Tuesday, during a 1st year speaking test, it became painfully obvious that no one had studied despite the two class periods they had to do so and the copious amount of time they had to come ask for help. At the end of the class I had everyone close their eyes and put their heads down. I then asked my teacher to translate. I asked the students to raise their hands if they agree with my statements. The questions were: “I studied for the test.” 3 out of 40. “I like English.” 2/40. “English is important.” 2/40. “English will be important for my future.” 3/40. “I came to ask for help from Jodi in preparing for the test.” 0/40. (I knew that, obviously. But I wanted to reinforce the point that I am a resource for them.) I then reminded them that they can come to me any time for extra practice. I am happy to stay after school to help them practice pronunciation and help them memorize. Helping them is literally what I’m being paid to do.
Today I taught the same class, solo. I had to finish up the speaking tests and then play a game with them. The other teacher (who was stuck in a day long meeting about entrance exams) had also prepared a worksheet for them to work on if they weren’t behaving for me. The first game went so well I decided to reward them with another game. They started to cheat (really obviously) during the second game, so I shut it down and told them they were going to do the worksheet. But first I had a few more questions.
In a mixture of Japanese and English, I asked:
- Why didn’t you study? (I asked it in a neutral tone. I wasn’t mad, not at that at least. I really wanted to know so I could maybe change my tactics in the future. I genuinely want them all to excel or at least be passable in English.) Their answers were mostly, “I don’t like studying.” Fair enough.
- Is it also because you don’t like English? People nodded. One student said that she doesn’t like English and doesn’t like studying either. Again, fair enough. I reminded them, once again, that I will literally coach them through their speaking tests ahead of time, if they just ask me. I even told them that they could just pass me a note or something, and I would make time for them.
- Lastly, I asked why they didn’t come to me for help. No one really had an answer for that so I followed it up with another question.
- Am I scary or something? Most of them said no, you’re kind. Which is good. One boy said that yes, I’m scary. I laughed at that and nodded and said, “Good point. Sometimes, I can be scary. But it’s only when you don’t study or I know you can do better.”
And then they sat quietly at their desks while I watched them do the worksheet. I hate busy-work worksheets. They are just as boring for me as they are for the students. One kid crossed his arms and pouted while staring at the wall. I simply did not care. He wasn’t being noisy or disrupting others I have simply given up caring about that kind of attitude.
It’s a good thing that I’m going home soon and getting a two week break.