Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Family Affair: On Teaching an entire Japanese family to speak English

I knew that by getting into the teaching business that I would come across some interesting situations for sure. Being a teacher in Japan seems to be a little different from America. Unlike in the states, in Japan the teacher is a person who attains some amount of automatic respect. I remember back during my school days in West Virginia that there was the common thinking among my classmates that all the teachers had no level of coolness and given little respect. The Japanese, not all but most, look at a teacher as a slightly special person. A lot of times students treat me as if I am the master of knowledge. It is like I am suppose to know everything about American culture. They ask many questions and I do not always have the answer they seek. With that said, it appears that I have attracted the attention of one family in Japan who have chosen me to teach them English.

I did not even notice it at first. I think that the mother was the first one to take a class. She seemed no different from the other students at the time. She talked but not as much as other more confident students. After as few lessons she enrolled her 8 year old boy for lessons. The boy is a ball of energy and at times can be a real hand full, but he likes the lessons which is good enough for me. After about a month of teaching the boy another member of the family started attending lessons. This time it was father`s turn to start brushing up on his English skills. I must say that he is one heck of an upstanding guy for sure. He appears to be very happy with life. He loves his kids more than anything else in this world. He also asked a lot of questions about street slang(I usually tell him a few if he does a good job with the lesson). The father was so impressed that he now brings in his 12 year old little girl for lessons.

There are days in which I teach the entire family. Considering that all of them are at different ability levels I have never had the entire family in the same class. I never expected to be teaching an entire Japanese family to speak my mother language. The reasons for which the whole family is taking classes I will never understand. The situation is both strange and interesting at the same time. Each member of the family has a very different character makeup. It has been interesting so far getting to know and understand how they behave and think. Sometimes the father brings the kids for lessons too often and I struggle to have new lessons ready for the kids(there is only so much you can teach a kid in a month). The father is learning faster than the others but the mother is right behind him. I think that they are trying to best each other sometimes. The kids are learning OK. I am pretty sure the little boy is only coming to lessons because this father brings him and he likes all the games I play with him. The 12 year old girl is very clam and as a result very easy to teach.

I wonder how advanced the family will get with their English ability? It will be a thing of pride for me as a professional if I can get the mother and father both on at an advanced level. Only time will tell the outcome of their speaking ability. I am just lucky enough to be their teacher.