Apr 6

Life After JET: Teaching perspective from Kevin Stein

A great post about teaching from The Other Things Matter,” a great blog by Osaka-based ESL teacher Kevin Stein.  Kevin is also the author of the article “Even a Native Speaker Stops Sometimes:  Helping Japanese Learners to Understand What is Said.” 

As many flavors of failure…

I came over to Japan for my first English language teaching job on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.  It was 14 years ago.  I was living way out in the countryside and always looked forward to our big prefectural trainings.  At that time, the program directors gathered up the assistant language teachers twice a year and plunked us all down in a hot-spring hotel for three days.  During those trainings, I first learned how to use the International Phonetic Alphabet as a tool for pronunciation work.  I learned about how to help students adjust to ambiguity in the language classroom (something I recently revisited thanks to the spring issue of The English Connection).  And oddly (or perhaps not oddly at all), I met John Fanselow for the first time.  He gave a lecture on partial information which has stayed more than partially with me for over a dozen years.

I also remember one more presentation from the first training I attended. It was only thirty minutes or so long.  It was given by a very unassuming high school teacher from Japan.  He wore a short-sleeved cream colored button-down shirt with a brown necktie.  He stood at the front of the room and started telling us about his bullet-train ride into the conference.  He hadn’t brought much cash with him, so he bought a cheap Japanese lunch-box before getting on the train.  He put his luggage and Japanese lunch-box on the rack above his seat, nodded to the business man sitting next to him, and then promptly took a nap.

When he woke up, he felt a little hungry, so he pulled down his lunch box.  He was pleased to find that, even though it was a cheap lunch-box, it was filled with all sorts of strips of beef, some fatty tuna, and quail eggs.  He was particularly happy about the quail eggs as they were his favorite.  About half way through eating his lunch-box, the businessman next to him also woke up from a nap, stood up, and took down his own lunch-box.  But as soon as the businessman opened the lunch-box up, he seemed to get very angry.  The presenter said, “I wasn’t sure why he was angry.  I guessed that maybe he was disappointed in his lunch-box.  It wasn’t as nice as mine.  It was the kind with sausages, not steak.  Fried fish, not sushi.  I felt very bad for him.”  Then the presenter started laughing.  A real solid laugh that, I think, made everyone else in the room want to laugh as well.  “In fact, I was feeling bad for him when he turned to me and said….

Click here to read the full post on Kevin’s blog.

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