If you teach English in the Japanese public school system at Elementary level, you probably work or have worked alongside at least one homeroom teacher (HRT) that gives the distinct impression of disliking English (or at least, teaching it). In some cases, there's nothing you can do but in most the reason and solution for better classroom interaction and a more enthusiastic homeroom teacher is simple.

Why Japanese teachers don't like English class

Of course, I'm not talking about all Japanese elementary teachers. Most are great teachers that do their best teaching a language they may not speak.

The teachers I am talking about are the ones who have a negative attitude in class and don't contribute at all. They leave the planning and teaching of the class completely to you.

Leading and planning the class may be something you prefer - I do. The problem is that students are often reflections of their teachers' attitudes and you end up with a class of students who, for no other reason than they see the way their teacher acts, come to English class already disliking it.

Of the few teachers like this, most are simply putting up this grumpy, disgruntled facade to mask their fear of not knowing the answer - of looking like they don't speak English.

Teachers don't want to look ignorant in front of their students of anything they are teaching. Not knowing English, (which is perfectly natural given it's not a spoken language in Japan) unfortunately makes them feel this way. Unwarrantedly, in my opinion.

How to change a bad homeroom teacher to a good one

In my experience, there is a simple way to change the situation. Include that teacher in the class right from the planning stages. Consider what role they can take, where they will take the lead, and when you will have interaction with them when you plan your class.

Then have a meeting with them and ensure you both understand your roles. It's amazing how much a good meeting can improve your class. Don't just allocate parts: "You do the fruit basket game." Rather, include them in every part of the lesson.

How to include the HRT

  • Include them in the daily greeting, if that's something you do. After the students ask how you are, get them to ask the HRT. Or ask the HRT yourself. Small talk is difficult with teachers that don't speak English but if you can manage it, it's worth it.
  • If you ask questions like "What day is it today?" and "How's the weather?", get the teacher to ask every second question. (Let them go first so they can ask the easier questions.)
  • Demonstrate dialogues with the HRT. Also, whenever a game or activity involves speaking, demonstrate this with the HRT.

This is the hard part. Talk to that surly teacher. Whatever you do in class, always plan it and have a quick meeting with the HRT (meeting a.k.a. うちあわせ/uchiawase) before the class and let them know what you will ask them and what you want them to ask the students. Practice with them (without making it seem like you are practicing with them) so they know the grammar to use. Once you have done this they will be much more confident about the English they have to use in class and will be a much happier teaching partner.

Week by week you should see a change in the teacher's attitude as English class becomes something they feel they can participate in and that will trickle down to the students, slowly leading to a better English experience for everyone and a better teaching experience for you.




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