New Teacher Voices

Editor’s note: John and Sam both started at MY English School in April 2021. They have graciously agreed to share about their first-year experiences at MY.

“Scary…wonderful”

by
John Lin

Joining MY after being an ALT for 3 years was eye-opening. At first, it was a little bit scary, trying to learn a new teaching method. Going from an ALT who usually was taught to give students templates and run a class strictly, watching the MY teachers let students run portions of a class by themselves while they prepared the next activity showed me the way to make English learning more fun and engaging. Every teacher was also more than happy to pass on their game methods to me, and took time to give pointers on how to help children become more independent learners.

The many training days throughout the year also helped me keep track of my progress. It was also possible to not only socialize with colleagues from other schools, but to share ideas on how to improve lessons. After learning about the ball toss activities in the first training session, the second training had other teachers offering suggestions on how to make the activity more interesting for older students. Outside of the lessons and trainings, teachers will also meet up for some games or sports, bringing a sense of friendship to the staff. All of that comes together to make MY a wonderful learning and teaching experience for both the students and staff.

“I have been able to come to work happy”

by
Sam Todd

Joining MY was one of the best choices I have made in my many years in Japan. Having worked for many different places, I have always felt that the focus is misplaced in the majority of schools. MY has a very clear focus on the student and the teacher. I believe that it is easy to see how this is beneficial, not only for them, but for MY. It has been a long time since I have been able to come to work happy because I feel that I am making a dramatic impact on students’ futures and greatly enjoy working with my teammates.

As a new team member, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to be amongst a group of people that already know each other well. Having to experience some growing pains in a new company is to be expected, but the always available aid, support and welcoming nature of my coworkers, has made the transition into something interesting and enjoyable.

We, as teachers, have a very important job to do, and MY understands that there are many different ways to get to that end goal. MY allows teachers (and students) the freedom to use their skills and abilities to reach the goal and always aids in setting up the next one. It must be said that it is also fantastic to be surrounded by like-minded coworkers willing to share their experiences, so that we always have the opportunity to improve. The experience of working in an environment in which everyone works hard and is not content with mediocrity, while maintaining motivation, is truly fulfilling!

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Changing my mindset – Silence

(Me)                    – “What is it?

(Students)         –
(silence)

(Me)                    – “Do you know what is it?

(Students)         – (silence)

A very familiar situation, isn’t it? Regardless of the situation, whether it’s a language school classroom or our day-to-day life, not getting an answer to your question is upsetting, annoying and, truth be told, sometimes infuriating. Especially in a teacher-centered classroom not receiving an answer can be seen as straight up disrespectful and rude, or worse – as a sign that your students are absolutely clueless.

Or are they? That’s what I noticed when I joined MY. Sometimes,
after presenting a new topic I realised that instead of a wave of different
responses and answers I got only silence. And, as human beings, we hate when
silence falls upon us. Have you ever been on a date that suddenly went silent
and you wished that you were anywhere but there? At first, that’s exactly how I
felt. Thinking that this grammar target is the easiest in the world I hadn’t
been prepared for my students’ silence. Upon encountering this, our first
instinct is to avoid the situation – scrap the activity, move on to something
else, hoping that the second attempt later in the class would me more
successful.

However, after several months at MY I noticed that sometimes I
used to get a different kind of silence. Not the desperate, students trying to
avoid looking in your eye’s kind of silence (“not Slytherin!”). No, there was
something special. This was a curious, hungry silence of someone who knew
exactly what was going on, but wasn’t sure how to express their feelings.

Allow me to give you an example.

In one of my elementary school 2nd grade classes we started to study occupations, and the first question we were supposed to learn is “What do you do?”. Excited, I sat down with my students and “accidentally” asked them “What do you do?”. Being MY’s loyal students, my kids immediately asked me “What do you do, Alina?”, to which I proudly announced “I’m a teacher! “.

And then silence fell upon us.

Concerned, at first, I felt that maybe they didn’t understand the
question, and maybe I should either make myself clearer or do another activity,
allowing them to think over this new mysterious grammar point. But a few second
later I saw that students, instead of avoiding my eyes, were actively looking
for answers by looking at me and at each other curiously. That second a very
simple truth for an experienced teacher suddenly hit me.

What if they don’t know how to say “student” in English?

What I did was I gave them several examples. Smiling
mischievously, I asked my students

(Me)- “What’s “hon” in English?

(Students)- “It’s book”.

(Me) – “Hm, I see. What’s baggu in English?”

(Students) – “It’s bag.”

(Me)-” Hm, I see. What’s….

(Students)- “ALINA WHAT’S GAKUSEI IN ENGLISH??”

And at that moment I felt badass like never before. And, because this knowledge was obtained through a hard thinking process where students were allowed to think things through, and got the answer only after asking other follow-up questions, I realised several months later that this knowledge was retained by them. Even last year, when I just joined MY, some of my classes didn’t keep this knowledge and we had to recycle it way more frequently than I’d wished, and yet with this class even after a long time they were still able to ping-pong “I’m a student” to your “What do you do?”.

Becoming more comfortable with silence is one of the most
fundamental changes I’ve experienced since joining MY. In fact, I might say
that I Mia Wallaced myself – now I’m able to shut up for a minute and
comfortably share silence knowing that my students are figuring out the answer,
making sure that this knowledge gained after some elbow grease will stay with
them and go into their long term memory.