Guest Post by Christina Chandler is an enthusiastic poet and writer with a degree in English Education. She has spent a year in India and two years in Japan teaching English as a second language. She now continues towards her postgraduate degree in Higher Education.
It doesn’t really matter where you came from or what you have been doing with your life, the chances are you likely had heard of Star Wars, and in turn all about the short green Jedi Master called Yoda. To gain a little more understanding though, Yoda is quite the teacher (although for a fictional metaphysical religion). That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some good lessons to learn, both for the teacher themselves and the students.
You Must Unlearn What You Have Learned
Obviously, you won’t want to unlearn everything, but when it comes to teaching abroad in countries you know little or nothing about, it can be crucial to throw out all that you have been socialized to think. You may not even realize it, but there are a lot of things you take for granted because they are just things you ‘know’ automatically. The problem is when you go overseas to other countries they were socialized with different things. So it’s best to recognize that you come from a different place, so get ready to learn new things about life, and to forget some of the ones you used to know. This is especially the case for any latent prejudices.
Truly Wonderful, the Mind of a Child Is
Considering the majority of teaching abroad results in you teaching people under eighteen, there can be an important lesson learned when you recognize that even if you are teaching to kids, that doesn’t mean they aren’t teaching you as well. There are often cases where the children you are teaching, even when they are speaking another language you don’t know, will turn around and make you learn something, sometimes even when you aren’t looking for it. This is because the children view the world in an entirely different light, one that we have largely lost over the years due to growing up. You’ll find they will have insights you might never have thought of.
Judge Me by Size, do you?
Judgment, and to a bigger extent respect, is a major issue for any classroom. This can be further amplified by classrooms of students you can’t always directly tell them what to do and expect them to understand perfectly. This means you need to be promoting an atmosphere that produces a lot of respect and understanding rather than judgment. After all, if you can’t respect your own learners and students, why should they respect you? As an added bonus you should also be aware that just because they are children from a different country does not mean they are automatically not intelligent or will require a lot of work to learn the language, just like in the states, kids will learn at different paces, and some will definitely surprise you with how fast they are having full conversations with you.
Do. Or Do Not. There is no Try
This is probably the most famous quote from the Jedi Master and one of the wisest when it comes to the American mentality of failing at something and then saying ‘well at least I tried’ or ‘I’m trying’. The problem is that you cannot just try. Anytime you only try something you will always fail, instead if you do something, you manage to do it. If you don’t do something, you don’t do it. By starting out your thoughts by saying ‘I’ll try this’ you have already defeated yourself, and don’t be fooled, this trying mentality will carry over to the children you are teaching. If you only just ‘try’ to teach them, then you aren’t actually teaching them! Because as soon as you are teaching them, you are no longer trying to, you are just doing it!
Additionally for those who happen to be traveling to Japan to teach English, Yoda can actually be the perfect option for transitioning and providing a fun lesson to your students, because Yoda speaks with a syntax devoted to Japanese but still in English words, which you can then use for translating your students into recognizing the syntax that English uses. All around Yoda can be a great teacher for those teaching English abroad. So take his advice and don’t just judge him as a Jedi Master, because he’s still a teacher most of all.