Motivation in the Classroom: Japanese Experience
Having been an English teacher of high school students in Japan for the past 2 years, I have noticed that motivation in the classroom is as much dependent on the students as it is on me as the teacher. There are three aspects that I have identified and used in my environment to get the student motivated and engaged. The Japanese culture is largely conservative and group orientated and those are crucial to take into account if one is to succeed in their teaching career in Japan. The following plays a big role in setting a tone whereby students are motivated and engaged. Those aspects are culture, societal pressure, and peer pressure.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Samukelisiwe P. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The Japanese culture is mostly conservative and focuses on unity in the form of group functions rather than individuality. A foreign teacher of English should understand this aspect and make use of it to achieve their set goals in the classroom. Since most of the class exercises are carried out in group form this may sometimes seem the opportunity to build confidence in each student is taken away. However, there are still subtle ways that a teacher can use to instill confidence in the students. Also, the culture is one that encourages one to be very judgmental and critical of themselves, meaning the students would be reluctant to try and make their own mistakes.
The environment plays a huge role in the motivation of Japanese students in learning English. I find that those students who are from societies where the importance of learning English is encouraged to respond more positively than those from different societies. I think that students from the outskirts of Japan show better English learning abilities and enthusiasm than those from the bigger cities. This is could be driven by the motivation of the students from the countryside to find jobs and move to the big cities. Teachers can only go as far as sharing the knowledge with the students, motivating and helping them to better understand the content of the subject. However, if the general societal perspective is that English is an unnecessary burden to a student’s life, then that will show in the student's attitude and participation in class. To counteract that, I have come to realize and accept that I can only do so much in influencing my students about the importance of learning another language. I can only highlight to them how much of their world opens up as they learn a foreign language, and the rest is entirely up to them.
Peer pressure plays an important role in motivating the students in a class. Every class always has that student who is the most talkative and because most teenagers respond to peer pressure, that student is usually key in getting everyone involved in the class. In my classes, if I've won the attention of the loudest student, I have mostly won the attention of the entire class. In this instance, I usually get the student who's the loudest to first try out an activity in front of the class. It helps the other students settle their nerves when they see the loudest student making fun of themselves, and everyone gets to laugh a little bit.
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Motivating students can be a difficult task, especially when there are language barriers involved. However, the above aspects about the culture, society, and peer pressure can be learned and used at an advantage to win over the trust, attention, and motivation of the students.
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