Matthew's Classroom

I have been teaching English to kids in Japan for more than 20 years: public elementary schools in Tokyo for 11 years, and Hello Kids Komazawa for the last 9. For 3 years I have been teaching weekly lessons to students at Tsutsujigaoka Kindergarten. As I tend to stay at the same workplace for a long time, I've been able to see the long-term results of my work. Being able to really see children's English communication ability grow has been very rewarding. I mainly use APRICOT materials in my classroom. They best suit my goal of having students use as much English as possible while developing confidence and self-esteem. I enjoy teaching development, and I love discussing English education with other teachers!
  • 36. This student is in the wrong class

    February… What a month!!
    February is “report month”. Every student in the school where I work gets a report written about them. Their parents read them – I believe. I write about each student’s strengths and achievements this year. I write about their communication strategies in the classroom. I write about their relationships with their teacher and with their classmates. I write about aspects of their behavior in the classroom they should consider changing. I write about what they can expect next year. There is so much to write about, but I hope parents appreciate that it’s really hard to put words to describe the interaction between students and teachers, the learning process, and progress made. And to be honest, there are so many students that trying to find the precise wording to describe the students’ year for every line on every report would send me past the deadline…Under the circumstances I believe I do the best I can. I sometimes believe that it would be easier and quicker if I didn’t care…
    What a bummer… I care!! *Sigh*
    In the process of writing the reports I sometimes find myself trying to explain to parents why their child isn’t feeling much success with English. And too often I find myself thinking
    “This student is in the wrong class”. What constitutes a “wrong class” exactly?
    Well, if there is an obvious age gap between students, at least one of them is in the wrong class.
    Also, if students’ school schedule is such that they can’t all start and end their lessons at the same time, at least one of them is on the wrong class.
    The biggest factor however is experience. If the length and amount of experience between students varies greatly, at least one of them is in the wrong class. Allow me to elaborate on this last point.
    When a class consists of students the majority of whom have several years of English lesson experience, having a new student with little or no experience enter this class will likely be a difficult situation for all, and especially for the new student. And while I don’t entirely discard the possibility that new, inexperienced kids may feel inspired and motivated by more experienced classmates who communicate well in English, I’ve very rarely seen this happen. On the contrary, newer, inexperienced kids usually become disheartened, demotivated and unconfident. You see, as a teacher, when I use English with my students it’s always with their feeling of success in mind. But when students use English with me or with other students, they don’t think about their classmates’ feeling of success. To new kids, their more experienced classmates come across as “fluent and confident” which is good if new kids can understand most of what they say in English. But usually they don’t. So they begin to feel inadequate and start believing “I can’t do this…”
    In short, keep students with the same amount of experience together in one class. New kids should go to the new kids’ class.
    For sure, it makes more business sense to put as many kids together in one class, especially if you need to hire a teacher for that class. However in the long term, this strategy is not good for business because new students will be difficult to retain.
    Ah, February…
    With my reports nearly finished, I’ll be able to start getting my thoughts and things together for the LEARNING WORLD Spring Workshops! First stop, Nagoya on February 25th! See you there!!!

    Page Top