What Helped Me in Building Relationships With English Learners in Japan
From both taking this course and my experience in teaching Japanese children English, I have seen the importance and impact of establishing rapport with students right at the start of the class. Starting from the first lesson, a teacher must establish what kind of relationship they desire to have with the students. That relationship must often be with a relaxed atmosphere where the students can feel that they are supported by the teacher. Thus from the very first lesson, the teacher must get to work on getting to know basic information about the students. What kind of interests do they have? Why are they learning English? At what level are they currently in with regards to their English skills? Knowing this information can help the teacher determine what kind of materials and lessons will serve the students best, and most importantly how to hold their interest and motivate them further.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Lara D. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
In Japan, I often dealt with young beginners who are required by their school system to learn English. As mentioned in one of the units in this course, young beginners often do not have much motivation in learning English as they do not see its benefits to them. However, they can pick up lessons quite easily so it is up to us teachers to make sure we pique their interest well enough to encourage them to give their full efforts. With young beginners, establishing rapport is even more important because if they do not like the atmosphere a teacher has created in the classroom, motivation does not only drop but it can lead to problematic behavior. I found that in teaching the young beginners in Japan, a good way to establish rapport is to play games that are familiar to them and are very fun and mobile. Working in groups is also important to these young people but teachers must be careful to maintain the organization of the classroom.
Aside from playing icebreakers and warmers, it is also important to take note of your gestures, eye contact, and overall presence as the teacher in the classroom. As seen in the video from this course, these are all very vital elements to a teacher’s impact in the classroom. Teaching grammar or whatever content will be very difficult if you have not established a rapport with the students and are having a difficult time getting them to answer your questions. Not to mention the problems that may arise if students never learned to respect the teacher. Being a teacher must be a balancing act in so many aspects. You must always employ a positive attitude to encourage the students, you must have the lesson content and activities polished and practiced and you must make the students feel like they will not be judged or reprimanded along their journey of learning this new language.
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In my experience and as mentioned in the course, it is always a great risk to speak and respond to the native language of the students, especially for the young beginners. This changes the dynamic of the relationship between teachers and students. On one hand, it may let them feel very comfortable towards the teacher but once students know that you have some capacity in their native tongue, that information can never be taken back and the students can always choose to speak to you in their native tongue. Once that happens, a correction must be undertaken, and depending on the situation, it may impact the rapport between student and teacher negatively. This is most especially true with young beginner students who may not understand the need for this secrecy or withholding of facts. Here, there must also be a gap in the relationship between the teacher and student that is vital to their journey in learning English. From the very first lesson and in every moment with the students, the teachers’ rapport with the students must always evolve and grow to supplement the learning of English. Great preparation on the part of the teacher must be undertaken and great understanding as well for any possible troubleshooting that must be done in the classroom. A good rapport with students takes their progress a long way, it may be a driving factor for the students’ progress.
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