How Non-Native English-Speaking Teachers are Valuable in English Class
Teaching English as a foreign language can be an intimidating task, especially for non-native English speaking teachers. This is true for many of my coworkers who are homeroom teachers at elementary schools in Japan. English has recently become a formal subject in elementary schools here and many homeroom teachers are intimidated by the sudden responsibility to teach a language they are not fluent in. Many feel that native speakers are better English teachers since native speakers have natural pronunciation and excellent command of the language. Co-teaching with a native speaker can put added pressure on homeroom teachers to speak perfect English in front of their students. Therefore many homeroom teachers feel uncomfortable with being in the spotlight for teaching a language they’re not an expert in.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Rachel M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
However, being a non-native English speaker in the teaching spotlight allows homeroom teachers to be valuable role models for learning English. Japanese students view their homeroom teacher as not only a teacher but also as a fellow Japanese person using English. Even though it is easy for native English speakers to tell students that English is easy, it is much more meaningful for Japanese homeroom teachers to demonstrate that learning a foreign language is doable and enjoyable.
As role models, homeroom teachers greatly influence their students with the energy and attitude they bring into English class. English is an intimidating subject for many learners because learning new languages requires mistake-making. This can be especially frightening for homeroom teachers who feel the pressure to appear as the know-it-all experts in front of the class. However, if teachers react to their own mistakes in English class in a positive manner, their students will feel encouraged to let go of their fear of mistake making. Additionally, approaching English class with a positive ‘let’s try’ attitude can also encourage students to do the same. By showing a positive attitude and energy, homeroom teachers can create and nurture a safe and positive learning environment for their students to practice English freely.
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Homeroom teachers can also encourage confidence in their students by appearing confident in class themselves. If homeroom teachers are constantly struggling in English class, it gives the students the image that English is difficult for Japanese people. One great way to avoid struggling in class is to have homeroom teachers plan their lessons. Even though it’s convenient to use lesson plans created and provided by the Ministry of English, homeroom teachers often get confused about how an activity was designed to be carried out. Instead, planning their lessons allows teachers to be in control of their lessons, be more familiar with the material, and have a clear idea of how to conduct an English class. As a result, teachers can confidently teach English and show that non-native speakers can speak and learn the language.
As Japanese learners of English, homeroom teachers can provide students with valuable tips and guidance from their own learning experience. Native speakers have mastery of the language but they might not know how to teach parts of English that come naturally to them. For example, the pronunciation of ‘r’ and ‘l’ is a common struggle for Japanese people since there are no exact equivalent sounds in the Japanese language. While native speakers can easily demonstrate the pronunciation, non-native English speakers are more aware of the way the mouth moves to produce those sounds. In moments like these, homeroom teachers can provide helpful guidance on how to correct common mistakes made by Japanese learners of English.
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In conclusion, homeroom teachers have a valuable role in English class as a model Japanese person using English. While it is intimidating to teach English as a non-native English speaker, homeroom teachers should not feel that their lower English level makes them unimportant in the classroom. Regardless of their English fluency, homeroom teachers can be influential role models by encouraging a positive attitude towards English, showing confidence when dealing with the foreign language, and being a source of helpful guidance.
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