fortunately we’re not deluding ourselves into thinking that is our task. What we can do with 45 minutes a week is hone those existing theoretical skills and coach out the confidence to communicate verbally.
We often hear Monbusho failed. We hear this from the PTA and from the students themselves. What we are listening to is an embarrassed nation. Smith’s believes that there is no need for this embarrassment. Smith’s believes that Monbusho did not fail. In fact they succeeded at their task impressively. Monbusho never set out to get everyone speaking English fluently. What they did set out to do is give every Japanese individual a technical base in the English language and allow those who so chose, to go on to the private sector English conversation schools. They achieve this, well.
At Smith’s we believe The Japanese department of education’s role in providing English grammar lessons and the service provided to Japanese people by private English conversation schools compliment each other. Moreover, English conversation schools are no more than an extension of the job started by Monbusho. They teach grammar. We teach communicative confidence. In order to define and in turn perfect our own performance in that relationship we did research into the English language education provided by Monbusho. The proof that Monbusho has a different goal altogether lies in an average student to teacher ratio of 40 to 1. What conversation coaching based organization would advertise a class ratio of that nature? The answer is none. In that situation, during a 45 minute class any one of these students gets only a very small amount of Student Talk Time. This classroom shape is a perfect model for lecturing on technical information that students are meant to absorb rather than perform. In this case, that technical information is that of written English grammar structures and vocabulary. Monbusho does their job giving Japanese people the technical skills of English and with this, we can start ours. We have the responsibility to coach to confidence to vocalize the skills provided by Monbusho. We are Coaches of Communicative Confidence.