Basically, owning your own school in Japan boils down to two main tasks.
Getting and Keeping students.
Getting is about promotion and we will look at that in another article.
Keeping is about satisfying your students’ needs as regards English communication and keeping them coming back to your school.
A shy, young woman with good high-school English walks into the classroom, says, `harro`, and sits down quietly. Beside her sits a bubbly 30-something talking disjointedly but animatedly about her weekend. Across the table, a man in his 20`s contemplates a question, attempts the first few words, and struggles to complete it, unable to recall the appropriate word. All eyes turn to you.
Smiling, you greet the late arrival, pronouncing the words clearly and with a little exaggeration. She relaxes visibly and repeats the greeting, this time correctly.
You think of the incomplete question, elicit the phrase or sentence, which prompted using language you have practiced with the group recently, and write it on the whiteboard. As you do so, you ask all 3 for help with the word order and provide some more natural, everyday vocabulary. Below, you write the first word of the question and the man once again struggles beyond the next few, but he’s trying to speak.
They’re all talking now, discussing the completion of the question, and trying to fill in the blanks you’ve marked on the board.
Success! The man asks the question, it’s answered well and you follow up with a few minutes practicing the pattern using substitute words.
Everyone’s happy, talking, and communicating in English.
So, what have you done? Teaching English in Japan isn’t always so easy and there are hundreds of well meaning “professionals” that will tell you BEST way to TEACH ENGLISH in Japan, but in essence, as in this example, it’s about Coaching people to Communicate Confidently.
That’s it, C.C.C.
Coaching Communicative Confidence.
Don’t zoom in on Grammar or syntax; don’t start preaching “present simple continuous, past perfect” and other such fun terms in English to your students. These are not everyday English words and serve no purpose in the improvement of your Japanese students’ spoken English confidence. In fact if you take the time to learn these same terms in Japanese, you will find your students have a better grip of these grammatical terms than the many of English Teachers in Japan today.
Japanese students have often spent many years learning textbook English and your task is to help them communicate in the real world, using that stored knowledge via the spoken word. Pronunciation, which question to ask and when, how to combine sentences to form a narrative, how to sound natural and most importantly TALKING — these are the things to focus on, things the Japanese student needs to know.
I am sure therefore that you will understand that when I meet new candidates wanting to open their own English schools, the first thing I teach them is to take off the “teachers hat,” roll their sleeves up and start Coaching.
Put aside the thought of teaching English to the Japanese — they know it.
Start out Coaching Communicative Confidence and you will be a hit with your students. They will come back every week!
Chairman, Smith’s School of English