Hi, this is Peter from the Yamashina branch of Smiths English Schools. Over the many years I have spent teaching English with Smiths I have learnt so much about Japan from my students. As a teacher, or coach, of English we must encourage students to be the ones speaking in class. One method I find effective is to have them describe or explain special Japanese topics. I find that most students enjoy educating their teacher and of course it is often interesting for me too.
Special calendar days
There are many dates on the Japanese calendar linked to special events. One of the most popular with my Smiths students in Yamashina is New Year in Japan. They always tell me that traditionally New Year is the time for family, in the same way we view Christmas in Western countries. There is of course a lot of special food associated with this time. My students often go into amazing detail of the varieties of ingredients and preparation. I have also learned about the many regional differences in styles of food served from students from various hometowns. Students know of my dislike of rice cakes at that time of year. In my last blog I talked about my time in my parents in law’s Japanese sweet shop. I still spend three days before New Year every year helping to make thousands of rice cakes. After that I don’t want to see another rice cake until around summer.
It is always my aim to have my students doing the talking so I try to keep my input minimal. I am of course listening for any mistakes but I prefer to let my students continue uninterrupted. Correction of any grammar or other problems comes later in the class. In a group class students are able to ask each other for extra information and to add their own while I mainly listen. Where there is only one student I can often simply ask “why?” Advanced level students in my school are usually able to give long, detailed descriptions of the topic. Even low level students, with some help, can do a good job. I have found on many occasions students come to class prepared with presentations around the next calendar event.
Many events lend themselves for use in class, “setsubun” in February and girls festival on March 3rd, I have found particularly good. I have learned a lot about traditions and activities in Japan from students. Just when I think I know all there is to know, a student will provide another surprising fact. I have to thank my students for teaching me about their culture and traditions and look forward to learning more in the future.