Putting The Spark Back in Your English Classroom

classroom spark japan

It’s the end of the weekend, and once again you have a whole working week ahead of you. Maybe you’re wondering how Monday comes around so fast, but getting to Friday feels like running a marathon. I’m sure we have all had this feeling in any job, however if you are teaching English in Japan there are some likely reasons where this feeling is coming from. Perhaps the weekend went by so fast because you were busy exploring the many wonderful things Japan has to offer, and now you have a new week ahead of you, full of the same classes as last week with the same material you taught a few months ago. It can be easy to fall into a monotonous routine. 

If you have been teaching English in Japan for more than a year then you will probably relate to this feeling. The nature of teaching English, especially at an Eikaiwa, means using the same materials year in and out, sticking to a set company lesson plan and teaching the same kids and the same classes week after week. While this means that the job is welcoming for those new to teaching, it can also have the danger of turning dull for more experienced teachers. You need that excitement for teaching back that you once had when you first started, and here’s how you can get it back.

Use The Internet

The internet is your friend – use it! It’s easy to come up short on materials when you have been teaching for a while, kids get bored easily and when you once again pull out your favoured ABC toy and you hear your students shout MATA!! (Again!!), you know it’s time for something new. Now, you may be thinking that there are only so many ways you can teach a certain topic but check Pinterest and you will quickly find that you are wrong. Pinterest is full of material ideas and often printable ones that take minimal effort to make. If you can’t find what you are looking for when searching for ESL materials try searching generally, Pinterest is used by teachers all over the world and many kindergarten or elementary school materials that are aimed at native English children can be used in an ESL classroom too. A few other websites I recommend are:

These have all helped me when I needed something fresh in my lesson plans. 

Get Together With Other Teachers to Get New Ideas

The internet isn’t the only place you can get new ideas. Just talking with fellow teachers can help bring back that inspiration that you may have lost. Try talking to new teachers as well. When you are an experienced teacher it can be easy to stay in your comfort zone with what you know works for you, but this safety can also lead to the monotony. Asking new teachers who have a lot of enthusiasm and often come with new ideas maybe from past experience can help you gain that enthusiasm back again. Remember that was you once, and you can gain that enjoyment from trying new things again. My current Eikaiwa holds a seminar twice a year where teachers from different schools can get together and share their ideas and bounce off each other to come up with new ones. If this is something that could work at your company then do it. 

Trial and Error

Now take those new ideas and give them a go. Don’t be afraid if they don’t work. Not all lessons go to plan but now you know that that particular idea or activity doesn’t work in that class. Don’t worry, try something else next time. Teaching is quite often trial and error but even the fact that you tried can help you gain some of that spark back. Making errors is all apart of growing as a teacher, it can make you determined to find something that works. Keep trying new things and you will soon see that spark start to reappear. 

Remember Materials You Used to Use

Part of gaining that spark back again is down to trying to regain that enthusiastic attitude that you first had however long ago. It’s easy to forget what you did back then particularly when you have fallen into your mundane routine. Whenever I feel this way I consult my old notes or training manual. This way you can discover activities you used to do. Sometimes you can get so caught up with finding new ideas that you can often forget things that you did at the beginning that worked really well. Keep cycling through old and new things. This will help keep your students and yourself interested in the lesson. 

Know Your Students and Challenge Them

One of the benefits to teaching for a while is that you can really get to know your students. You learn their likes and dislikes and what style of learning is best for them. This is something you have now that you didn’t have when you first started so use it. Use this knowledge to find materials of things that your students are interested in. Whether this is sports, food or their favourite TV show, using these common interests will really help your students engage in English. Another advantage to knowing your students is that you can really challenge them and help them improve on a certain problem area. Extend them outside the materials and lesson plan with extra activities that will really help them get the most out of class. 

Get Involved

Lastly, get involved yourself. It is easy to set up a game or activity and let the students get on with it, however part of the fun of teaching English is the interaction you can have with the students so get involved with those activities yourself. The best way to learn is to have fun and the best way to teach is to enjoy yourself, therefore this not only benefits the students but also helps increase your love for teaching. When the students and teacher are both enjoying the class, this is when the best environment for learning is created. 

Loosing enthusiasm when teaching can be a common problem, one that is harmful to the students and the teacher. It really pays to find enjoyment in your job and hopefully this advice can help you find that again. Not only for the students benefit but also for yours. Regain that spark —you’ll be glad you did.

If you have any ideas or ways to gain back that spark in the classroom, please let us know in the comments. 

Zara Fullbrook
Zara Fullbrook
Zara is from England and came to Japan over a year ago looking for a change. She has gained knowledge and experience of working in an Eikaiwa while in Japan and wishes to share this with any newcomers. Zara also enjoys film, TV and playing video games.

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