There are so many ways to study English these days: smartphone apps, Internet lessons, Skype lessons etc. etc. All are beneficial to an extent. But I think that still nothing beats studying at a school with a good teacher who cares about your progress. Students need to have a real person as a coach. They need to have a special location to go to for the purpose of studying and acquiring the English ability they seek. This is why choosing and going to a school is important. More than anything it is important to assure that you as a student will continue until you reach an acceptable level.
There are also so many English schools and teachers in Japan. So the choice of a good school and a good teacher is difficult. From my point of view, the school with the most advertising is not necessarily a good choice. Just think about it. What does having a lot of advertising mean? It means that the school has a huge advertising budget. Why do they have such a large advertising budget? It is either because they are backed up by a large corporation that has a lot of income sources or they are very profitable. In either case, having a lot of advertising does not have anything to do with the quality of their lessons or the coaching or teaching ability of their teachers. So what should a person in Japan, who wants to have the best chance to really learn and improve, do? It is a hard question to answer. All I can say is that they can try them all and chose the one which most meets their needs and is the most reasonable. In short it needs to be a good fit. But if they do not have time to try all those different schools and fear being pressured to join and pay a large amount of money up front, try only the schools who offer lessons for a monthly fee (月謝制) and have been around for a long time. My school system has been around since 1996 and my school since 2004. I can assure the students that our teachers care about them and will do our best to help them achieve their highest potential. At the same time it will be fun because we also offer many fun events for students to join.
I have enjoyed teaching around 300 students in the past half dozen years. Each student is very different. They have all kinds of different interests. Some like to watch ballet. Some like to travel. some like to write essays in English. Studying English takes on many forms. It is important to be aware of this and work toward helping your students acquire skills that they need to pursue their lives; not just English conversation. In life all things are connected. Day-to-day experiences all add up to a more full life. English communication ability is just one of the skills that can help them to have a more full life and expand the range of their activity.
As English teachers we have a responsibility to help our students work toward reaching their goal. A one-pattern approach will not enough. Flexibility is important. I am happy to work hard to provide that flexibility.
Al Bartle (Owner and head teacher of Smith’s School of English – Okamoto)
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