Communication IdeaVirus

Communication classes are an ideavirus*. So, if you can convince just one teacher to take the leap, and you materials and ideas are successful, the idea will spread to other teachers and you will have a brand new job.

*Ideavirus is a term coined by Seth Godin to describe ideas that are so influential and so remarkable that they spread quickly to others like a virus. Check out Seth Godin’s blog and free ebooks. He will change your life.

Where’s the Instruction Manual for your Job?

Have you ever looked? The truth is, there really isn’t one. Perhaps there are some guidelines here, some unstated expectations there, some standards written in a course book, too — but otherwise, you’re pretty much on your own.

Like it or not, that means one big thing: you are the one who writes the rules, and you are the one who decides what kind of teacher you’ll be.

Will you be a teacher that tries to deliver the same unsuccessful English language program they have taught (with modifications) for the past 30 years?

Or will you take advantage of the new opportunities before you (i.e. more English classes, a big push for more English in the classroom) and start work on writing  your own manual?

Doing so allows you to discover your own ideas and strengths. It is the way you can bring meaning and purpose to your work. It is the way you can start delivering high-quality education to your students that actually teaches them to speak English.

You can sit around waiting for someone to finally give you the instruction manual. Or you can write it yourself and be better for it.

Guess What?

By John Hatanaka, ALT, Yamagata City

"Guess what?!"This is the poster I printed off for my kids and put around the school.

I’ve had a breakthrough with my students recently. When I see my kids in the morning, they no longer say “Good morning!” to me. Now, instead of just, “Good morning!”, they usually ask me a second question. “Guess what?!”, they say. I ask them, “What?”. And then they have to tell me about something from their day.

Instead of a teacher, I become a listener, and a conversation starts as I reply with follow-up questions. It’s kind of like physics, I think. “Guess what?” is an easy English phrase that all students can say. And it gets the ball rolling. An object in motion stays in motion. And if you can find a clever way like this to get the conversation rolling, you are already off to a good start.

I like the English passport idea. Maybe I’ll start to offer a “Guess what?” stamp if my students use a “Guess what?” question. Passports are Great!

3 Opportunities to start a Communication Revolution at your School

1) Introduce 3-5 minutes of communication in every class. As much as you can, try to have back and forth questions with students (with follow-up questions) when you do the morning greeting, when you introduce new material or when you review. It’s as simple as asking a yes/no follow-up question or asking a few individual students for their answers in every class. Remember: a question without a follow-up question or reaction isn’t really communication. It is a dead end that teaches bad conversation habits.

2) Start communication classes when students finish their textbook for the year (psst: that’s right now). The textbook is finished and there is a shortage of material. What better time to introduce your communication program?

3) Suggest that you have a communication class on the fourth class of every week. There are currently 4 classes a week for 2nd and 3rd grade students (4 starting later this year for 1st year). Ask your JTEs if they would like to try to reinforce the material they are covering in the first 3 days with a communication class on the fourth. This is probably the hardest sell for your JTEs, but it is the goal of your communication revolution. Start with steps 1 and 2, build trust, a reputation and a successful class and the idea will spread. If your experience is like mine, then the idea will spread like wildfire. Communication is powerful.

Any other ideas?


An ALT Shines when they can teach Communication to Students

I’m discovering that all along I was never meant to be in the classroom as a tape recorder modeling vocabulary and reading. That’s why it was so frustrating.

Although there are times when I can be of help in the regular class to motivate students and provide good speech models, where an ALT really shines is teaching communication to students.

My job is totally different now, and yours can be too. All you have to launch a communication revolution at your school.You’ve already started by being on this website and reading this post. Go to my “Preparations” page to find out what you can do to get the ball rolling.

ALTs, if you’re frustrated being a tape recorder, please know that there is a better way. You have the power to change the way you do your job. Your salvation is in teaching communication classes because that is where you can really shine.