The other day I suddenly realised I was finally ready to study Japanese properly. So I went along to a demo lesson. I am so excited to be a learner again.
It was a 20-minute demo lesson. There were only three of us. With flashcards, we did some choral drilling and then some pairwork.
It was so insightful to be on the other side of the table. The thing I really liked about our teacher was that she did not use the textbook at all. The only time she did was to show us the chapter from the book and to handout a copy of the printout at the beginning. She told us what we would learn before we began. It worked really well as we didn’t waste anytime getting bogged down looking at extraneous information. We just focused on the listening, the drilling and the role play. But the fact that we didn’t concern ourselves with reading could be a manifestation of how we were as learners. The others were from Israel and the Philippines. We wanted to speak, not to read. We wanted to stay focused on the moment, the real-time interaction, on people’s faces!
What was really interesting was that I had found myself making the same mistake that got corrected a moment ago. Throughout the lesson, I did that several times. The second time I could hear my mistake. I had become aware of it. On the third time, I was just a fraction too late – it was one of those when you knew you were about to make a mistake but was just too late to fix it before your words came out of your mouth. It was such a clear demonstration of the disconnect between the input and the output under the pressure of real-time communication. It is clear that it takes time for one’s interlanguage to be readjusted and realigned. For my own practice, I tend not to correct my learner’s error on the spot so much unless it was the first time it was being introduced or if it had been made repeatedly in quick successions. I tend to wait and see if any self- or peer-correction happens. Judging from my own experience, I would definitely appreciate the chance of self discovery, the time to process, internalise and produce. Of course, signalling that something wasn’t quite right from the teacher’s side would have been a great help.
Looking back at the lesson, I felt I would have liked some more choral practice before diving straight into the pairwork. I felt unprepared and under-practised. My teacher seemed to be rushing through the pronunciation work. I would have preferred her to say it clearly and slowly at least once, repeat, signal and then ask us to try. She appeared too desperate to ‘teach’ us something. She must have been nervous as well. What stroke me was how much I wanted things to be slowed down and to be given more time to prepare and practise.
I paid particular attention on the classroom language she used. I really wanted to learn it so I could use it in my own classroom. An example of the disparity between what the teacher intends to teach and what the learner actually wants to learn.
It is true that most learners have the highest motivation when they start a course, I feel the same. I am nervous but excited. But at the back of my mind, I wonder if I could keep this motivation up. I guess seeing this as a self experiment and a professional development opportunity might help my spirit from sinking too low too soon. But what a difference the teacher and her teaching can make!
As any other teachers might do, I couldn’t help but to dissect my sensei’s teaching techniques and strategies. The way she gave or had sometimes failed to give clear instructions on the tasks made a significant impression on me. The other thing was how unclear the drilling procedure was and the lack of repetition. That’s why we were advised to do things in threes. I wonder how my students would have felt when I was being unclear as a teacher. There was not even a second chance? You missed it once and that’s it? What came to mind was frustration and the temptation to give up if such things persist in class.
So why did I sign up? I hope that by committing to being a proper classroom learner, I can be more aware of the needs of a learner as a teacher.
What I want to get out of it is how to become better at teaching taking the perspective of a classroom learner myself. I can already feel that this journey is going to be extremely fruitful.