Teach English in Hongze Jingji KAifAqu - Huai'an Shi

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When I started teaching in rural Japan in 2018, I had never taught English as a foreign language and had only ever taught writing to native speakers in the U.S. On my first day at school, I remember the glazed looks on my high school students’ faces as they looked at my PowerPoint filled with walls and walls of text. They were overwhelmed. I had misjudged the level of my student’s English abilities. After the lesson, I could tell that my c-teacher was a little disappointed with how the lesson turned out and I was as well. The students didn’t enjoy it and they certainly did not understand it. I was at a loss. I asked the teacher what I should do to improve the lesson, and he told me that I should not worry about it. The lesson was ok. Despite what he had said, I sat down at my desk and tried to change the lesson so that students could both understand it and enjoy it. As the weeks went by, I realized that all of my classes were falling into a similar pattern. I made a lesson based on what the teacher wanted, the lesson was either too difficult or too easy, not engaging enough, or students were not interested in it. I would always ask my co-teachers for any advice or feedback on what needed to be improved, but they seemed unable to give me concrete answers. By this point I was frustrated and a little defeated. I wanted to be a great teacher, but I felt like I was failing my students and I did not know how to fix the problem. I asked other English teachers in the area for their advice. Were they having the same problems? How did they deal with them? What did they change in their classes? Were their teachers giving them any feedback? They all answered that they too received very little feedback and that they mostly had to rely on their own instincts to change things that were not working in the class. I realized then that I should try to work twice as hard as I had been to anticipate my student’s needs beforehand. For the next three months, I asked the teacher before the class to check whether the contents were appropriate, interesting, and if the students would enjoy them. Suddenly my lessons were much better. I was able to tailor lessons to students needs by asking their teachers what they were interested in. Instead of walking slowly into classes, my students were now walking in with confidence and greeting me with a loud “hello!” It was refreshing. Not only did the students seem to be enjoying the classes, but their teachers were more open with me as well. When I finish lessons now, my co-teachers give me specific feedback such as “those questions were good. I liked that the students had to think about and answer the last one together. Let’s do something similar again.” It felt like I had finally gained their trust and appreciation. After a year and a half of teaching these students, I can now look back on this and understand that there were a lot of other factors that affected my ability to teach English. I learned that in Japan, giving any feedback but especially negative feedback is avoided. By showing my teachers that I was not going to give up on teaching, and that I had a genuine interest in helping the students learn, I was able to gain their respect and trust. Instead of asking what I had done wrong after the class, I learned to ask for feedback before the class started. This method worked and brought me closer to my coworkers and students. It was through my dedication to helping my students and my perseverance that I was able to solve my problem and become a better teacher. If I had just given up and stayed with the same methods of teaching despite the unenthusiastic response, then I would never have been able to see my students blossom like I do now, nor would I have been able to gain the trust and respect of my coworkers who work with these students every day and know them in and out. Living and working in another culture means that the teacher should take into account that the way that their student and co-teachers act may have more to do with local cultural norms than the teacher themselves, as I can attest to. It’s therefore important to be a teacher who always strives to do their best, even when circumstances are less than ideal. Overall, I think that teaching English in a foreign country is a challenge, but if a teacher has perseverance and dedication to their job then they will be successful in building meaningful relationships with students and teachers and will never settle for giving their students an “ok” lesson.